The following is a commentary from the Vashon Island School District board in support of Proposition 1, which would re-authorize the district’s Capital Levy. Ballots must be returned or postmarked by Feb. 13.
In addition to being school board directors, we are parents, homeowners, taxpayers, and voters. Like many of you, we have often wondered, why does the school district need more money, and what do things like “unfunded mandate” or “the McLeary Decision” mean?
In full disclosure, until recently, we haven’t always paused before saying “yes” to every tax district levy or bond put before us. We believe having a great park district, strong schools, and a hospital district benefits us all. As a parent of a medically fragile child, Juniper is all too familiar with our island’s outstanding paramedics and other first responders. For this and other reasons, she overwhelmingly supported the recent fire district levy. But we’ll admit that we did not always stop to think about what these additional tax burdens might mean for community members who struggle to make ends meet.
We don’t expect everyone to go “into the weeds” regarding school funding, but it is important to understand where your tax dollars go. This explainer helps clarify why bonds and levies are necessary to address Washington State’s specific barriers to providing equitable access to the quality education every student deserves.
Washington State’s school funding formula is explained here.
Proposition Number 1: Replacement Capital Levy for Safety, Security and Technology Improvement (or “the cap-tech levy”), if approved, will fund technology initiatives already in place. Many essential safety and security infrastructure projects included in the levy plan are required by state law, yet unfunded by the legislature.
This is a replacement levy. Should the levy fail, teachers, paraeducators and staff will lose some of the most effective tools for reaching students with the greatest challenges. Simultaneous translation for our multi-language learners. Tablets for high-needs or nonverbal students to communicate with their teachers. Without the continued funding a levy brings, when these technology aids reach their end of life or fail, they will not be replaced.
As we prepare students for an increasingly digital world, we must have the appropriate tools and supports for their learning. The increasing influence of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, cannot be dismissed. We cannot know with any certainty what the workplace of the future will look like, nor how AI will inevitably influence how we work and play, but equipping students with critical thinking and discernment skills will serve them well, whatever comes next.
It is our responsibility as learning community leaders to ensure that they are well-informed and well-prepared. We cannot do that with end-of-life-cycle technology or failing infrastructure. These are not “nice to haves;” these are “must-haves.”
We are so fortunate to have dedicated and talented technical staff working in our schools. Chautauqua Elementary School (CES) Principal Julie Kangas reports that in her previous district, it might take three or more days for a teacher or student to have a response from a help desk request; on Vashon, help often arrives within 30 minutes.
Particularly in a tech-heavy region such as ours, these technology experts could have their pick of positions in the private sector. To attract and retain that caliber of staff, we must be able to offer competitive salaries and benefits.
By saying “Yes to Kids,” we are also making an important investment in the environmental and physical safety of our built environment. The funds from this levy will go towards important projects like upgrading the fire safety systems and play structures at CES, and upgrading and/or improving the HVAC systems at several of our buildings.
We appreciate that voters may have questions. We encourage community members to attend the upcoming community forum with Superintendent McSheehy, Board Directors Martha Woodard and Kaycie Alanis, and members of the “Yes for Kids” campaign. Join them at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1, at Chautauqua Elementary.
As the executive director of the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA) recently said, “Taxpayers have entrusted you as School Directors with their two most important things: their children and their money.” As School Board directors, we take this responsibility very seriously. We encourage you to vote “Yes” on Proposition Number 1. We pledge to use sound judgment and appropriate oversight to ensure levy dollars are spent with care and prudence.
Lastly, you are always welcome to reach out to us collectively, at firstname.lastname@example.org (this address reaches all five directors, plus the superintendent and his executive assistant) or separately. Lucia can be reached at email@example.com, and you can email Juniper at firstname.lastname@example.org. As your elected school board officials, we welcome your questions, concerns, and input.
Lucia Armenta is the chair of the Vashon Island School District board of directors. Juniper Rogneby is the vice chair.