It looks like Seattle's voters are going to approve two new school-funding levies, after early vote results Tuesday night showed both measures winning approval with over 65 percent of the vote. Both levies were winning by well over 20,000 votes with 40,500 estimated ballots left to count, according to King County Elections.
The first ballot releases showed Proposition 1 winning with over 65 percent of the votes and Proposition No. 2 winning with over 68 percent of the votes.
The two levies on Tuesday's ballot tackled separate aspects of Seattle's school-funding shortfalls: Proposition No. 1 raises $815 million over three years to pay for necessary things the state won't adequately fund, like nurses, librarians, custodians, and special education needs; and Proposition No. 2 raises $1.4 billion for construction and maintenance needs for the school district.
Even if both of these levies pass the state is still going to be short $40 million for the district's 2019-20 school year thanks to the state changing how they allocate education funding. The district has said they will have to cut nearly 1,000 jobs, or about 1/7 of the district's entire staff, if these funding levies don't pass.
UPDATE 9pm: Stephen Nielsen, a deputy superintendent for Seattle Public Schools, said he was happy with Tuesday's vote results but said the district was waiting to celebrate until more votes have been counted.
"We will probably wait for a little while before we say for sure, but that said the trend is strong and it would take an extraordinary turn around [for these levies to fail]. So with fairly clear certainty I would say this is a huge win for the city and the kids of the city," Nielsen said.
Summer Stinson, president of Washington's Paramount Duty, a nonprofit that advocates for more school funding, said she was "proud" of Seattleites for their investment in public schools but called on the state legislature to increase funding for education.
"Even with these levies passing Seattle Public Schools is facing a huge deficit and will have to cut many positions unless the state either invests a lot more funding in public schools or lifts this arbitrary cap on the local levies," Stinson said.
Last year, the state legislature capped the amount of money local schools can receive from education levies as part of the state's plan to fully fund every primary school in the state. That cap is creating a $40 million budget shortfall for Seattle Public Schools that neither of these levies will fill. Stinson said the state legislature's limit on local levies is hurting special education funding especially hard.
Stinson said she was particularly happy to see the levies winning Tuesday night given the heavy snowstorms that have shut Seattle and its public schools down over the last week.
"I know that it’s been a challenging election time with all the snow and it’s hard to get people to vote for schools when school is not in session," Stinson said.
UPDATE 9:15pm: The Seattle Public Schools just declared victory in a press release.
Superintendent Denise Juneau said in the press release that she wanted to thank her staff for developing the levy measures which will "help bridge the gap between what the state funds for education and what our students need.”
“I’d also like to thank Schools First for volunteering their time to help ensure our community understood the importance of replacing these levies and renewing their commitments to our schools," Juneau said in the statement.