There’s enough money to fund Auburn schools without increasing property taxes

  • Friday, April 19, 2019 10:01am
  • Opinion
Liv Finne

Liv Finne

By Liv Finne, Washington Policy Center, for the Auburn Reporter

For years, through politics, teacher strikes and court cases, we heard that state lawmakers were underfunding schools. Then, with great fanfare, state leaders came together in 2017 and passed an historic bill that is providing schools the greatest funding increase in Washington state history. This bill was the legislature’s final resolution of the state Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision, and the latest in a series of six years of enhanced funding to schools. The courts approved the measure and ended the McCleary case.

This historic bill made two important changes in school funding. First, it raised the state property tax, greatly increasing state funding for all schools. Second, it reduced local dependence on levies to ease the burden on taxpayers, to increase fairness and to reduce inequity between property-rich districts and property-poor ones.

Lawmakers and the state supreme court rightly thought it was not fair that a child in Seattle received thousands of dollars more for her education than a child in Kettle Falls.

As a result, funding in the Auburn School District jumped from $10,300 per student a few years ago to $14,700 per student in 2018-19, more than tuition at most private schools. Total spending went from $143 million in 2012 to $248 million today, an increase of 73 percent.

Auburn’s taxpayers saw an average 17 percent increase in their taxes to provide this added money.

Yet now Kim Mead, WEA union president, says the district should get even more money. She is pressing lawmakers to raise property taxes again, this time at the local level. She wants lawmakers to break the promises they made to taxpayers and to undermine the constitutional requirement that the state provide ample and equitable funding for the education of every child.

The state Supreme Court ruled that past school funding was unfair because rich districts got thousands of dollars more to educate their students than poor ones. Lawmakers fixed the problem by making sure every student got fair and equal funding at the statewide level.

Not surprisingly, some rich school districts, like Seattle, want to get more money for themselves and leave poor communities behind. They are pushing SB 5313, to allow higher local taxes to be imposed on top of the state property tax that was just enacted.

It’s little wonder the unions are so interested – there is big money to be made. Unions in rich districts support the bill, and the local union backs it too, knowing it will lead to higher property taxes on families living in Auburn.

The Auburn School District, like all districts throughout the state, now has ample money to provide every student a top-notch education, without increasing property taxes for the second time in two years. Responsible school boards throughout the state are providing great programs for kids using record-high state funding and well-managed budgets.

Sure, some school officials, and of course unions, always want more money. But they should consider how the burden of higher property taxes falls hardest on the elderly living on fixed incomes, young couples seeking to buy their first homes and working families living from paycheck to paycheck.

Lawmakers should resist the union and those school districts that have made bad budget decisions. They should uphold the principle of uniformity and equity in school funding. Promises made to taxpayers should be kept. Lawmakers and the governor should stick with the school-funding plan they passed; a fair limit on the burden of local taxes, a big increase in the state property tax, and equitable funding for all children living in Washington.

Liv Finne is director of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center (WPC), an independent, nonprofit think tank that promotes sound public policy based on free-market solutions. Through its research centers, WPC focuses on core areas of public policy, including education.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@auburn-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.auburn-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Opinion

The state has too much money and it’s a problem

With revenues rising, budget writers are going to get lots of requests on how to spend it

COURTESY PHOTO, MultiCare
Black History Month: highlighting health disparities

By MultiCare Health System February is Black History Month, a time to… Continue reading

Recognition and thanks – not abuse – needed for high school officials

By Karissa L. Niehoff, NFHS executive director While the behavior of parents… Continue reading

Cheers for the American Legion

The 2020 race for the White House is heating. It’s shaping up… Continue reading

Playing multiple sports in high school paves way for Mahomes’ success

By Karissa L. Niehoff, NFHS executive director On football’s grandest stage this… Continue reading

COURTESY PHOTO
Copper making comeback as major disease fighter

Government leaders, doctors, and medical researchers worldwide are working feverishly to stop… Continue reading

FILE PHOTO
As session moves along, lawmakers sharpen their focus

OLYMPIA — With a third of the legislative session nearly gone, lawmakers… Continue reading

Dams are the Northwest flood busters

We need to remember that that network is saving our bacon

Matt Shea is poised for a victory lap

Democrats could, on their own, censure the six-term lawmaker. But they probably won’t. Even a hearing on the content of the report looks very unlikely.

We must demand a healthy Puget Sound

Little progress being made

Inslee still hopeful for clean fuels standard

Gov. Jay Inslee badly wants a clean fuels standard in Washington. He… Continue reading

Look for lots that’s new at KCLS in 2020

As King County Library System winds down another busy year, the New… Continue reading