News

Schools calling

By ELIZABETH CIEPIELA

Staff writer

Local grassroots education organizations, including Citizens for Federal Way Public Schools, have scheduled two sign-wavings this month to drum up support for the EP&O levy and the tech levy set to appear on the Feb. 3 ballot.

The first sign-waving is today and the second will occur Jan. 31, both from Noon to 2 p.m. at the cross section of South 320th Street and Pacific Highway South.

Citizens for Federal Way Public Schools vice president and former School Board member Audrey Germanis said the group is hoping for a 65 percent approval for both levies. Levies need to get a 60 percent super-majority of yes votes in order to pass.

Absentee ballots were sent out Wednesday and when returned by voters must be postmarked by the election date to be counted, said King County Elections spokeswoman Linda Chavez.

In addition to catching the eyes of passing motorists with pro-levy signs, volunteers are manning telephone banks on weeknights to ask voters to support the ballot measures.

If the levies fail the first time out, Germanis said, “we’ll have to just keep going until we get it. Failure is not an option. We can’t fail. We have to get it passed because we’re so tight right now.”

But she added that some community members have indicated they want to vote against the levies as a way of lashing out at the School Board for reconsidering the need for building a new middle school — a bond measure approved by voters in 1999.

“I think that the board was not thoughtful in their timing on this,” Germanis said. “They were irresponsible to do this at this point.

“The community’s very angry at the board from what I hear, because they don’t feel that they’re being listened to.”

Germanis said she explains to them, “‘If you’re gonna get back at the board because they’re not doing what you want them to do with your money, then voting no on the levy isn’t going to do it. It’s only going to hurt the kids.’”

Educating the public helps clarify the issue, Germanis said, and win voter support for the levies.

Germanis said that she believes the community ultimately will support both levies.

“I think people will support education,” she said. “We’re up against a wall with No Child Left Behind,” the federal education policy aimed at raising academic achievement nationally

Diane Turner, a spokeswoman for Federal Way Public Schools, said the levies “bridge the gap between what the state provides and what people expect from the local schools.” She added that last year, the district used 70 percent of levy-generated dollars for additional certified staff.

State Sen. Tracey Eide of Federal Way planned to be one of several legislators showing her support for the levies at the sign-waving today.

“Education, of course, is our paramount duty, and I really believe that education is our economic engine that drives our economy and it’s the best investment that we could possibly make,” Eide said. “I’m very proud to stand on a street corner with a sign to support our kids and our teachers. I truly believe that public education is not just good social policy, but it’s in fact made us the greatest country on the face of the earth.”

State Rep. Skip Priest also planned to wave levy signs this afternoon.

“We have an absolutely paramount responsibility to our kids to provide them with a quality education, and I believe it is necessary to pass these levies to provide this to them,” he said.

Staff writer Elizabeth Ciepiela: 925-5565, eciepiela@fedwaymirror.com

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