As its last bill of the March 8 cutoff, the Senate Wednesday night passed an amended bill on the "levy cliff" (ESB 5023), with all members voting in favor; with the exception of Republican Senator Michael Baumgartner of West Spokane. The Senate ran their version of the bill so they could change the title to be about excess levies and not the levy cliff.
The striking amendment offered by Senator Fain:
· Extends current local levy authority and LEA through January 1, 2019;
· Requires that all levies collected in calendar year 2018, and thereafter, be deposited into a local revenue sub-fund of the general fund to enable detailed accounting of the amount and the object of expenditures; and
· Requires that any enrichment levies going to the voters after January 1, 2018 be approved by Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) before being placed on the ballot. Districts planning to go to the voters with an M&O enrichment levy would be required to create a detailed report of the activities to be funded and then submit that report to OSPI for approval. The bill states that enrichment levies beyond the state-provided funding in the omnibus appropriations act for the basic education program components under RCW 28A.150.260 (prototypical schools funding formula) are a permitted use.
WSPTA members are strongly encouraged to listen to the debate, which led to the 48-1 vote.
It will be critical that school districts, parents, and other education advocates explain the gap story in their school and district, which basically means having a better understanding of what it actually costs to run that school, serve its students, and attract and retain professional educators.
Members are encouraged to write House and Senate members to express their thanks that a levy extension bill is in play. But messages also should stress that with prohibitions on the use of local levies for activities deemed basic education, the state will have to step up in a really big way. Otherwise, areas that are underfunded now and where local funds are supplementing the most basic of activities - like transportation, nurses, and special education - will fall short in the final education funding solution.
WSPTA Legislative Consultant