Opinion Columns & Blogs

How much more can our schools ask of taxpayers?

Moscow-Pullman Daily News

The state Supreme Court and the voters in the Evergreen State have ordered Washington’s public schools through court rulings and a voter initiative to reduce the number of students in each of the state’s classrooms.

The problem is smaller class sizes don’t come without a substantial cost; the judges and voters haven’t given school officials any idea on how they are supposed to pay the bill. Voters have even handcuffed legislators by approving initiatives that make it nearly impossible to raise taxes statewide and shooting down another that would have established an income tax for the state’s richest residents, the ones who can afford to pay a little more so the state’s children can have those smaller classroom sizes.

School districts are left with unattractive options, which is where officials in Pullman currently find themselves.

PSD Superintendent Paul Sturm said enrollment has increased by roughly about 300 students during the past two years. Not only does the district contend with a growing student body, it is being forced to implement all-day kindergarten next year and reduce class sizes during the 2017-18 school year.

So, this week the school board will vote on whether to ask voters in February to approve a $23 million bond – on top of renewing the district’s $5.3 million maintenance and operations levy.

There are few people who would argue that children don’t fare better in smaller classrooms and with closer instruction from teachers, but school districts can only ask their local taxpayer base for so much.

That income tax to the top 1 percent is sure looking like a good idea right about now.