April 29, 2019
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'Levy lid lift' adds new taxing authority for local districts, with some new oversight

One of the thorniest issues legislators tackled this session was the so-called levy lid lift. A bill approved in the final hours of the session will give local school districts the ability to increase property taxes to pay for programs outside of what the state defines as "basic education." Many local school districts, from Tacoma and Seattle to Spokane, said such a bill was crucial to keep them from laying off teachers and cutting programs. Critics said the bill increases inequality by giving more spending power to richer districts, and that a levy lid lift undoes the McCleary deal and will open the door for a "McCleary 2.0" lawsuit.

"The McCleary deal of 2017-18 is undone," explains AWB Government Affairs Director Clay Hill. "That deal was for state property tax levy to go up in exchange for caps on local levy authority. In the late hours of the final day, SB 5313 passed. It gives additional levy authority to local school districts. The new caps had just gone into effect this year. The authority given is uneven. School districts with more than 40,000 pupils, i.e., Seattle School District, get more levy authority than smaller districts, under the rationale that it costs more to provide educational enhancement programs for children in an urban environment."

Republicans argued the policy will lead swiftly back to inequity and litigation.

“Remember this day, because we’re going to have to follow up and fix this someday,” said Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, who joined all Republicans in voting against the levy lid lift.

The final deal allows districts to increase the current levy cap of $1.50 per $1,000 in assessed valuation to a $2.50 per $1,000, if voters approve. Republicans had prepared a series of amendments (but knew they didn't have the votes to pass them). They agreed to drop them and not delay the session into overtime, in exchange for additional oversight to determine if schools districts are using the new levy money for basic education expenses, with penalties for districts that do that, The Spokesman-Review reports.

The final levy bill does not include charter schools.

Contact Amy Anderson, AWB government affairs director for education and workforce development, to learn more.

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Teaching for Tomorrow

STEM skills vital to rural students, too

By Kevin Chase, superintendent of ESD 105

In the next five years an estimated 225,465 jobs that earn a family-sustaining wage will require credentials that many of our Washingtonian students are not on track to earn. In south-central Washington, 14,455 high-paying jobs will need a credential in the next five years.

I see the chasm between education attainment and how that translates to employment and jobs. We have to make changes in our education system that allow our families and kids to visualize their path forward and to have local employers be able to recruit and train their workforce in novel ways. Career Connect Washington, a statewide initiative, is bringing together business, labor, government and education leaders so that young people have the education and skills needed to connect with high-demand, family-wage careers across Washington and in the Valley...

Even though we are an agriculture-based region we are not immune from changing workforce demands, as agriculture becomes more and more automated. Our students are ready and willing to step up to the challenge of 21st century work demands. It is up to us to prepare them...

Read the full op-ed in The Yakima Herald-Republic
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