I more than enjoy poking my finger in the eye of the Seattle Times editorial board, but the truth is, I often agree with many of their editorials. For instance, today’s editorial, “Let voters decide school-levy rules,” is not only dead on the money, it is particularly well reasoned and argued.
Maybe if politicians had to be elected by a 60-percent supermajority, they’d be quicker to understand the unfair burden such a requirement imposes on school levies.
[…] Nearly all of the state’s 296 districts rely on levy funds, some for 18 to 21 percent of their operating budgets. In Seattle, the levy accounts for 25 percent of the district’s budget.
The state ought to fund education better, but until it does, levy funds will make or break a district’s budget. It is unfair that a minority of citizens can punish a school system. Yet it happens. Several years ago, a levy in the Arlington School District failed with 59.7 percent of the vote. The majority of citizens said yes and still the district had to spend additional money and time on a second campaign.
Yesterday, Seattle voters once again approved new school levies by a comfortable margin, but had one or both failed with only 59-point-something percent of the vote, folks like our friend Stefan at (un)Sound Politics would undoubtedly be kvelling over their huge political victory. Think about it. In any other election this would be considered a landslide, but when it comes to school levies our constitution transforms a near 20-point margin into a public rebuke.
The same sort of folks who condemn raising the initiative filing from $5 to $100 as an unprincipled attack on direct democracy want the fate of our schools to rest in the hands of only 40-percent-plus-one of the electorate? Huh? It just doesn’t make any sense that funding our children’s education should be made more difficult than nearly any other democratic exercise.
And as the Times points out, this whole issue is about democracy.
Changing the levy rules requires amending the state constitution; voters will ultimately decide this issue — that is, if the Legislature passes the bill and gives voters a chance.
[…] Voters have a stake in this. The Senate ought to let them speak.
The legislature doesn’t have the final say on this, the people do. Our state Constitution prescribes that any amendment must ultimately be approved by a simple majority of voters. It is time to let the people decide if the same rules should apply to school levy elections.