By Pat Jenkins
A mark of success for schools is how students do as adults and in their post-school careers and lives. That preparation and the end-result, both of which she knows well, is why Kelli Bacher is a supporter of Eatonville School District and its levy.
Bacher, now the mother of two children in the same school system, attended Eatonville schools from kindergarten through 12th grade before earning a degree in psychology from University of Washington and a masters at Central Washington University. Despite coming from a small district, she was more than up to the challenge of higher education.
“I got a really well-rounded education in Eatonville. I felt well-prepared for college,” she said. “What I learned here I could apply there.”
Bacher said her teachers in Eatonville were “wonderful. They cared about me as a person. I still remember them and what we did in class. The academics were strong, but the learning was also about skills that would make us good citizens.”
She’s employed by the Eatonville district as a school psychologist, which allows her to see daily on the inside of schools the blossoming of students and the work that’s put into their education. She’s confident that community members sense the commitment to young people and want it to continue with the help of the Educational Programs and Operations Levy that’s being decided the next two weeks by voters.
Growing up, Bacher said, she was aware that “the community was always supportive of levies and the schools. Schools were the center of the community. They still are in a lot of ways.”
Feb. 11 is the end of voting in the special election. The levy will pass or fail on a simple majority over 50 percent.
At stake for the Eatonville district is a four-year measure that would replace an existing levy and provide about 24 percent of the district’s operating budget. The levy calls for collections of between $4.5 million and just under $5 million from 2015 to 2018.
District superintendent Krestin Bahr has said the levy is vital to provide opportunities for students to get the most out of their education locally and to “compete in the global marketplace.”
Local levy dollars pay for programs and services in the district that state funding doesn’t cover. That includes teachers and instructional assistants, with the latter working one-on-one or in small groups with students; challenging academics for students, such as gifted education and advanced placement; programs in special-education, remediation, and English as a Second Language; books, other learning materials and technology used by students in school; training for teachers to keep their classroom skills updated, and time for them to prepare classroom lessons; and coaching and supervision for extracurricular activities, including music, sports, clubs and drama.
The levy also covers the cost of maintaining and operating school buildings, which includes heat and lights, and bus transportation for students to and from school, including routes that district officials say are unsafe for students to walk
The replacement levy’s estimated tax rate of $3.87 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation would remain the same over the four-year life of the levy. The district anticipates collecting $4.5 million in 2015, $4.6 million in 2016, $4.8 million in 2017 and $4.9 million in 2018.
The tax rate is the same as the current two-year levy that the new levy would replace. The rate also is lower than the average of $4.23 of 15 school districts across Pierce County. Only three districts – Peninsula, Steilacoom and Fife – have lower rates than Eatonville.
Eatonville officials haven’t revealed what budget cuts would be made if the levy fails. The School Board in the past has said priority would be given continuing current levels of classroom support, but a levy failure would be felt across the entire school system, officials note.
Ballots were mailed to voters Jan. 24 by the Pierce County elections department. Voters have until Feb. 11 to return ballots to official dropboxes or mail them.