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Republican Lawmaker Defends Levy Cap As School Districts Complain It Creates Budget Problems

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
Republican state Sen. John Braun

Both the Seattle and Tacoma school districts have said they face future budget shortfalls because the state has set limits on local tax levies. But state Sen. John Braun, a key Republican lawmaker who helped craft the state’s education funding system, defends the levy cap.

The state Supreme Court ruled in the McCleary case that the state was failing to adequately fund public education. School districts have long used local tax measures to make up for that, but some were able to raise a lot more money than others.

Braun said the legislature hiked the state property tax to make the system more equitable and restricted local levies. If districts can raise lots of money through local tax measures, that may lead to state lawmakers shortchanging schools again, he said.

“I personally think we’d be wise to keep pressure down on local levies and force us at the state level to properly fund education,” Braun said.

Braun said teachers deserve more pay but he thinks expectations have become unrealistic. He said the statewide teachers’ union, the Washington Education Association, is responsible for that.

“Some have been worked up by the union and, as a result, they’re demanding increases that frankly aren’t mathematically possible,” Braun said. “They’re going to put their school district in financial jeopardy in the future.”

WEA spokesman Rich Wood said the legislature increased funding for salaries by billions of dollars and teachers are fighting to make sure that’s how the money is used.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.