Education suffering because of Olympia’s lack of action

I just wanted to make sure there is an appropriate level of outrage in our community over how the folks in Olympia have failed in their paramount duty to fund public education. Each year I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet with school board directors across our state through the Washington State School Directors Association and our country through the National School Board Association. Aside from social dinners, I try to break bread with people I don’t know and hear about what’s going on elsewhere. Maybe those extra insights make me feel madder than what I sense from fellow Federal Wayans.

There are folks in old working-class, pro-union Washington towns that lost industry whose children live in poverty. To add insult to injury they “get to” pay well over twice the rate in property tax than folks in “progressive” Seattle and Bellevue. We here in Federal Way “get to” tax ourselves twice to cover about 30 percent of the cost of our teachers that the state fails to cover. Federal Wayans cared and felt they had the resources to do so, but those small-town folks get a horrible return from the state to fund their teachers. Meanwhile, better-resourced folks in Bellevue tax themselves twice, but they want money for bells and whistles.

Folks in Cincinnati pay twice the property tax of those who cross the Ohio River from Kentucky on Sunday to root for the Bengals (or was it the Bungles?) due to a hefty stadium tax. For the rates small towns in Washington are paying, they should have a new stadium for the Sonics out in the boonies. These small towns in Washington feel they were abandoned by those who were supposed to help those that need it. They pay ridiculously high property tax rates and are forced to pay far below market for their teachers because the state doesn’t care to be fair. Is it “progressive” to have abandoned these families and their children? Is it a shock that I found pro-public school, pro-union board members not living in mega-coastal cities wanting nothing to do with the Democrats anymore?

According to the Washington State Office of Financial Management, you “get to” pay a $4.28 tax rate living in Aberdeen. Meanwhile, with about the same number of students, you would pay a rate of $1.50 living in Anacortes. People in Bethel “get to” pay a rate of $4.26; meanwhile, folks in the comparably sized school district in Bellevue pay only a $1.23 tax rate. Federal Way is also comparable in size and pays a $3.90 tax rate. The “progressives” in “blue” Seattle pay only a $1.28 tax rate, while folks in “red” Spokane pay a $3.91 tax rate. Should Federal Wayans really be at the mercy of political climates to run a property levy to tax themselves twice just to get our teachers paid for by the state like Seattleites?

If everyone paid in at the level Federal Way already does, there would be tons of money to fund public education. At a reasonably lower rate we would still produce plenty, but the folks in Olympia want to keep us distracted with legislation to carry guns into stadiums or address the death penalty. Instead of fixing the outrageous way people get taxed and receive unfair distributions on their share of education funds, they talk about a “levy swap,” a shell game to move money from “blue” counties to cut taxes in “red” counties. Yeah, it really makes me mad, and I think it should make others mad too.

Hiroshi Eto, Federal Way resident and school district board member

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