Forty-eight days before Election Day, there’s no organized opposition to the measure that would lower the bar for passing school levies in Washington.
Some see the Nov. 6 election as the best chance school supporters have had in years to change the 60 percent supermajority requirement Washington voters set in place 75 years ago.
And the committee working to pass the constitutional amendment has a ton of money to get its message to voters.
People For Our Public Schools had raised nearly $670,000 in cash and in-kind donations as of Aug. 31, state Public Disclosure Commission campaign contribution records show.
One woman – Bellevue resident Katherine Binder – donated $255,000 to the cause. That’s about 38 percent of the total campaign chest.
No committee in opposition to 4204 has registered with the PDC, spokeswoman Lori Anderson said this week.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be voices to oppose the measure. State Sen. Janéa Holmquist, R-Moses Lake, and State Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, co- authored a statement against it for the state voter’s pamphlet.
But so far, there’s apparently no one out there with a big bank account to pay for newspaper, Internet, radio and television ads to convince voters to say “no.”
Bill Monto, campaign manager of the Simple Majority For Our Public Schools campaign, chalks up the lack of organized opposition to “an amazing coalition of supporters” that includes business, labor and school employees.
More than 800 individuals have donated to People For Our Public Schools, the name of the fundraising group registered with the PDC, Monto said.
A casual observer might look at the lengthy list of contributions – many of them $100 or less – and think the amount next to Binder’s name is a typo. It’s not.
On Aug. 20, she donated $250,000, bringing her total gift to the campaign to $255,000, PDC records show.
The records list Binder as president of EMFCO of Kent, but don’t specify whether that’s the holding company or the manufacturing company. Exotic Metals Forming Co. LLC is a major supplier of aircraft materials that traces its origins to 1963 when it began supplying titanium sheet metal flanges for Boeing 727s.
Binder couldn’t be reached at EMFCO.
Monto said Binder’s donation motivation is no different than that of other givers.
“She called us out of the blue and said, ‘This is something I’m really passionate about,’” he recalled. “We told her what we needed to win a campaign, and she came forward with an extraordinarily generous contribution.”
Eliminating the supermajority requirement for the passage of school levies is crucial, Monto and others say, because levies pay for roughly 15 to 20 percent of a school district’s budget.
That’s money spent on basics like textbooks, learning materials, teacher training and even clean school buildings, said Kim Howard, Tacoma-based Washington State PTA spokeswoman.
Holmquist and Orcutt argue that school districts rarely suffer multiple levy defeats and that the 60 percent approval bar is needed to ensure that property taxes aren’t raised without solid support of the people.
The state’s voters, they point out, have upheld the supermajority requirement more than half a dozen times since 1932.
“Bottom line, I see this as a way to raise property taxes,” Holmquist said.
Top donors to YES ON 4204
• Katherine Binder, Bellevue, $255,000*
• Washington Education Association, $185,961**
• Schools First Coalition, $30,000*
• Nicholas J. Hanauer, Seattle, $25,000*
Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659