Thomas Shapley has a very informative column in today’s Seattle P-I, giving a brief history of our antiquated 60 percent super-majority requirement for voter approval of local school levies, and the politics behind stalled efforts to get a constitutional amendment eliminating it, through the Legislature. [What, you thought it was about the schools?]
Democrats lack the two-thirds majority needed to pass the bill through the Senate, and so far have been unwilling to accept an amendment that would allow simple-majority votes only when school measures are run in November general elections. Shapley suggests that the impasse may be due more to politics than policy.
Does the Democratic leadership really want to pass the legislation this session? It’s an issue that can cut both ways in some suburban swing districts, where broad support for schools tussles with deep opposition to tax increases. Which do Democrats judge more valuable — passing the measure, at a potential political price or retaining the political hammer of blaming Republicans for yet again blocking its passage?
Now contrary to what some of you may think, I’m no Democratic insider with a direct line to the party leadership, or wide-eyed radical, defiantly belting out The Internationale in the shower. So without having the opportunity to have those who know better convince me otherwise, the Hargrove amendment sounds like a compromise I can live with.
Apart from promoting the agenda of the knee-jerk anti-tax faction, there is really no good rationale for singling out school levies to be subject to an anti-majoritarian system. If the best the Democrats can get is the Hargrove compromise, than I say use the political hammer to nail this one home.
Education funding is too important to be dictated by 40 percent of the voters… or a game of legislative Stratego. This is one issue where legislators should be encouraged to let pragmatism trump politics.