Voters in Clover Park School District have received their ballots for a proposed replacement educational programs and operations levy. This special election is occurring at a pivotal time when state funding for basic education is under review with no clear resolution for the next few years.
School districts must plan for the upcoming year and beyond if we want to ensure our students receive a quality education. We can’t wait to see what might happen with education funding in two years; we need stable funding to ensure teachers and support staff as well as educational services continue without interruption.
We want our students to be academically competitive with students across the country. Our students are our future employees, taxpayers and consumers. Without strong educational programs and services, Washington state students will be at a disadvantage.
Unfortunately, unclear communication and inaccurate assumptions surround the funding of our schools, making the decision for voters to support their local school districts much more complicated. I have received numerous phone calls and email messages from our community asking what will happen if legislators solve the funding issues during the time period of our four-year levy collection.
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I am telling voters what I heard while attending one of the House Education Committee’s “Listening Tour” sessions held around the state in fall 2015 to seek input to Senate Bill 6130: “There will be a transition plan to a new system. Voters will not pay twice for the same education programs. Since nearly all districts in the state have a local levy and are on different year cycles, there will have to be a ‘transition plan’ to the new structure for funding basic education.”
I urgently request that our local legislators issue a statement to clarify that there will be a transition period and that taxpayers won’t pay twice for basic education. Voters have their ballots now. They may vote against local levies because they think a solution is coming during the time frame of our levy and don’t want to pay more taxes than necessary. All voters need to know that full funding of basic education will come with a transition plan.
This issue impacts school districts around the state. Out of the 295 school districts in Washington state representing more than a million students, only 10 districts with fewer than 3,000 students enrolled operate without a local levy, according to the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office.
I have confidence that there will be a thoughtful transition plan to a new system for funding basic education. Legislators, please help clarify this issue now for all our communities running a levy. Quality education for all students and our state’s economic future is at stake.
Deborah L. LeBeau is superintendent of the Clover Park School District in Lakewood.