NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Washington State Senate passes Republicans’ school levy swipe scheme on a party-line vote

Thanks to the arrival of newly-minted Senator Shelley Short (R-7th District; northeast Washington) and the return of Doug Ericksen from the District of Columbia, Republicans in the Washington State Senate were today able to pass the school levy swipe scheme they introduced late last week with no votes to spare.

Substitute Senate Bill 5607, concerning education (see text), passed out of the Senate on a party line vote just a little bit ago. The roll call was as follows:

Roll Call: SSB 5607
3rd Reading & Final Passage
2/1/2017

Yeas: 25; Nays: 24

Voting Yea: Republican Senators Angel, Bailey, Baumgartner, Becker, Braun, Brown, Ericksen, Fain, Fortunato, Hawkins, Honeyford, King, Miloscia, O`Ban, Padden, Pearson, Rivers, Rossi, Schoesler, Sheldon, Short, Walsh, Warnick, Wilson, Zeiger

Voting Nay: Democratic Senators Billig, Carlyle, Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hobbs, Hunt, Keiser, Kuderer, Liias, McCoy, Mullet, Nelson, Palumbo, Pedersen, Ranker, Rolfes, Saldaña, Takko, Van De Wege, Wellman

Portions of SSB 5607 have a referendum clause, because Senate Republicans apparently aren’t comfortable making the changes they seek themselves. (They were elected or appointed specifically to legislate, but they’d rather pass the buck…)

Were SSB 5607 to become law in its current form, a referendum would be submitted to the people of Washington this autumn for their approval or rejection.

The portions of the bill with the referendum clause would only go into effect if a majority of the electorate voted Approve.

It is important to understand that SSB 5067 would lead to a net loss of revenue overall. Yes, you read that correctly: the bill the Republicans call an education funding plan would actually take money away from our schools. What a scam!

The Budget & Policy Center explains:

The Senate’s plan, called the Education Equality Act, features as its major funding source a new Local Effort Levy – basically, an increase to the statewide property tax of $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed value. As details about the plan emerge, however, it appears that the plan does not actually raise additional dollars for schools. That’s because the proposed statewide property tax increase is coupled with cuts to local property tax levies that currently fund a significant portion of basic education costs. As we’ve said in the past, levy swaps like this are schemes that change the source of the money flowing to schools but don’t actually make new investments in Washington’s kids.

As it is structured, the plan could deepen the shortfall in school funding because the plan does not pay for itself. It leaves a $1.4 billion hole in the 2019-2021 budget, for which its authors have yet to identify a source of funding. Promising to pay for education without identifying a funding source is a prescription for damaging cuts throughout the rest of the budget. And while the plan would dedicate future revenue growth to funding basic education, it would use any revenue growth in addition to the dedicated funds to decrease  the new Local Effort Levy to a rate of $1.25. In short, the proposal is not only short on revenue now, but it is also designed to restrict revenue growth for schools and other public investments in the future.

Pretty Orwellian. We call SSB 5607 a levy swipe scheme because it would change where existing dollars are coming from, but not result in any new investment in our schools, which is completely and totally unacceptable. It’s smoke and mirrors.

If that weren’t bad enough, the bill is loaded with bad policy provisions. For example, at the end of Part I, in Sec. 106, there’s a number of subsections which are intended to ensure that taxpayer dollars are funneled into charter schools, even though the state Supreme Court has ruled that charter schools are unconstitutional.

Later on, there’s Section 505, which kills off state-provided bonuses for National Board Certified Teachers such as my father, who have undergone the rigorous process of demonstrating mastery of their subject matter and effectiveness as instructors. This bill is a slap in the face to our state’s hardworking educators.

And there’s more. There’s so much bad stuff in here I’ll have to do another post.

Whether you’re a parent, teacher, student, or concerned citizen, you should be appalled by this travesty of a bill that Senate Republicans have cooked up.

Democratic senators spoke eloquently against SSB 5607 during floor debate. After, they lamented Republicans’ unwillingness to accept any of their amendments.

“Really hard floor time today,” Senator Lisa Wellman wrote on Facebook after the vote. “[The] Republican Senate majority forced passage of an education bill that is loaded with elements I cannot support — ever! Included is a provision for allowing anyone passing a background check to teach your kids. No certification. No education degree. This is so disrespectful to the talented, committed men and women in the profession — I’m beyond words. However — please know this. I will never stop fighting for teachers, schools and most of all, for all our children.”

Democrats in the House have signaled SSB 5607 is unacceptable to them. They could either ignore the bill, or gut it and put their own legislation in place of what is there now with a striking amendment. The Senate would need to agree to any changes the House makes for SSB 5067 to move out of the Legislature.

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3 Comments

  1. I would like to thank you for summarizing this bill. I watched the debate on the Senate floor, and was very frustrated at this atrocious bill. We can only hope that the House rejects it completely.

    # by Linda Howard :: February 5th, 2017 at 11:02 PM
  2. Absolutely appalling.

    # by Shayne Chavez :: February 10th, 2017 at 5:20 AM
  3. Incredibly disappointing. We’re not the fools you take us for, Senate Republicans.

    # by Madeleine Bryant :: February 22nd, 2017 at 5:03 AM