New budget and education reforms a win for Pierce County and state

Washington students will see historic investments and reforms aimed at improving student achievement for all students over the next four years following today’s passage of a new state budget and education reform legislation. Sen. Hans Zeiger, who serves as chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, says the education overhaul will not only affect current students, but also millions more in decades to come.

“Every child in this state deserves a high-quality public education that will set them up for success in life,” said Zeiger, R-Puyallup. “Republicans and Democrats worked together and found a sustainable way to amply fund our schools. Paying for schools is the top responsibility of each generation of legislators, and I am pleased that we’ve implemented structural changes that will benefit students for years to come.”

Funding for public schools will have grown from $13.5 billion in 2011-13 to $22 billion during the 2017-19 budget cycle. The funding aligns with transformational reforms that support students, teachers and taxpayers.

“We all know the benefit of having a great teacher in every classroom,” said Zeiger. “By increasing pay, reducing the cost of health insurance and recognizing the wide range in cost of living throughout the state, we can provide better compensation and stability to more teachers.”

The new budget increases funding for Pierce County school districts including a 17 percent increase in Puyallup and Tacoma, 21 percent for Franklin Pierce and 26 percent for Fife schools.

Pierce County residents will also see property tax reductions based on a new property tax system to fund schools. It eliminates existing local maintenance and operations levies and replaces them with a local rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, with a $2,500 cap per student. In its place, the state property tax for public schools would increase from $1.89 to $2.70.

Under the property tax reform, the owner of a median value home of the Puyallup School District would save $403 per year. The savings would be $530 for the average Franklin Pierce homeowner, $363 in Tacoma and $159 in Fife.

The budget also includes more than $500 million for the Learning Assistance Program, which provides additional support for low-income students.