The levies proposed by the Eatonville and Bethel school districts in the special election should be easy for voters in the respective districts to support. Voting yes is sensible and reasonable, and it’s what the students and educators in both districts deserve.
The cobbled-together system of public school funding in Washington makes it necessary for districts to seek local levy funding to make ends meet for a quality education for children. That’s why Eatonville is requesting a four-year Educational Programs and Operations measure which would replace an existing levy and calls for collecting between $4.5 million and just under $5 million per year from 2015 to 2018, which would provide approximately 24 percent of the district’s operating budget. For the same reason, Bethel is asking to collect between $40.1 million in 2015 and $45.7 million in 2018, which also would comprise about a quarter of the district’s budget.
On the same ballot, Bethel is also asking its voters for a technology levy that would give the district $4.5 million annually for four years for technology benefitting student learning.
Voting in both districts is underway. Ballots were mailed by the Pierce County elections department last Friday, and voters have until Feb. 11 to return them. When the results are tallied, it would be a sorry state of affairs if the operations levies didn’t pass with the simple 50-plus percent majority. If the measures fail, voters will have sent virtually any number of messages, most of them financial-based, such as a desire for districts to be more frugal, concern over the economy and long-term income levels of families and taxpayers, and dissatisfaction with the state’s lingering inability to fully fund public education.
But the Eatonville and Bethel districts are doing their best to be good stewards of public money and leverage virtually every penny for the benefit of students. To believe otherwise begs a question: Where are any legitimate examples of funds that could be put to better use? It’s completely appropriate from the public’s perspective to hold districts accountable, and the districts themselves expect and embrace that. But unless there is evidence to the contrary, there is no good reason not to approve the operations levies and keep that flow of money for teachers and other classroom needs, extracurricular activities such as sports and music, student transportation, and maintenance and utilities for school buildings. Just imagine the state of the schools without that money and the academics and student programs that depend on it.
Some voters in the Bethel district may be less convinced about supporting the technology levy, which proposes outfitting each student with laptop computers or other wireless devices as all-important educational tools in a technology-oriented society. Extra? Not 100 percent necessary? Well, try to think of students heading off to college, technical schools or jobs after their K-12 education without full exposure to technology they’ll be using in their futures. Bethel schools want to do their part to give students a leg up technologically. That’s a large part of what public education is all about now and from now on.
We urge voters to approve the levies of the Bethel and Eatonville school districts. And we hope voters who are still making up their minds will inform themselves through information that’s readily available from the districts.
Pat Jenkins is editor of The Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 360-832-4697.