New Washington state budget would provide $7.3B more to public schools over four years

Details of the budget plan remained sketchy Thursday, but the proposal is expected to increase property taxes in school districts like Seattle, Bellevue and Lake Washington, Democratic lawmakers said.

OLYMPIA — A state budget agreement would boost public-school spending by $7.3 billion over the next four years, funded in part by a hike in the statewide property tax that goes to education.

Details of the plan remained sketchy Thursday, but the proposal is expected to increase property taxes in schools districts like Seattle, Bellevue and Lake Washington, Democratic lawmakers said.

“There are some winners and some losers with the property-tax proposal that’s in this budget,” said Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, one of the budget negotiators.

Highlights of the McCleary agreement, released Thursday:

• A three-tier regional difference in how much the state provides for school employees, starting in the 2018-19 school year, based on housing costs.

• Existing teacher-salary schedule, based on seniority and education, to be eliminated.

• Beginning teachers would make at least $40,000. The maximum would be $90,000, although districts could pay more in areas with higher housing costs and for educators who teach science, technology, engineering and math or provide bilingual and special-education instruction.

• Increases to the amount of money provided for students who are below grade level, or are eligible for special-education or highly capable programs.

• Local levies for education are capped, starting in 2019, at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or $2,500 per pupil, whichever is lower.

• Initiative 1351, passed by voters in 2014, is kept on hold, with a work group assigned to recommend whether to phase in its class-size reductions and increased school staffing.

• Control of health benefits for all school employees would be moved from individual districts to the state.

Source: Senate Democratic Caucus and House Office of Program Research

Ranker said that rough numbers show the average Seattle household could pay more than $400 in additional property taxes each year.

The plan also keeps in place local property-tax levies but caps them beginning in 2019 at a lower level and requires they be used for programs that supplement basic education.

The local cap would mean total property taxes in some districts would decline.

The budget also boosts revenue by expanding the collection of…

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