OPINION: Vote Yes on Props. 1 and 2, Support Our Students and Schools

by Erin Okuno

Every three years, Seattle Public Schools ask voters to renew two critical education levies. These levies fund day-to-day operations for our students, from textbooks to salaries. They also help build new schools, improve safety and help fund nurses and counselors for our students.

These levies are an investment in our children, our future, and our community. Students and their educators deserve buildings designed to support their learning and wellbeing. Our kids need quality textbooks, highly effective and culturally competent educators, and they deserve an enriching education.

That’s why I urge you to vote yes on Props. 1 and 2 on Feb. 12. The Building Excellence V levy funds capital cost (buildings and building repairs) and operations (i.e. day-to-day cost including teachers/educators, and other cost such as books and supplies).

In Southeast Seattle, Rainier Beach High School, Asa Mercer Middle School, and Kimball Elementary are on the Building Excellence V list for comprehensive remodels and/or replacement buildings. Many other SE schools are also slated to have improved safety and security measures and other repairs such as new roofs, earthquake retrofitting, ceiling fans, etc. These costs are currently not covered by the Washington state education funding.

Rainier Beach High School, Mercer Middle School, and Kimball Elementary are in desperate need of replacements, as are many other schools in the school district. These three schools are accomplishing great things. In 2017, 89 percent of Rainier Beach students graduated in four years — higher than the school district and state averages.

The current state funding formula for education doesn’t cover the true cost of educating our students, and it is limiting the amount districts can raise through local levies. The system is flawed. We shouldn’t have to ask local voters for these funds. I want our state to fully fund our schools through a fair and equitable tax. But the reality is, we need these levies and we need tax reform to more equally share the tax burden — but this won’t come quickly enough for the students currently in our classrooms.

Public education is the cornerstone of our community. We need strong schools to develop young minds and prepare them for the future. Now is not the time to cut back on school funding. We must support our students, educators, and schools. Vote YES on Props. 1 and 2 by Tuesday, February 12. For a list of improvements at every school, visit the Seattle Public Schools website.

Erin Okuno is Executive Director of Southeast Seattle Education Coalition and honorary co-chair of Schools First Coalition. Featured image courtesy Erin Okuno.