Capitol Hill Community Post | No on Prop. 1

From Melissa Westbrook, Seattle Schools Community Forum blog

I urge a no vote to the City of Seattle’s 2018 Families, Education, Preschool and Promise levy. This levy is a radical change from previous ones. With the larger property tax increase already enacted by the Legislature to fulfill the McCleary decision, I question the combination of a dollar increase and an expansion of the Families and Education levy.

And, Seattle Public Schools has its own two levy renewals in February 2019 and I believe that with those four large property taxes, there might be voter fatigue.

The new F&E levy will cost the median Seattle homeowner $248 each year, up from $136 a year under the two present levies

  • About pre-kindergarten. I don’t argue that pre-k isn’t a good thing. But the City of Seattle was alreadyfunding pre-k in the Families and Education (F&E) levy prior to its separate preschool levy passed in 2014.

Now, between the current F&E levy and the pre-k levy, the city spends about $22 million on its pre-k programBut under the new, combined levy, the spending will be $53 million a year.  That is nearly three times what is being spent now — but it won’t even double the number of spaces.

As well, Seattle is paying more for its pre-k than the gold-standard for pre-k, Boston, $12,000 per student versus $11,000. And, Boston supplements its funding with grants from both state and federal sources. The entire Seattle Pre-K budget is funded by the levy.

As well, the growth of pre-k is highly dependent on space. If the City has to pay for space, that will be a problem for growth. Where will that money come from?

  • There is no language in the new Families, Education, Preschool and Promise levy that says that the K-12 dollars can only go to Seattle Public Schools. Meaning, any charter school in Seattle could access those dollars.

Recall that in 2012 city of Seattle itself voted in — in a firm majority — against charter schools.

In the levy proposal, the mayor or city council could have put in explicit language protecting those K-12 dollars for Seattle School District but didn’t. The state recognizes charter schools as a different kind of public school and the city could have done the same to protect existing K-12 programs like summer school and after-school activities but didn’t.

Finally, please note that if the levy is defeated, the city can bring it back in April 2019.  In the meantime, no programs would have to be affected as the current Families & Education levy has a $12 million underspend and the pre-k levy has a $1 million  underspend — the amounts left over from the end of the two levies.

Voters need clarity, not confusion.

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6 thoughts on “Capitol Hill Community Post | No on Prop. 1

  1. Totally agree with this article. Do not confuse Prop 1 with the regular school levies coming up for renewal next year. This is something completely different. Whatever your vote is, please understand what your vote does.

  2. There are a surprising number of people involved with Seattle Public Schools who urging a “No” vote, which is surprising to me.

    Pre-K and free community college is laudable goal, but the amount of opposition from people who are involved makes me take a second look.

  3. median Seattle homeowner $248 each year, up from $136 a year under the two present levies.

    Aww boo hoo. Poor Seattle homeowners and their median 800K home prices.

    • Another one who thinks appreciating homes pay dividends to their owners like getting a raise in their paychecks. Well bless your heart.

      • Hey Salty: Do you think you’re not paying because you live in an apartment? A median $112 increase, divided by 12, equals a median rent increase of $9.33 every month. Everyone pays for every voter approved program not just homeowners.

  4. No” on Seattle’s Prop 1 is the right thing to do but sad to say it is.

    I want to remind all, that this is not a school levy. Many of us who are supporting a “no” vote on this one want programs that work. There are strengths in the Seattle pre-k programs but why are federal and state dollars not being leveraged. We pay the taxes for the available state and federal funding. Even if this passes much of the funding under “education” for K-12 is being cut and redistributed to undefined parties.

    Margaret Pageler wrote an interesting oped where she she pointed out that rents are only going to rise with property tax increases. She also pointed to those who were outraged about a proposed head tax on businesses a few months ago are enthusiastically advocating to double this extra tax on ordinary people. During her campaign, Mayor Durkan pledged to pay for College Promise without raising taxes. The City’s general revenue has grown by $300 million just this year. Why are not some of our wonderful programs not funded through the general fund? In this proposal we are funding these programs by doubling a tax levy and reports that where she lives in South Seattle, long time residents are being priced out of their homes. Residents and renters whose kids might be the beneficiary of the programs are being priced out of the city. We must find sustainable ongoing funding for our high priority programs and stop depending on special levies. To a large degree, I completely agree with her. Although if the city came back with a better defined levy in April with more transparency on how the City’s pre-k programs has increased access and what type of grants and to whom would being offered through the education portion of the levy, I may support it. However, I would hope that perhaps the head tax could be considered again. Perhaps the city’s income tax will be found to be legal and provide an ongoing stable source of revenue. Then we can get back to examining how the city is using the general fund and ensure that our priorities have stable funding through a more fair and equitable tax.
    If this levy is necessary, it can be brought back in April with a more defined spending plan, along with more transparency regarding it the pre-k program has increased access and what the plan is to leverage available state and federal funds.

    Also the Seattle Times is making Pageler’s letter almost impossible to find.