Letters to the Editor

School levy election is about investing in our children

Although Washington State's Constitution defines education as the "paramount duty" of the state, school districts increasingly rely on local funding sources.

About 16 percent of total statewide school funding comes from local taxes, primarily property taxes through maintenance and operations levies. A levy loss, which can make up to approximately 20 percent of a district's revenue, can be devastating to a school district.

A levy is a request by a school district of voters to raise or continue property taxes for a limited number of years for operations costs or capital improvements that help to fund essential education programs and activities such as school libraries, textbooks, computers, tutoring programs, teachers and aides, all-day kindergarten, food service, special education, transportation and extracurriculars.

A bond is a request by a district of voters to sell bonds to raise funds for capital expenses, such as constructing or renovating school facilities. Heating and ventilation systems, plumbing and electrical, roofing, flooring, siding and windows, even in well-constructed buildings all need regular upkeep and replacement to serve children and to last long into the future.

Each time a school district asks its voters to consider a levy and a bond, they are being asked to decide about the future of education in that community. The election is not really about buildings and supplies and teachers, it is about investing in our children.

Throughout Washington, communities have traditionally supported the funding of public education. Our islands are no exception. We place a great deal of value in well-delivered education. Over the past several years it has become even more crucial for our communities to take a proactive stand for education, as state funding becomes more and more compromised. A child's education can't wait until the economic tide turns. We have to do everything we can now to make the most difference possible.

Levies and bonds allow parents, grandparents, teachers, business owners and residents to help shape the future of the place they live, and most importantly of the children that education serves. Here are our future Islanders. Let us support them the best way we can, with good education in safe facilities that will allow them to focus on their personal growth as contributing citizens who will someday take care of all of us as we age.

As voters, become involved in your schools. Attend school board meetings and meet new board members and administrators and run for offices. Visit the schools and come to events. Connect to the most vital part of your island community and you will see remarkably positive things happening here. If you have questions or concerns, speak up. Especially in recent years, the voices of voters have been clear as you have discussed with your schools accountability and the expenses of our schools and ways to economize, as we continue to lose federal and state funding. Your voices need to be heard.

Finally, acknowledge with pride, the value that you as a community member receive from these essential institutions. Look for events to attend in the coming weeks designed especially to engage and show you your school's accomplishments.

The League of Women Voters says this:

The League of Women Voters of the San Juans wants to urge all registered voters to check their mail for ballots to be mailed to them this Jan. 22. The ballots are for a special election and must be returned by Feb. 9. This election involves several issues.

Voters in the San Juan Island Hospital District will be asked to approve renewal of the six-year EMS district levy. Several issues involve education. The League of Women Voters of Washington believes that it is the obligation of the state to fully fund basic education, however, most school districts find they need additional local funding to serve their students.

Orcas Island voters will vote on a capital bond and two-year maintenance and operations levy for the school district. On San Juan and Lopez islands, there are four-year replacement maintenance and operations levies for the school districts.

Maintenance and Operations levies require only a simple majority to pass, in accordance with a 2007 Washington State constitutional amendment, which the League supported.

The League encourages all voters to become fully informed on the issues and exercise their right to vote.

Ann Jarrell, President

League of Women Voters of the San Juans

Please vote wholeheartedly in support of your Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Island Maintenance and Operations levies and the Orcas Island bond. The rewards to our community will be great.

— Lopez Citizens for Education
— YES for Schools Committee on Orcas
— San Juan School District Levies and Bonds Committee

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