Levy Swap = Levy Swipe

August 11, 2015

The evidence in the McCleary school-funding lawsuit is clear: Even when local, state and federal funding sources are combined, schools in Washington lack the resources necessary to provide all kids a realistic opportunity to learn and succeed. 

But lawmakers, in their post-session report to the state Supreme Court, claim they should not face contempt sanctions, in part, because they have planned “a listening tour of the State” regarding school levy “reform” proposals. The “reforms,” however, are simply shell games that would do nothing to increase funding for schools.

Here’s the response from Tom Ahearne, attorney for the coalition of parents, teachers, school districts and community groups in the McCleary case:

Despite the State’s assurance to this Court in last year’s contempt proceedings that the State’s 2015legislature would focus on raising additional revenue for school districts, that’s not what the State’s 2015 legislature did. 

Instead of addressing how to raise revenue for school districts, the legislature’s 2015 Report lists several proposals that would raid revenue from school districts by tying a State funding increase to a corresponding local funding decrease. (This is sometimes called the “levy-swap” or, more accurately, “levy-swipe” maneuver.) 

But taking away local money that local voters approved for local enhancements above basic education, then handing it back and calling it “State” money, does not fill Washington school districts’ underfunding hole. If simply changing the source of a dollar is all that matters, then:

  • The State could “increase” funding for full-day kindergarten by taking the money many parents currently pay their school district to place their child in full-day kindergarten, and then handing that money back to the district calling it “State” money.
  •   The State could “increase” funding for the Arts by taking the money local band and theater booster clubs pay to fund school programs, and then handing that money right back to the district calling it “State” money.
The hollowness of such a funding “increase” may be why the levy-swipe proposals listed in the State’s 2015 Report did not advance.

You can find the complete text of briefs filed by the state and plaintiffs at these links: 

State's Filing

Plaintiffs' Filing  

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