The Wahkiakum school district in southwest Washington argues that the levying system leaves rural school children with crumbling, outdated buildings. The small community of about 2,000 residents has appealed to the states Supreme Court and is waiting for the attorney general’s office to respond.
In 2012, the state Supreme Court favored the McLeary case, in which Washington state was found to be underfunding K-12 schools. After years of litigation, the state’s highest court ruled that Washington needed to pay nearly $2 billion to fund teacher salaries rather than rely on local levies.
Today, the same argument is applied to school bonds. School bonds provide funding for building new schools, attaining property, and renovating and repairing facilities and systems within buildings. In contrast, levy dollars pay for educational programs and day-to-day operations such as teachers, support staff, classroom supplies, technology, extracurricular activities, transportation, utilities, and insurance.
Washington School Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal, thinks the way schools are funded needs to change. Bigger, wealthier school districts usually don’t have difficulty in passing a bond vote as school construction bonds in property-rich communities cost minimally on every $1,000 of assessed property value for each taxpayer. However, in rural areas with less valuable property, bonds are much more expensive for individual households, making them harder to pass.
Reykdal further explains that without bond approval, districts can’t qualify for state match funding. Like most other states throughout the U.S., school districts are initially funded by property taxes based on the local tax base. Constituents vote on the applied tax rate, and the money ultimately comes in levies. That money is then supplemented by state aid.
Experts said that property tax has historically been used for school budgets because they are stable and less likely to fluctuate with the economy, unlike other revenue, like income and sales taxes. Additionally, voters usually like holding local control over neighborhood institutions.
Washington is not the only state suffering from an unbalanced levying and construction bonding system. While every state varies within its specific guidelines for school funding, more than half of states have per-pupil funding levels below the national average. Sometimes, even within the same district, students face a disparity.
Luckily, a lot of attention is being drawn to closing America’s education disparity gaps. The Century Foundation (TCF) has created a report that estimates what is needed to provide each child in America the opportunity to succeed.
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Written by the digital marketing team at Creative Programs & Systems: https://www.cpsmi.com/