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Teachers union backs Federal Way school levy proposals

The Federal Way Education Association is supporting Federal Way Public Schools’ upcoming levy proposals in the Feb. 14 special election, with president Jason Brown and executive board member Steve Mayer making their support known during the district’s Jan. 10 meeting.

Both said that the Educational Programs and Operation (EPO) levy, and the capital levy for rebuilding Federal Way High School, are critical at this junction for the school district — especially considering the ongoing fight at the state level over education funding.

“By law, local levy revenues are intended for locally elected enhancements and legally restricted from paying for Washington basic ed programs,” Brown said. “But school districts don’t have a choice, and are paying for more and more basic ed with local dollars. Washington lawmakers have not lived up to their constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education. They’re slighting parents and students in this state by cutting corners and changing funding formulas. As a result, levy dollars are desperately needed by school districts to make up the difference between what the state pays, and what it actually costs to operate our schools.”

Brown said the Legislature’s failure to act will only lead to greater harm for students.

“Their failure leaves district’s like ours asking, ‘Please sir, can I have some more?’ Our lawmakers cannot continue to balance the budget on the backs of kids,” he said. “The current economy has put a strain on many families, but without these much needed levy dollars, it’s our students will wind up paying the price.”

In a Feb. 14 special election, the district will ask voters to approve two levy proposals:

• The EPO levy will continue what Federal Way taxpayers are already paying for the general operations of their schools. The school district seeks a $53 million levy that will last two years. The current levy, which was approved three years ago, expires in 2012. About 80 percent of this levy money goes to basic education.

• A six-year $60 million capital levy will help rebuild the aging Federal Way High School. Some of the money will be earmarked to help build play structures and play areas at 19 of the district’s elementary schools.

Mayer said the executive board of the FWEA supports the levies, and as part of that, donated $1,000 to the Citizens For Federal Way Schools organization.

“I am thankful that you decided to put the two levies before the voters. I am thankful, because it gives our community a chance, once again, to support vital programs in our district,” Mayer said. “However, with the state, as determined by the (state) Supreme Court, not adequately funding our basic needs, our levies must provide basic support. Our community must stand up and provide that basic support.”

Opposition is beginning to form regarding the capital levy and the intention to rebuild/remodel Federal Way High School. Former school board member Charlie Hoff and resident Kurt Peppard authored an opposing statement for the Feb. 14 special election voters pamphlet.

“There is no doubt that the current Federal Way High School is in need of replacement. Before committing ourselves to a $110 million capital expenditure, we believe that far more realistic planning is needed,” reads part of the opposing statement. “School Management and Planning placed the median cost for comparable high schools nationwide to be around $45,000,000. FWPS cost analysis does not demonstrate that proper planning was implemented in preparing the Capital Levy request.”

The opposing statement criticizes the school district’s planning and implementation of construction of another school, Todd Beamer High School. The statement calls for more public discussion and participation by principal employers in the region.

Mayer said he feels the capital levy is needed, no matter what.

“I drive by Federal Way High School, and I can see, it looks just fine. But as an employee, I get to go in and and have meetings, and I see what it’s like. And my kids have friends there, and we know this school was built in 1492 or somewhere thereabouts, and has not grown the way it needs to be and is not designed for current (teaching practices). You can have all kinds of debates about what it should look like, whether it should be Boeing’s design, or Gates’ design, or Steve Mayer’s design. You gotta have money, or it simply doesn’t matter.”

More on the levies can be found at fwps.org/info/levy.


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