North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Marysville schools host education forum

 

Christopher Andersson

Marysville School Board President Pete Lundberg at an Oct. 18 Marysville education forum.

At a Oct. 18 education forum, local state representatives discussed school funding and the McCleary decision which will likely be the two most contentious issues in the Washington state legislature this year.

At the forum, John McCoy, 38th District State Senator, June Robinson, 38th District Representative, and Marysville School Board President Pete Lundberg shared their thoughts on the educational issues in Marysville.

The 38th District covers most of Marysville, Tulalip and north Everett.

In 2012 the Washington State Supreme Court heard McCleary v. State of Washington (a.k.a. the McCleary decision) in which they ruled the state legislature had inadequately funded education.

"Basic education" is guaranteed by the state's constitution to be "fully funded," a clause which gave the courts the ability to rule against the state.

What "fully fund" and "basic education" mean exactly is a matter of debate.

What those two phrases mean exactly may be too subjective and "squishy" to determine precisely, said Lundberg.

"Because we have such a diverse legislature, lots of different opinions, there are a lot of different ideas about what basic education is," said McCoy.

Robinson said that most legislators are landing around an additional $3 to $4 billion. McCoy himself is pushing for more than $5 billion though, and said that nurses, psychiatrists and other social supports should be included in "basic education."

While the state legislature has increased funding to Washington schools every year since then, the Washington State Supreme Court has consistently ruled that the legislature is not moving fast enough toward fully funding basic education.

Robinson said in the past three years there have been "significant investments" made, including full-day kindergarten, reduction in class size from kindergarten to third-grade and MSOC funds (maintenance, supplies and operating costs).

All of these investments were made with minimal revenue increases though.

"[Legislature officials] slashed agencies' budgets, and they particularly went after the enforcement arms of those agencies," said McCoy.

McCoy also disagreed with moving funds away from other state projects like environmental cleanups.

Most of the local representatives agreed that additional revenue sources would be needed to raise the billions required to be in compliance with McCleary.

Historically property tax is one of the sources used to fund school districts and the state has the option to raise those, said Robinson.

Currently a "levy swap" is one of the popular items talked about in the legislature, said McCoy. In this system the state would take many of the levy dollars raised locally and pay back to the schools.

The state would be paying more but the revenue of school districts wouldn't change, said Robinson.

McCoy doesn't think the levy swap is a reasonable solution and described the option as merely "kicking the can down the road."

The current Washington state tax system relies heavily on its sales tax, which is a problem for the less wealthy in the state.

"The middle class and low income are carrying the burden," said McCoy. He hopes new revenue options will be less burdensome on those people. "We need to devise a system that has everyone in the state participate," he said.

A capital gains tax, which taxes funds gained from investments like stocks, bonds and properties, could also be implemented.

Robinson said Washington state is one of the few states without one.

"I know there's some angst about that, however the proposals we've had mirror a federal capital gains tax that's currently in place, so it's not anything new," Robinson said.

Lundberg also hoped that the state legislature would de-link graduation and high-stakes standardized testing.

"I think we're doing a disservice to our kids, our parents and our teachers by having these high-stakes linked to a graduation diploma," he said.

McCoy and Robinson agreed that standardized tests aren't meant to be a graduation requirement.

"We took standardized tests, and we got the results, and I don't know about you, but we didn't lose a moment's sleep over the results," said Lundberg.

Lundberg and McCoy hope that people will come out for this Nov. 8 general election to vote for who they think will best support education.

"I would hope during this whole legislative session that those have a point to make or a perspective to share, you would make your opinions known," said Lundberg.

 

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