The Inadequacy Problem: The Great Recession and painfully slow recovery have resulted in five years of fiscal crisis for Washington. But the state began ratcheting down the level of spending on public education at least two decades ago. In the McCleary decision, the courts ruled the state must invest more in K-12 schools. The level of public support for higher education also has fallen for years and plummeted with the recession, putting the dream of a college education – and the jobs of the future – out of reach for many.
The Tax Structure Problem: Even after the economy recovers, we simply will not be able to wring enough revenue from the current tax structure to build the education system we have envisioned and our children deserve. Washington’s tax structure was designed in the 1930s when agriculture, extractive industries, and manufacturing were the drivers of economic growth and wealth. While other states have modernized their systems with an income tax, Washington continues to rely on the sales tax for half of public funds. Washington’s population and economy are growing, but with each passing year the gap grows wider between the revenues our tax system generates and the services state residents and businesses need to prosper.