“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.” - William Blake
By Mwiza Kalisa
We recently received 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.
These levies, if passed, would have a significant impact on the Capitol Hill neighborhood as they would modernize and add core facilities on the site of the Mann Building, which again will serve as the home for Nova Alternative High School students. They would also provide for earthquake safety improvements for Lowell Elementary School.
Ballots are due Tuesday, Feb. 12. Here are additional details about the levies:
Proposition 1: A $551.9 million Operations Levy, will provide funding for approximately 27 percent of Seattle Public School’s operating budget over the next three years. The school levy will help fund teachers’ salaries, textbooks, transportation, a sixth period for high school, security and special-education programs, among other basic day-to-day costs not fully funded by the state.
Proposition 2: The $694.9 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. Every project in BEX III came in on time and within the budget.
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. At a time when many of the nation’s big city school districts are shrinking, Seattle’s public school student enrollment is rapidly growing. One thousand-four hundred additional students enrolled this year alone, with 7,000 more expected in the next decade in our already overcrowded schools.
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 in every school and improve accounting systems.
Failure to renew our school levies would be devastating to Seattle’s students and schools. Teachers and instructional aides would be laid-off, class size would increase and critical programs would be cut.
Both propositions are renewals of existing levies. If approved, these levies would cost the owner of a $400,000 home $13 a month over what the homeowner pays on the expiring levies.
Mwiza Kalisa is a member of Schools First, a grassroots, citizen-based organization that has conducted Seattle school levy campaigns since 1995.