Five school districts in the county have Educational Programs and Maintenance levies on the ballot. These measures are renewals of expiring levies that provide funding for services that the state does not fund at all or does not fully fund, such as textbooks and library materials, special and gifted education, transportation, utilities, and sports and extracurricular activities.
Two districts—Thorp and Kittitas—have technology levies on the ballot as well. These measures provide funding for hardware and software upgrades, tablets for students, security, training, and part of a network coordinator salary. The Thorp technology levy is a renewal; the Kittitas levy would be new.
The state of Washington funds about 72% of the cost of education. Local levies in this county provide around 17-23% of the cost, with the remainder provided by the federal government, grants, and local programs.
The McCleary decision of the Washington Supreme Court determined that the state has a constitutional obligation to fully fund “basic education” and the legislature has appropriated additional funds to partially meet this obligation by the 2018 school year. However, fully funding basic education is not the same as fully funding education, and school districts are still required to fund most of the services traditionally provided by local levies. Because the details have yet to be worked out in the current legislative session, school districts are having to navigate some uncertain territory.
How much money will the state provide to each district? Will it be enough to make up for caps on local levies, and if not, will these caps be increased? What exactly is defined as “basic education” and what restrictions will be imposed on levy funds? Various fixes have been proposed in the current legislative session, so all these questions have yet to be answered definitively.
Passing a levy requires a simple majority of the vote. Voters in this county have strongly supported school levies in the past. Assuming all levies pass, they will go into effect in the 2019 tax year. Check out current ballot return rates here.