Op-ed by Rep. Drew MacEwen: House vote to delay comprehensive education funding solution is unacceptable
Earlier this week, a vote was taken in the House on a bill, House Bill 1059, to extend current state levy policy for one calendar year. The bill, which passed, would delay the coming ‘levy cliff,’ which is set to reduce the amount of money school districts are authorized to collect through local property tax levies. The state Supreme Court has ruled the overreliance of local levy dollars to fund basic education is unconstitutional, which is why the passage of this bill is so disappointing. Raising the levy lid, which the Legislature did in 2010, was intended to be a temporary fix to allow time for the Legislature to enact sufficient reforms. All this time later, however, the fundamental problems with the way we fund K-12 education in our state still have not been addressed in an adequate and equitable way.
I believe it is our responsibility to come together this session to find a comprehensive solution to funding basic education. The majority party bringing levy-extension legislation to the floor this week reveals it doesn’t share this view. Instead, the bill’s introduction and passage sends the message that we won’t be able to fully address McCleary in this 105-day session. I adamantly disagree, which is why I delivered remarks against the bill on the House floor and joined dozens of my colleagues in voting against it.
To illustrate how long the Legislature has been out-of-touch on the issue of education funding, one only needs to look at state government spending between 1980 and 2012. During this 32-year period, education spending grew 287 percent, while all other spending grew by a whopping 575 percent. Does that sound like the Legislature made education funding its first priority? As a result of the lack of adequate spending on education, districts became increasingly dependent on local levies. That was not an acceptable solution then, and it is not an acceptable solution now.
I have long advocated for upholding our constitutional duty to amply fund basic education, and have continuously proposed legislation to make it our first priority. Since the beginning of session, I have taken part in daily budget meetings, working hard with my colleagues to come up with an adequate and equitable solution to McCleary. The vote we took this week on House Bill 1059 was a vote to kick the can down the road and take the pressure off ourselves to solve the issue. Considering how much time we have left this session to enact a long-term solution, this admission of defeat is deeply disappointing. You deserve better than what you saw this week from your state representatives.
Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, has served the 35th Legislative District in the state House since 2013. He serves as assistant ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and also sits on the House Capital Budget and Health Care and Wellness committees.