Mayor wants Seattle to open ‘school to opportunity pipeline’ with new education levy

Inside Capitol Hill’s Miller Annex Preschool and with a focus on jobs, income, and affordability, Mayor Jenny Durkan Wednesday made her first pitch to Seattle citizens for a new education levy her office says will cost typical households just under $21 a month — about $7 more than they have been paying to help pay for the Seattle Public Schools system and its some 53,000 students at more than 100 schools.

“The increase comes from us doing the two things that we know are vital. Increasing pre-school so that more kids come to school ready to learn. And giving kids that opportunity to go to college,” the mayor said Wednesday in a speech focused on the economy as much as it was on learning.

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“We will be going to the ballot not just to renew our family and education levy and our preschool levy, but to put them together in a holistic package that looks at the continuum of our children to make sure that they have the opportunity for any job in the city of Seattle,” Durkan said, calling her new $636 million spending plan “a school to opportunity pipeline.”

The city’s children growing up and getting “good paying jobs” is a driver in what will “make Seattle affordable,” Durkan said Wednesday.

Under the plan, Seattle would replace two expiring levies with a new tax that would raise around $230 million for kindergarten through high schools to buttress state funding, $363 million for Seattle’s growing preschool programs, and $44 million for Durkan’s Seattle Promise program under which she hopes to make college universal for city’s students by offering two years of free tuition to eligible seniors. Durkan also said money from the levy will be specifically targeted to help homeless students and that this will be the first levy that allows breaks for low income, veteran, and disabled households under a new state law.

The full details of Durkan’s proposal are posted here (PDF). The proposal is planned to be on the November ballot.

While Seattle’s citizens have been supporters of past education levies, under the McCleary decision, King County is already digesting a a court-mandated property tax increase of 17% to increase state public school funding.

Durkan’s plan’s focus on jobs and older students might also be a problem. “I think the mayor’s hope is that those elementary school investments are going to be offset by state funding,” Seattle City Council member Rob Johnson told KUOW. “I can tell you that some of the PTSA parents I talk to have a lot of concerns that that hope will not turn into reality.” The council is now set to begin its process of shaping the levy proposal.

Wednesday’s launch of the new levy plan came inside the newly opened Miller Annex Preschool on the community center campus shared by Meany Middle School.

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18 thoughts on “Mayor wants Seattle to open ‘school to opportunity pipeline’ with new education levy

  1. If we price young families out of the city with increased taxes (which is what is happening) we won’t even have the need for preschools.

  2. I agree. Property owners have had a HUGE increase in property taxes this year (mine went up about $1400, and I have a modest, median-value home), and this was mainly due to the court-mandated increased spending on schools. I will think twice before approving this new levy, especially since it is a significant increase over the current version.

  3. “The city’s children growing up and getting “good paying jobs” is a driver in what will “make Seattle affordable,” Durkan said Wednesday.” Ironically, the article above this one states that ridershare driver once again tops the list of top jobs of 2017 at 22%. $636M seems to be overkill when a simple $500 driving course will prepare the youth of today for the fastest growing job segment. Maybe we can teach them to be “Government Consultants”, there’s tons of money to be made there, and a never ending supply of it!

  4. As ever the $21 / month is a murky figure no doubt based on some mythical $250k house value. Perhaps we need to triage homeless against schools for the $.

    It seems a well educated city is more desirable.

  5. A couple thoughts for folks who are concerned about this impact. 1) Seattle College on Capitol Hill is a huge educational asset and this should greatly benefit them. The students shop, dine and often live on Capitol Hill so this proposal probably has indirect economic benefits for many of the businesses we all want to see stay on the Hill.

    Another point – daycare is fucking expensive in Seattle. Like really fucking expensive (anywhere from $1,000 – $2,500 per kid per mo). Decent preschool is great preparation for a kid going into kindergarten and the pilot program is showing great success in getting kids ready to learn from a very young age. Education is one of the most important ways to get out of/stay out of poverty. If we can provide 17 years of contiguous educational services that helps reduce poverty it is worth it. The parents also benefit because the primary care taker, usually women, can go back to work sooner, working class families don’t have to worry about coming up with an extra $12,000 – $20,000 a year for daycare and know the program/care is high quality.

    Yes, property taxes are crazy in Seattle, and there are other voter approved levies that are simply crazy (democracy vouchers for example) but this is a great program that will have myriad benefits for Capitol Hill and Seattle.

    Thank you for listening!

  6. I agree. But for all those that decry more property taxes, I hope to see you demand income tax, which is a lot more fairer.

  7. Sure – that way all the folks renting property will feel the communal pain. As it is, property tax is too disconnected from rent rises.

    However. The local populace don’t trust our leaders to not keep increasing both taxes to feed their ever grander schemes.

  8. If the Mayor and the City Council could demonstrate that the investments we are already making are effective, I’m open to raising taxes—again. Unfortunately the examples of them not being good stewards abound. For instance, the two homelessness experts who both concluded that we were spending enough already to get people housed, if we would spend it in the right places. We aren’t. So instead of doing this, they ask for more $150 million a year from the employee head tax. Now this increase property tax for schools, after we just got hammered on property taxes due to McCleary. Wow.

  9. Hmm. I think I’d like to press the pause button until we see some results. The only thing I’m really feeling good about right now is Sound Transit.

    The Move Seattle levy seems to be a mess. Aren’t we pressing the pause button there? Or is it the reset button?

    Not clear why we need another housing tax (sorry, we’re calling it homeless, but let’s be real, it’s 80% low income housing development) when we just doubled the existing housing levy. And there’s a bunch of housing/homeless dollars in the (also just doubled) King County veterans and human services levy.

    The last preschool levy only served 850 kids. And we just got a big property income tax increase to fund schools. Free college is nice but I’d like to see that the City is able to manage the areas they already have rather than expand. And, Best Starts for Kids (County levy) covers similar ground.

    It’s all feeling like a cash grab at this point.

  10. An income tax would be good to see implemented across the state, and you can deduct it on your federal taxes! Unfortunately, Seattle leading the charge on income tax is the best way to kill any issues at the state level because most folks think we are crazy…

  11. Unfortunately although the McCleary fix is a large property tax increase in Seattle, it helps the Seattle school district little or none. It is a “swap” which transfers additional resources to rural areas that already receive much more government spending than they pay out in taxes.

    Partly I think this came about because of the huge tax breaks handed to companies like Boeing, by legislators such as Seattle’s Reuven Carlyle. Rural legislators consider this to benefit the Puget Sound area even though no benefit goes to our classrooms or taxpayers. So we get a raw deal under McCleary.

    I am supporting this expanded Families and Education levy. But also don’t forget the very important Seattle school district capital and operations levies which we will vote on in February 2019. If you have to pick only one to support, I think it is more important to vote Yes on the February school levies than on this November’s Families and Education Levy.

  12. This wouldn’t be the same ST3 that stretches off for another 20years would it ?

    The new bike shares are innovative – perhaps we will all be riding to work before ST3 gets done…

  13. Dear Jenny,
    This 25% increase in my property taxes is the last straw, primarily due to the obvious fact that this will never stop.
    The only fair solution to this unending series of tax levies is a statewide income tax. Not Seattle-only, but Statewide.
    Clearly this will never stop as long as the levies keep passing. The 6-figures (and then some) techie kids don’t seem to mind pushing the brunt onto homeowners, so here’s where the train stops for me. Sorry, don’t care how deserving all these causes are (and they are) but the City needs to find another way.

  14. Nettles says: “I agree. But for all those that decry more property taxes, I hope to see you demand income tax, which is a lot more fairer.”

    I am in favor of a state income tax, but ONLY if there is a concurrent and significant decrease in property taxes, which I very much doubt would occur.

  15. And only if it’s state-wide, not contained to Seattle-only while the rest of the state (and especially the Eastside cities) watch from the sidelines.

  16. I thought seattle’s education levies were supposed to go down as a result of the swap of revenue inherent in the McCleary legislation finalized bt the legislature? I know, they won’t actually go down, thry will get bigger, but we were told they would go down as a result of the State now fully funding education. Does anyone actually believe those levies will get smaller? I sure don’t.