LETTER | Yes to School Levys

Olympia is struggling with a dual problem–how to address the K-12 teacher shortage crisis and how to amply fund K-12 basic education. Thankfully, Lake Washington School District voters don’t have to wait for the State. We can take decisive action to support our children. The three LWSD ballot measures are critical to funding educational programs, maintaining infrastructure and reducing overcrowding, all at a reduced tax rate.

Proposition 3, the Bond measure, addresses inequity in classroom space. What’s unfair about school overcrowding is that middle and high school age children are turned away from courses because there’s not enough instructional space. What’s unfair is that even if the state increases funding for grades K-3 to reduce class sizes, it does no good without a corresponding increase in classroom space. Local school districts must build school buildings. With passage of Proposition 3, Kirkland will see a rebuilt and expanded Kamiakin Middle School, now the oldest building in the school district. (Juanita High School, which is being rebuilt and expanded under the previous bond, used to hold that distinction.) Kirkland will also see an expansion to Lake Washington High School and a new elementary school.

Proposition 2, the replacement Capital Projects Levy, remedies what’s unfair about lack of infrastructure funding. Without the passage of Proposition 2, the district can’t maintain the buildings and equipment voters previously approved. Passage of Proposition 2 will enable LWSD to install safety and security systems; repair buildings, HVAC equipment, playgrounds and sports fields; and improve ADA access, among other facilities changes. On the technology side, LWSD will be able to maintain and upgrade hardware and software for classroom and administration use and train staff.

Proposition 1, the replacement EP&O Levy (educational programs and operations), pays for programs not funded by the state. In the “Kirkland Reporter,” what Ms. Susan Wilkins’ letter to the editor failed to address was what’s unfair and inequitable about lack of funding for educational programs. If this measure fails, our children loose badly needed instructional, health and extracurricular services–all the things that make going to school a safe, comprehensive life-learning experience.

What programs children had this year may be reduced or disappear next school year. Now that’s really unfair!

The EP&O Levy will provide campus security; summer learning; and coaches, athletic trainers and athletic directors, none of which are covered by the state’s funding model. For classroom support, the levy covers nurses and health room staff; and teachers in special education, Safey Net, highly capable and English Language Learners, PE, music, libraries, and early learning (Head Start, Ready Start and Special Education). Moreover, it provides additional professional learning days.

With passage of the EP&O Levy, high school students will be able to pursue their passion and still graduate on time. The district plans to implement a 7-period day to support all students in meeting the state-required graduation schedule of 24 credits in four years. With passage of Proposition 1, children will be able to do STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) plus a full schedule of fine arts, physical fitness and occupational studies, and not sacrifice their passions in order to meet graduation requirements. This will increase LWSD’s competitiveness among school districts and offer our children a superior education.

What breaks my heart about reduced funding for educational programs is that we loose exceptional, qualified teachers. I ran into an elementary teacher who taught my sons. She started her career teaching my oldest son in Kindergarten, who will graduate from college this year. She was an exceptional person–a gifted teacher who managed her classroom with a firm and knowledgeable hand, loved her students and brought out their best. She had to leave her calling as a teacher for more compensation. Sadly, thousands of students and families will never have the opportunity to learn from her, to excel under her tutelege and years of experience and leadership. Once lost, this talent can never be reclaimed. LWSD has a comprehensive quality of life and education vision for all students. The vision takes into account all abilities, aptitudes and passions inside and outside the classroom and still meets the graduation requirements and schedule. The four-year levies give LWSD and teachers four secure years of planned funding for program implementation. All this with a reduced tax rate.

I’m voting Yes for my youngest son’s classmates who will graduate in two years. I’m voting Yes for all the elementary and preschool children who live on our street. Please give all our children the best start to their young lives we’re able. Please vote Yes for all three ballot measures.

 

Susan Baird-Joshi

 

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