State lawmakers approved a 2.06 percent increase in basic state aid to K-12 public schools this week, providing about $79 million in new dollars. It’s less than what Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed and less than what districts need after modest 1 percent and 1.1 percent increases in the previous two years.
But the best news is the funding package passed early in the legislative session, giving school districts ample time to prepare their budgets.
But there is unfinished business on the education front. Lawmakers have yet to approve legislation extending the SAVE — Secure an Advanced Vision for Education — sales tax for facilities projects. The current one-cent tax expires in 2029, which means the window for schools to use its proceeds for buildings through bonding is closing.
The tax has been a big success in a state that once struggled mightily to deal with the decline of scores of aging school buildings dating back to the early 1900s.
There is optimism 2019 is the year an extension will be approved after stalling in past sessions. Bills have cleared education committees in the Senate and House. They’re now being considered by the Ways and Means Committee in each chamber.
The proposed extension would put more SAVE dollars toward property tax relief, which has been a sticking point in recent years. It requires schools to spend proceeds on safety and security measures before spending dollars on athletic facilities, addressing another bone of contention. A portion of the dollars will go toward career academies championed by Reynolds, giving her fellow Republicans another reason to move the legislation.
So optimism is warranted. But we also know how legislative sessions work. The longer SAVE waits for action, the better the chances it could get caught up in the horse-trading and deal-making that have scuttled good ideas in the past. We’d like to see SAVE extended sooner than later, before other legislative issues and controversies pile up.
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Swift passage would give districts time to plan facilities projects, and would mean they won’t miss another construction season waiting for Statehouse action. We urge legislative leaders to put this long-discussed bipartisan legislation on a fast track.
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