Durkan’s proposal to expand Seattle education tax could include preschool and college


Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration has been working on a November voting measure to replace the family and education tax, which will expire at the end of the year. The new levy could include tax money for preschool and college programs in addition to K-12 education.

As Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan prepares to unveil her proposed new education tax that could fund preschool and college programs in addition to K-12 services, some families and educators are hoping the city won’t allocate too much his dollars.

The Durkan administration has been working on a voting measure for November because the city’s existing tax on families and education, after collecting $ 235 million in property taxes over seven years, will expire at the end of this year.

Built on similar measures adopted from 1990 onwards, the existing tax is primarily intended for Kindergarten to Grade 12 learning and supports a wide range of Seattle public school programs aimed at reducing the gaps in academic achievement among certain students of color and their white peers.

A separate tax Seattle used to start a subsidized preschool program is also expiring this year. Since the $ 58 million measure was approved in 2014, authorities have planned to seek out a much more expensive version in 2018 to expand the program.

Durkan intends to come up with a single measure that would renew both funding streams and has indicated that she intends to use it to fund access to higher education as well, having pledged to return the free community colleges for all public high school graduates.

The proposal will go to Seattle City Council for review before it goes to the ballot.

“Later this week, Mayor Durkan will announce his plan to support K-12 education, including school health services, while helping students most at risk of dropping out,” he said. spokesperson Stephanie Formas said in a statement.

“To help bridge the opportunity gap and create more pathways to well-paying jobs, she will focus on continuing the city’s investments to support our children, increasing enrollment in high-quality preschools and l ‘widening access to university, so that students come to kindergarten ready to learn. “

Although education measures are popular in Seattle, many voters scowl at the steep property tax increases that hit in March, in large part due to increased state spending on public schools. mandated by the court.

Going forward, the school district will look in February 2019 to renew its operating and construction fees.

Late last month, a telephone poll asked voters about the different levy options and sought to assess their tax fatigue, said Summer Stinson, a school funding advocate who got the call and took notes.

The poll’s options included a measure for preschool, kindergarten to grade 12 and college that would cost the typical homeowner $ 266 per year, said Stinson, president of the Washington nonprofit Paramount Duty.

Sandeep Kaushik, a political consultant working on the campaign behind the poll, declined to comment.

When the existing municipal tax was passed in 2011, authorities said it would cost the typical homeowner $ 124 per year. When the existing preschool tax was passed in 2014, the cost was around $ 43 per year.

While Stinson is a big spending accelerator across all levels of public education, she said it would be important to comb through the details of Durkan’s proposal.

One concern is that existing services for K-12 students could suffer as the city tries to fund new and expanded programs and hedge against sticker shock.

In a recent Seattle Times editorial, former mayor and city councilor Tim Burgess wrote: “The city government should tighten its belt, lower the overall municipal tax rate on education and invest those dollars. in services from the cradle to kindergarten.

Stinson disagrees.

“My biggest concern is that people see education as a zero-sum game and pit preschool education versus K-12 wrap-around services,” she said. “It’s a wrong choice.”

Her concern is shared by some families and educators in Rainier Valley, who say they would fight the Seattle measure if it were to further cut funding for family support services.

“We will not hesitate to fight,” said Virginia Owens, a family support worker at Rainier Beach High School.

Since the inception of the municipal tax, some of the money has paid off for workers like Owens, who act as case managers for at-risk students and connect them and their families to food, medical care, housing and other services they need during periods. crisis.

Levy funding for family support services has declined in recent years, from nearly $ 2.6 million in the 2011-12 school year to $ 750,000 this year, according to a note that district administrators school sent to workers like Owens last month.

School administrators also issued a warning, saying they were told to expect just $ 191,574 for the 2018-19 school year – the last year of funding for the existing tax. The reduction could result in the loss of family support workers at Lowell and Van Asselt elementary schools and Pathfinder K-8, administrators said.

Speculation also revolved around whether the city would allow charter schools for the first time to levy money on the tax.

Charter schools are publicly funded, but run by independent non-profit organizations. Only three of those campuses operate in Seattle, but last year the state received requests for two more.

The expansion has rallied critics, including the Seattle School Board, who say the charters drain money from mainstream schools and accountability in the charters is minimal because they are governed by private boards and not elected officials. .

Washington State Charter Schools Association officials confirmed that the organization had not made an official proposal to the city to be included in this year’s levy proposal. However, they also haven’t officially commented on whether they will be asking for some of the money in the coming weeks.


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