Washington lawmakers last week reached a deal to lift the state’s “levy lid,” blunting tighter limits on voter-approved local taxes for schools that were set to take effect this year. Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, was expected to sign the legislation that Republicans had criticized.
The district-specific tax measures, or levies, have long been used by schools to supplement state allowances for programs ranging from extracurricular activities to special education, but a state-dictated maximum had been set to decrease.
According to a nonpartisan legislative analysis, if the full decrease had been allowed to go into effect, it would have meant schools statewide could raise about $1 billion less this year than last.
Billed as a way for individual districts to fill gaps in the state’s funding model, the measure will allow districts to collect up to $2.50 for every $1,000 in property value, up from $1.50. An alternative minimum would also be boosted for districts with more than 40,000 students.
The debate is the latest ramification of a state supreme court ruling, which declared that the state was constitutionally required to cover the cost of basic education, but left ambiguous the question of whether schools could raise additional money themselves to cover expanded programs.
A version of this article appeared in the May 08, 2019 edition of Education Week as Legislature in Washington State Lifts Local Tax Cap for Schools