On February 9th, 2016, Seattle residents will vote on the renewal of two school levies that are critical if we want to provide our children the resources they need to succeed in school and life. Neither of these are new taxes—they’re renewals of expiring existing levies. And they are essential for investing in our future and supporting Seattle students.
We all know how important education is to our future—it is a shared commitment to invest in our children and in our city. If we truly mean to close the opportunity gap in our city, then investing in education is essential. We talk about wanting to see more women and minorities in the sciences, yet we continue to underfund the institutions that provide those learning opportunities. As we become even more of a high-tech economy, it is increasingly important that all students receive the best education possible, one that will prepare them for the college or career of their choice.
Unfortunately, the state isn’t providing the full funding that our schools need. I hope the legislature acts as soon as possible, and passes a sustainable (and progressive) revenue source that fully funds education for all our students, forever. But we can’t force our students, especially those most in need, to wait in aging buildings and overcrowded classrooms until the legislature decides to act. We need to make sure that our students and teachers have the resources they need to succeed now. And we have an opportunity to do just that by renewing these two levies.
Proposition 1 is a renewal of an Operations Levy that provides about 25% of our schools’ budgets. This levy funds basic, day-to-day school needs, including teachers and instructional assistants, textbooks and classroom supplies, bilingual and special education services, bus transportation, student activities such as athletics, arts, extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, and so much more. These are all essential elements of a quality education and essential to our kids’ success.
Meanwhile, Proposition 2 is a renewal of a Capital Levy (named the Buildings, Technology and Academics/Athletics IV, or BTA IV) which pays to maintain, repair, renovate, and expand our school buildings so our kids are learning in safe and modern facilities. Many of our schools are decades old and are due for earthquake and fire safety upgrades, new roofs and heating systems, and upgraded athletic fields. The BTA IV levy pays for these things and more, including new science laboratories—crucial to our STEM commitment—and 2,050 new classroom seats. This additional capacity is crucial to help meet the growing demand to attend our city’s public schools.
The levies are supported by a broad coalition of individuals and organizations from across the city. Supporters include, among others, Mayor Murray, King County Executive Dow Constantine, parents and individual school PTAs, the Seattle Council PTSA, the Seattle Education Association, the Building and Construction Trades Council, the Alliance for Education, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, and the Downtown Seattle Association.
Seattle’s students are counting on us to invest in their future. Renewal of these levies is absolutely essential for their—and our city’s—success. For more information on the levies and our coalition, you can visit www.schoolsfirstseattle.org. Please get your ballot in the mail and vote YES by February 9!
Lorena González is an at-large member of the Seattle City Council.