Schools First, a non-profit volunteer-led organization that conducts Seattle’s public school levy campaigns, is seeking volunteers for phone banks at the organization’s headquarters. On Tuesday evening, students, parents and community members made calls to remind voters to renew two critical school levies. The event was headlined by Mayor Mike McGinn, Superintendent Jose Banda, King County Councilmember Joe McDermott and School Board Director Marty McLaren.
On February 12, Seattle voters will be asked to renew two property-tax levies that bridge state funding gaps and support facility improvements for Seattle Public Schools. Proposition 1, a $551.9 million Operations Levy, will provide funding for approximately 27 percent of Seattle Public School’s operating budget over the next three years. The school levy will help fund teacher’s salaries, textbooks, transportation, a sixth period for high school, security and special-education programs, among other basic day-to-day costs not fully funded by the state.
Marty McLaren, Seattle School Board Director, joined the 26 volunteer callers at the event. “I’m passionately committed to empowering every one of our students to fulfill their potential and to be able to function in a powerful way as a citizen,” she said. McLaren added that one of the biggest challenges that Seattle Public Schools face is the lack of classroom space.
Proposition 2, the $694.9 million Capital Levy (BEX IV), will provide funding to maintain, improve and expand school buildings. In 2007, voters approved the BEX III capital levy that improved district buildings, infrastructure and classroom technology. Every project in BEX III came in on time and within the budget.
The renewal of the BEX Capital Levy will replace or renovate school buildings, many of which are more than 50 years old. Additionally, the levy will provide funding for new schools and school expansions in response to increased enrollment in recent years. Within the past year, enrollment has increased by about 1,400 students and an additional 7,000 students are anticipated over the next decade.
The BEX IV Capital Levy will also continue to provide earthquake retrofits for 37 schools that do not meet updated safety standards. Furthermore, BEX IV will build additional lunchrooms, new science labs and improved outdoor athletic facilities. All schools are slated to receive technology upgrades that include wireless internet access in every school and improved accounting systems.
Both propositions are renewals of existing levies. If approved, these levies would cost the owner of a $400,000 home $13 a month over what the homeowner pays on the expiring levies.
Phone bank opportunities for volunteers are Monday through Fridays, 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Saturdays 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the McKinstry Innovation Center, 210 S. Hudson Street, Seattle 98134. Students who are interested in participating can receive community service hours.