Washington legislators, remember your paramount duty
Washington legislators, remember your paramount duty (NPI illustration)

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

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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

  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.

  2. Incred­i­bly dis­ap­point­ing. We’re not the fools you take us for, Sen­ate Republicans. 

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