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Student success demands support | As I See It
By Deborah Nolan
Special to the Journal
On Feb. 11, the San Juan Island School District will be asking residents to renew the Maintenance and Operating (M & O) Levy.
Ballots for the Feb. 11 election should arrive in mailboxes beginning the week of Jan. 20.
The levy, which runs on a 4-year-cycle, pays for supplementary staffing, enriched educational programs and many of our basic expenses, such as fuel for the buses and power to heat the buildings. Many believe that these basic costs are funded by the state, but they are not. The levy accounts for approximately 20 percent of the yearly district budget.
While levies began as way to pay for extras, such as expanded curriculum, extra instructional time, advanced placement classes (AP), sports, full bus service and the arts, school districts have been engaged in a back-and-forth battle with the state to adequately fund basic education for years.
In 2010, the San Juan Island School District joined a class-action law suit with more than 400 other districts and organizations to force the state to meet its constitutional “paramount duty” to fund basic education.
King County Superior Court Judge John Erlick ruled in the plaintiffs' favor, in what is known as the McCleary decision, and in 2012 the Washington State Supreme Court upheld that decision. This ruling put in place a time-table with deadlines as far out as 2018 to come up with a plan to dedicate additional educational funds to fully fund education in Washington state.
While this decision is being implemented, legislators have encouraged school districts to reach out to their communities for extra program support, to find private or non-profit organizations to fund books, science or music classes.
We have PTAs in the elementary, middle and high schools, Purple and Gold Booster Club to support high school athletic students, Island Rec, which levies and pays for all high school sports, Island Museum of Art to support art in the middle and elementary schools.
The San Juan Schools Foundation pays for all new curriculum adoptions in the district as well as equipment and materials used in the classroom. Private donors support our K-12 Science Outreach Program through the University of Washington.
We are a leader and example to the rest of the state in working with our community partners for funding and volunteer support. Even with all the community support we are so lucky to have, our school district still has to make very tough decisions over where to make cuts.
Funding makes a difference. We must maintain the high quality programs we have here related to humanities and the arts, and continue our work toward further implementation of the nationally recommended STEM focus, providing program support for the development of science, technology, engineering and math that is so critical to the future of education.
Please join me in supporting the passage of the M & O Levy. Remember, this levy accounts for approximately 20 percent of the yearly school district budget. Our students are counting on you.
More information can be found at www.sjlevy.org. Please contact me with any questions, 378-3364.
— Editor’s note: Deborah Nolan is a former member of SJI School District Board of Directors, and a parent and local supporter of our public schools.