Dear friends and neighbors,
You may have heard that teachers’ unions are criticizing me for trying to make sure that funds from local property tax levies support needed programs and services in our schools, like librarians and mental health counselors, and aren’t used to enhance teachers’ salaries paid by the state.
Senate Bill 5313 would partially lift caps on voter-approved school levies that were put in place as part of a legislative package to address the Washington Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in the McCleary case.
The court held that the state failed to adequately fund K-12 education and that this failure led school districts to over-rely on local levies to pay core operating expenses, like teachers’ salaries. Lawmakers responded in 2017 with more state funding for teachers’ salaries and, in exchange, we capped the local levies.
Since then, the teachers’ union and many school officials have demanded a change, arguing that more local money is needed for programs and services. But when I successfully pressed for an amendment to keep that money from being diverted back into boosting teachers’ salaries, the teachers’ union accused me of cutting teachers’ pay.
But I wanted to reach out today to emphasize that I serve the people in our communities, not interest groups. I spend a lot of time talking to school districts, parents and others in our communities, and it’s clear that money raised locally is needed for programs and services like:
• Mental health counselors;
• More support staff, such as librarians and paraeducators;
• After-school programs for kids who need extra support; and
• Other extracurricular activities, like arts and athletic programs.
My goal is what’s good for our kids. The state took on an obligation to pay teachers’ salaries and it should do that. But it shouldn’t rely on local levies to pay teachers’ salaries – the problem that led to the McCleary lawsuit – unless that money is compensation for having done extra work.
It’s my job to find balance between endless property tax increases and what our schools need to fund the programs and services that teachers, parents and students deserve. As your senator, I’m going to support schools and kids, not interest groups, even when they happen to be the teachers’ union.