Thus spake Mayor McGinn during his State of the City address today. McGinn made a very public pitch about the proposed $231 million Families & Education levy, which doubles the amount of the earlier $116 million levy, and would cost the average household $124 per year, by attacking Tim Eyman's tax-limiting initiatives.
Let’s speak honestly about what’s happening to education in the State of Washington. Tim Eyman has set this state on a path that will let our schools collapse and our children fail in order to save a few dollars. Mr. Eyman, you may have talked the rest of the state into destroying what we hold dear. But we are drawing a line around Seattle, at the city limit. It won't happen here. We’re not going to stand by and watch public education fail in Seattle. That’s why we’re doubling the Families and Education Levy. I ask Council to stand with the community and stand for Seattle values and place this levy on the ballot as recommended.
The City Council is scheduled to vote next month on whether to place the levy for renewal before Seattle voters in November. If approved, it would fund services and programs not covered by the Seattle school district budget. The school district has no authority over the money, which is directly invested into things like preschools, health clinics, tutoring, summer school, and wraparound services for at-risk students. If a program fails to work, then the money gets redirected to something else.
Given the state of the economy, the mayor probably feels responsible for being the one to double the levy amount, which explains why he spent a good chunk of his speech today justifying it. Taking a cue from President Obama's education saturated State of the Union speech, McGinn stressed on the importance to "out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world."
President Obama could be talking about our schools right here in Seattle. And right now, we are failing our students. Seattle has one of the most educated populations of any city in the country. But our children aren’t catching up—in particular students of color. In 2010 only 13 percent of African American students and 24 percent of Latino students met the state’s 10th-grade math standard, compared with 68 percent of white students. This is unacceptable and unjust. Seattle must do better.
Seattle Public Schools wants this levy to pass just as badly as the City of Seattle, said Holly Ferguson, the district's Director of Policy and Government Relations, because a lot depends on it. Basically, the levy = hope for a cash-strapped SPS. But, the question is, will Seattle voters be swayed by the mayor's rhetoric and approve a fourth education levy in just two years?