By Mwiza Kalisa, Schools First
The time has come again for us to uphold our commitment to Seattle Public Schools. This week voters received ballots in the mail for the renewal of two property-tax levies. The levies will help bridge state funding gaps and support facility improvements that are critical to our children’s education.
As voters; grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, siblings and friends it’s in our interest to ensure that children in Seattle public schools meet education requirements that offer them a 21st century education. Proposition 1: a $551.9 million Operations Levy, will provide funding for approximately 26 percent of Seattle Public School’s operating budget over the next three years. The levy would provide funding for textbooks, transportation, teacher’s salaries, a sixth period for high school, security and special-education programs, among other day-to-day costs not fully funded by the state. These are basic necessities if we want our children to succeed in today’s global society.
The $649.9 million Capital Levy (BEX IV), will provide necessary funding to maintain, improve and expand school buildings. In 2007, voters approved the BEX III capital levy that improved district buildings, infrastructure and classroom technology.
The renewal of the BEX Capital Levy will replace or renovate school buildings, many of which are more than 50 years old. Additionally, the levy will provide funding for new schools and school expansions in response to increased enrollment in recent years. Without these levies our schools will struggle to meet the growing demand of students. Within the past year, enrollment has increased by about 1,400 students and an additional 7,000 students are anticipated over the next decade.
The BEX IV Capital Levy will also continue to provide earthquake retrofits for 37 schools that do not meet updated safety standards. Furthermore, BEX IV will build additional lunchrooms, new science labs and improved outdoor athletic facilities. All schools are slated to receive technology upgrades that include wireless internet access and improve accounting systems.
Both propositions are renewals of existing levies. If we fail to renew these levies, the lack of sufficient funds will undermine the growth of Seattle’s public schools and the capacity to provide our children with the education that they deserve. These levies are critical to public education for Seattle’s students and it is our obligation to see that they pass. If approved, these levies would cost the owner of a $400,000 home approximately $13 a month over what homeowners pay on the existing expiring levies.
For a map of the school’s affected, go here.
Schools First is a grassroots, citizen-based organization that has conducted Seattle school levy campaigns since 1995.