Kristiansen: Levy equalization cuts in Democrat budget could be devastating to local schools
Rural areas rely on funds to maintain same quality education as affluent districts
The funding gap between the state’s wealthier and poorer school districts got much wider Friday evening after House Democrats rejected an amendment to restore levy equalization money in their state operating budget.
Levy equalization provides a state match to help offset differences in funding and tax rates between wealthier and poorer schools. The budget plan would cut 16 percent, or $60 million, from those levy matches to local school districts.
Rep. Dan Kristiansen who serves the largely rural 39th Legislative District, said the cuts in levy equalization funds would unfairly target schools in rural areas.
“Our entire school system — every school in the 39th District — relies heavily on levy equalization. This will be devastating to them. The more affluent parts of the state will have a far better education system than other school districts because this Democrat spending plan uses a large portion of the levy equalization dollars to balance the budget,” said Kristiansen, R-Snohomish. “That’s going to leave many of our local school districts to try come up with the difference.”
Kristiansen supported an amendment to restore the funds which failed by a vote of 43-52. In an effort to make up those dollars, the budget allows school districts to lift their levy lids by 4 percent, which currently vary by district between 24 and 34 percent. The 39th District lawmaker said that could mean higher taxes for home and property owners in middle- and lower-income areas of the state.
“When you’ve got a home that’s worth half or less of the price of those in places like Seattle, its taxes end up being much higher to pay for the same quality of education as those in affluent school districts,” added Kristiansen. “The majority of people in our rural school districts understand the importance of levy equalization dollars. This budget tonight killed a substantial portion of that support.”
The operating budget passed the House, 54-42. Kristiansen voted no.
###Washington State House Republican Communications