OLYMPIA – The House of Representatives voted today to fix the looming $358 million levy cliff crisis facing public schools next year. Without this bill, school districts have been forced to write budgets for the upcoming school year that include teacher layoffs and other reductions in spending.
“In my district there would have been a $17 million budget hole and teachers would have received pink slips,” said Rep. Kristine Reeves (D-Federal Way) in support of the measure. “I’m proud to be voting yes today for kids, schools, and teachers, and to give every child opportunities to learn.”
In an effort to lessen the negative impacts from the Great Recession on school budgets, the Legislature gave local school districts some additionally leeway to raise local levies to help make up for state funding shortfalls. This additional flexibility is set to expire this year.
The levy cliff bill, ESB 5023, extends temporary levy provisions for one year and avoids a $358 million cut to local schools. It is essentially an insurance policy that ensures school budgets won’t be cut while the Legislature continues to work on an education funding solution.
The House of Representatives passed a levy cliff fix back in January. The measure appeared stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, but an agreement was reached between Senate Democrats and Republicans on Wednesday evening.
The House promptly approved ESB 5023 today by a vote of 87-10.
“We have committed to providing additional educational resources for our next scientists, engineers, and our next leaders,” said Rep. Pat Sullivan (D-Covington) regarding the continued work of lawmakers to fully fund education. “I look forward to the day when we can say we met our obligation to 1.1 million schoolchildren.”
The levy cliff fix was the first bill approved by the House of Representatives and is the second bill to reach the Governor’s desk for the 2017 legislative session.
Click here for a Google map with a breakdown of how much each school district stood to lose if the Legislature did not approve a levy cliff fix.