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Originally published October 12, 2012 at 4:12 PM | Page modified October 12, 2012 at 4:18 PM

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Inslee ad misleads on McKenna’s education plan

Gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee misleads the public about Rob McKenna’s education funding plans.

Seattle Times Editorial

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee not only misleads voters about Republican Rob McKenna’s education funding plans in a recent campaign ad, he exposes his own tenuous grasp on the topic.

Inslee accuses McKenna of pledging not to raise taxes while proposing a property tax swap that would raise the public-school portion of property taxes in “nearly a third to half of Washington school districts. Hundreds of thousands of taxpayers will pay more, but our schools won’t get more, ” Inslee says in the ad.

A Times “Truth Needle” exposes the deception, noting the plan is not McKenna’s. It is the product of a bipartisan legislative effort to comply with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary vs. State of Washington ruling calling for better state funding of education.

We’ve said the property-tax swap, while not a perfect idea, could evolve into a partial answer to McCleary by reducing school districts’ dependence on voter-approved levies for basic education.

Indeed, the state’s highest court singled out school districts’ overreliance on local levies as “unfair to students,” because it favors students in wealthy districts where the property-tax base is higher and in districts that easily pass levies.

Inslee downplays the complexities of creating a fair, consistent and reliable funding system. What he dismisses as a “gimmick” is a bipartisan effort to wrestle with a real and pervasive problem.

McKenna and Inslee promise more state support for public education. But McKenna was out early with specific ideas to raise money and bolster education from early learning to higher education. McKenna has pledged any revenue growth beyond 6 percent biennially for education. He would also limit growth in areas of state spending, including health care, to raise additional money for education.

McKenna also supports cost-saving reforms such as streamlining and standardizing teacher health-care plans, something a state audit suggested could potentially save tens of millions of dollars.

Inslee is on safer ground mapping out how to spend education funds, including on a competitive school-grant program designed to spur innovation. Inslee would also use technology more in schools, including online textbooks.

But he remains disappointingly consistent with his major contributor, the Washington Education Association, against Initiative 1240, a key innovation that would launch a small number of charter schools in the state.

Good ideas, but McKenna offers a more detailed and compelling road map on education.

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