Opinion

Voters should renew district’s tech levy

A few weeks ago, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the state of Washington has failed to meet its constitutional duty to sufficiently fund basic education. The ruling compels the Legislature to follow through on ESBH 2261, a massive education reform bill passed in 2009 with an implementation deadline of 2018. Noting the Legislature’s lack of progress to date, the high court said it will retain jurisdiction to ensure lawmakers meet the reform bill’s deadline.

The ruling validates what we in the field of education have known for several years. But while it is a clear victory for education in this state, the economic reality is that the state faces another $1 billion deficit this session. In the short term, perhaps the court ruling will cause the Legislature to rule out any further cuts in public education this year, though we can’t bank on that. In the long term, it gives us reason to believe that eventually the state may restore the funding cuts made over the past four years as well as increase overall funding as mandated by the court.

Meanwhile, because full funding of basic education is still at best a distant hope, school districts like ours cannot afford to wait. We cannot put the education of our students on hold while we stand by for the governor or the Legislature in Olympia to figure it out. We must continue to depend, now more than ever, on local levies to bridge the gap between what the state provides and what our schools require.

This week, Vashon voters will be asked to renew our existing Technology and Capital Projects Levy. It is not a new tax. It has been levied for the past 10 years. It replaces the current levy, which expires in 2012. This tax amounts to approximately $0.39 per $1,000 of assessed value on an Islander’s home or property.

The Vashon Island School District has two four-year levies: an operations levy for the general fund ($3.4 million) and a technology and capital projects levy ($900,000). District levies account for 28 percent of our annual operating budget. They are staggered so that every two years voters are asked to renew one of them.

This ballot asks you to renew the Technology and Capital Projects Levy. Here is what’s at stake and why these levy funds are so important to us. We know that a revolution in technology has changed our expectations for what and how students learn and has opened up new opportunities for inquiry and innovation for both teachers and students. Technological advances have given teachers access to tools and resources that play an increasingly vital role in the process of educating our students. For this reason, the district must maintain a basic level of technology and update it regularly so that our students have what they need to be successful in an increasingly global society.

Levy funds enable us to fulfill the district’s preventive maintenance plan, sustain capital investments and use a greater portion of the general fund for instructional and co-curricular programs. These funds pay for nearly 100 percent of the district’s annual expenditure for major facility repair, improvement and preventive maintenance. It protects the community’s investments both in our existing buildings and the new Vashon Island High School.

In addition to providing space for the instructional needs of our students, our buildings and facilities are shared with more than 40 different community groups that use them in the evening and on weekends. While we welcome this use, this amount of traffic requires increased and more vigilant maintenance.

Based on our most recent experience, we know that every vote counts. I encourage you to mail in your ballot and to remind your neighbors and friends to do the same. You should receive your ballot in the mail by the end of this week. If you require more information, please feel free to visit our website at www.vashonsd.org, or call me at 463-2121. Regardless of how you vote, please exercise your privilege to do so. Thanks for your attention and your continuing trust and support of our schools.

 

— Michael Soltman is the superintendent of the Vashon School District.

Ballots for the Feb. 14 special election will be mailed to Island voters on Jan. 27. The deadline for in-person voter registration is Feb. 6. Ballots must be postmarked by Feb. 14 for the all-mail election. For more information, see King County Elections’ website at www.kingcounty.gov/elections/currentelections.

 

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