LETTER: Why I'm opposed to the next Families and Education Levy
I'm Melissa Westbrook; I'm the writer/moderator of the Seattle Schools Community Forum blog, the most widely-read public education blog in the state. I've been a public education advocate for more than 20 years.
I'm writing to you today to let you know that I oppose the City of Seattle's renewal of the Families and Education levy, slated for the November 2018 ballot.
I came to this decision with sadness because I have voted for and publicly supported this levy since its inception. But this current levy is a fairly radical change from previous ones - not to mention it is not just a renewal but a larger cost renewal to voters.
I would be happy to talk to you about this issue as you start your coverage of the November elections.
Basically, my issues with the levy are these:
- The Mayor and City Council have chosen to roll the City's Pre-K levy into the F&E levy. The majority of the levy, about 52%, will go to the expansion of Pre-K. I don't argue that pre-k isn't a good thing. But Seattle's Pre-K program is costly and now it's a larger portion of the levy than K-12 which has traditionally been where the bulk of the levy dollars have gone.
- The City has been unclear about whether they will continue to support in-school Family Support Workers as part of the K-12 portion of the F&E levy. As someone who volunteers in a Title One school, I can tell you first-hand how greatly needed in-school Family Support workers are for low-income or immigrant families who need that support.
- With the larger property tax enacted by the Legislature to fulfill the McCleary decision, I question a dollar increase AND an expansion of the F&E levy to both pre-K and community college. And, Seattle Schools has its own two levy renewals in Feb. 2019 and I believe that with those four large property taxes, there might be voter fatigue.
It would be sad if the F&E levy lost but it would be catastrophic if the district were to lose one or both of their levies.
- There is no language in the new F&E levy that says that the K-12 dollars can only go to Seattle Public Schools. Meaning, any charter school in Seattle could access those dollars.
I had a lawyer check that language and there is nothing there in the levy language that protects the K-12 dollars for Seattle Public Schools.
The city of Seattle itself voted - in a firm majority - against charter schools. I don't think that has changed much and I think voters need to know this is what will happen.
Given that earlier this year, Green Dot Charter Schools was able to get an illegal zoning departure for one of their new schools, I suspect there are those on the City Council who may support charter schools. (That zoning departure was quite deliberate and done outside of city code and I think there was help/support from a couple of CMs.)
I'm glad to discuss these issues with you and your media outlet.
Thank-you for your insight. As someone who has supported almost every education levy, I am concerned about yet another levy. My husband and I are childless but definitely support quality education in our city. However, it seems that although our tax burden continues to increase in support of education, we constantly hear about how Seattle Public Schools is in dire straights. I think it is important for everyone to understand what this levy will entail. So I thank you for bringing up these very important points.
I want to see were every penny of my property tax goes!