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Saturday, October 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Mike Volz: Change is needed in education

By Mike Volz

The passage of HB2242, the “McCleary Fix,” was meant to fulfill the state’s obligation to fully fund education. And from the court’s perspective it did.

In 2017 I voted no on the bill as I found it to be lacking: overly complicated, too restrictive on locally elected school boards – and, most importantly, not focused enough on students and families, especially students with special needs. Additionally, there are issues in the underlying funding model that oftentimes underallocates funds to key services such as mental health, health care, special education and funding for low income schools. Later that year by an advisory vote the voters in Washington state rejected HB2242 and its $13,000,000,000 property tax increase. Almost 60% of all Washingtonians and 65% of Spokane County voted to repeal the bill. In fact, it was rejected in 38 of 39 counties, passing only in King County.

Over the years I have worked with school administrators, educators and parent groups to work through some of these issues. In 2019 I prime-sponsored one bill and co-sponsored another that would change how the learning assistant program funding for high poverty schools would be administered. Unfortunately, even with bipartisan support for both bills neither one moved forward.

A common theme I have heard from many school districts is to have more flexibility and more local control. We do, after all, have locally elected school boards who are responsible and accountable to their citizens. Parents, families, local citizens and school boards ought to have more of a voice in determining how to address the needs of their students. Just like each student has different needs, each district has different needs.

Many citizens I have heard from both in my capacity as state representative and chief deputy treasurer of Spokane County have concerns over the increase in taxes. With COVID-19 those concerns have accelerated. Many people are upset about paying taxes while the schools are not fully open. Many people are struggling to stay in their homes or keep their businesses open.

Tax increases and the budget will certainly be an issue in the upcoming session. We have seen explosive growth in state spending over the last few years. Budgets were put together based on record revenues AND record tax increases. Due to the current crisis and overly enthusiastic spending we are now faced with a massive budget crisis. In 2019 about a dozen new taxes were put before the voters as advisory votes. Spokane County voted to repeal almost all of the new taxes, most by 60+%. The message is clear: No more taxes. The state must live within its means.

I believe that we should address the needs of our students and families by updating state law to allow for more flexibility and local control in determining how to allocate funds and better serve our communities. A rigid, top-down, West Side approach is not best for Spokane and Eastern Washington.

Washington state must live within its means. There are all sorts of great-sounding programs, but at the end of the day WE must pay for them through increased taxes and WE have repeatedly said no to runaway spending and new taxes.

Mike Volz has been the 6th District representative since 2017, and is the Spokane County chief deputy treasurer.

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