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Originally published Sunday, February 2, 2014 at 7:07 PM

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Editorial: School measures worthy of a yes vote

Washington state has woefully underfunded public education, so schools have become increasingly reliant on levies and the generosity of local property owners. That’s why voters should participate in the Feb. 11 special elections.


Seattle Times Editorial

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THOUGH the Feb. 11 special election won’t get the widespread attention of a November election, voters have an opportunity to make important decisions that in some ways strike closer to home. Many measures on the ballot have to do with school maintenance and operation levies, and construction projects.

Though the Washington Supreme Court has ordered the Legislature to remedy its practice of allowing local school districts to pay too much of the cost of basic education, lawmakers have yet to find the solution. Local districts cannot wait for politicians to solve the problem.

Thirty-two districts in King and Snohomish counties are asking for voter support. Districts rely on this supplemental funding to hire teachers and pay for supplies and programs state funding doesn’t cover. The Times editorial board has studied two districts’ requests and commend them to voters.

The Bellevue School Board has put three measures on the ballot to continue an education program that is well-respected. The high schools, for instance, are ranked among the best in the nation by Newsweek and U.S. News & World Reportthanks to consistent levy support. The three measures are worthy of passage:

• Proposition 1 is a renewal levy that represents 27 percent of the district's budget for educational programs and operations. From 2015 to 2018, this money would continue to pay for school days with seven periods, salaries for one in three teachers, professional training, arts and music courses, world languages and programs for gifted children.

• Proposition 2 replaces an expiring levy for technology and capital projects, totaling $104 million over the next five years.

• Proposition 3 allows the district to sell bonds for the third phase of a $450 million plan to fix existing buildings and to construct two new schools. Extra capacity is essential as enrollment numbers are expected to increase from 18,500 to more than 20,000 students by 2015.

All three measures would increase annual school tax bills for the owner of a $448,000 home (the average in Bellevue) by about $66 per year to $1,531over the next five years.

In the Federal Way School District, Proposition 1 replaces an expiring levy through 2019 that pays for 20 percent of general expenses for education programs and operations, including special education, bilingual, and advanced classes.

The district is not requesting a tax increase. Money from local citizens — about $713 per year for the owner of a $159,000 home — would bolster the success of a district that has made some notable gains in student achievement and innovation.

Federal Way voters should be assured of the School Board’s prudent management: Though voters authorized up to $53 million in annual levy collections in 2012, the district collected and spent about $8 million less than that in 2013 and again in 2014.

Kids need the best education they can get now.

So be sure to investigate school district proposals and turn in those ballots.

To look up information on school ballot measures in your county, visit: sos.wa.gov/elections/auditors.aspx

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).



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