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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

A Pledge To End Reliance On Local School Levies In Washington Goes To Governor

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
With families and child advocates in the background, Governor Jay Inslee addressed reporters at a Capitol news conference. He applauded the legislature's passage of a pledge to end reliance on local school levies to fund basic education.

Some school children say the Pledge of Allegiance each morning. Now Washington lawmakers are making a pledge: to end the reliance on local school district levies to fund basic education -- by next year.

Both the Washington House and Senate have passed this pledge. It says very basically: by the end of the 2017 legislative session lawmakers will act to eliminate school district dependency on levy dollars to fund basic education.

Governor Jay Inslee is eager to sign the measure into law. But he said the big job will come next year when lawmakers must fund their pledge.

“It will be a heavy lift and it will be a necessary one and it will be an extremely beneficial one for the education of our children,” Inslee said.

Critics on the left say the pledge to do something next year amounts to an election year delay that sets the state up for a huge balloon payment of $3 to $4 billion. Critics on the right say this is a pledge to funnel billions of dollars more into a broken education system.

What’s not clear is if this pledge will be enough to get the state out of contempt of court for not having a plan to fully fund education.

What else does the pledge bill do?

  • Commits the state to provide funding for competitive school salaries and benefits.
  • Funds a study of current K-12 staff compensation.
  • Creates an Education Funding Task Force to make recommendations on compensation, teacher recruitment and retention, local school district collective bargaining and potential sources of state tax revenue to support basic education.
Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."