The following post was written by Mwiza Kalisa, of Schools First – a grassroots, citizen-based organization that has conducted Seattle school levy campaigns since 1995. We felt a post about the levies was pertinent to our readers since the upcoming vote to renew the Capital Levy (BEX IV) for Seattle Public Schools includes money to re-open and modernize Lincoln High School in 2019 to accommodate the influx of students here in the north end.
This month voters will receive ballots in the mail for the renewal of two property tax-levies. The levies, which are the only measures on the ballot, will help bridge state funding gaps and support facility improvements for Seattle Public Schools.
Considering the increasing numbers of enrollment in Seattle public schools, these levies are crucial in improving the facilities and providing the resources that are vital for our children. 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 school levy will help fund teacher’s salaries, textbooks, transportation, a sixth period for high school, security and special-education programs, among other day-to-day costs not fully funded by the State.
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. Hamilton International Middle School is a product of the BEX III levy and a good example of how the capital levy can help improve other schools.
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 essential 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.