With sixteen school districts in King County asking voters to approve levies in the election on February 13th, many residents are asking questions about why the districts need additional funding, and whether the levies are necessary. A majority of the levies on the ballot are replacements, aimed to succeed current levies in effect, while a small number are adding 1-year levies aimed at adding new school buses to districts in need. This special election will mark the first since the McCleary educational funding ruling, which has caused many voters reason to question whether the levies need support.
The current educational climate in Washington state funds what is considered “basic education.” In King and other counties, however, there is a gap between the expectations within a given school district, and what the new state budget provides. To understand the differences, it’s helpful to think about basic education as a starter home of sorts. You might purchase a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom home of relatively small size, and while it will fulfill the most basic of needs, it doesn’t provide extra amenities that make living even easier, such as a fenced yard or master bath.
When taken to the school system, providing more than a “starter” home means giving students access to much needed programs such as seventh periods, arts programs, and tutors, and providing the school with the opportunity to hire additional nurses and other staff. In the Bellevue School District for example, basic education provides 4 nurses, who are expected to cover 28 schools that are home to over 20,000 students. That is clearly not enough, and it is precisely where the levies come in.
As Seattle continues to grow at unprecedented speed, additional schools could be in the near future, which voters may see on their ballot when the Seattle School District proposes its new levy next year. Over the summer, King 5 News reported that the city of Seattle, in partnership with the Downtown Seattle Association, is currently reviewing a proposal that would renovate and build a new high school near Memorial Stadium. As the article outlines, enrollment in Seattle Public Schools increased nearly 75-percent in the last decade, with prominent growth in the downtown core in neighborhoods such as Belltown, Uptown, and South Lake Union.
I am proud to support our communities and the schools within them, which is why I proudly support the levies. I’ll continue to share updates regarding the status of levies and Seattle schools as it becomes available.