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 program. But 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.