This guest post is by state senator Ed Murray.
You can’t have a great city without great schools. The effort to improve our schools begins with making sure they have the resources they need to provide a quality education for our children.
That is why I join the Stranger in endorsing Propositions 1 and 2, which renew two critically important Seattle school levies, on the February 12 special election ballot. I urge Stranger readers to stand up for Seattle’s kids by voting YES, and by making sure to send back your ballot by election day next Tuesday.
It is important to note that neither of these levies is a new tax. They both renew expiring levies, and the total additional cost of both levies for the owner of an average $400,000 home is only $13 a month. It is a reasonable price to pay for the substantial educational benefits these levies fund.
Proposition 1, the three-year operations levy, provides more than a quarter of the funding for Seattle schools. It pays for teachers, instructional assistants, textbooks, the sixth period in our high schools, bilingual and special education services, bus transportation and host of other essential components of our school’s operations. Without it, the quality of our public education system would be devastated. It must be renewed.
Proposition 2, the Building Excellence (BEX) capital levy, provides funding to repair, upgrade or expand existing schools, and to build new schools in growing neighborhoods. For instance, this levy will fund new construction, or major renovation, of more than a dozen schools across Seattle. It will pay for infrastructure improvements and major preventive maintenance at 20 schools. It will allow for much needed earthquake safety upgrades at 37 schools, and will provided the resources to wire every Seattle school with wifi access.
The need for these sorts of major capital investments in our schools is acute. Over one-third of Seattle public school buildings are over 50 years old, and the maintenance backlog is growing.
Meanwhile, enrollment in the Seattle public schools is rising rapidly. More than 1,400 additional students enrolled in the system this year alone, and total enrollment is projected to grow by 7,000 in upcoming years. That is a positive sign, but it also means we need to provide the necessary funds to meet the capacity gap this growth is creating. THE BEX levy helps to do that.
Opponents of the capital levy are trying to claim that it will somehow lead to the shuttering of neighborhood schools, or that the money will be wasted. Don’t believe them. The truth is that every project funded in the expiring BEX levy came in on time and on or under budget. And this levy is designed to expand capacity and will add new schools where they are needed.
In our 21st century economy, a quality education is essential to opening the door of opportunity to the middle class, and to those who aspire to join it. We must make sure we keep that door open for present and future generations of Seattle schoolchildren. Please make sure to fill out and return your ballot by next Tuesday, and please vote yes on Propositions 1 and 2.
(An op-ed opposing Proposition 2 can be found here — Eds.)