Mirror editorial: Approve the levy for schools

The Mirror recommends voting yes Feb. 19 for the Federal Way School District’s educational programs and operations levy.

Levies make up the difference in what state money doesn’t cover for schools. The levy will account for about 30 percent of the Federal Way School District’s operating expenses. This particular levy will replace the current four-year levy that expires at the end of the school year.

The levy will help pay for 43 teachers and 41 classified full-time staff. The latter category includes information technology employees, security, school resource officers and crossing guards as well as positions that fulfill unfunded state mandates regarding the 13th year plan and truancy policies. The levy also supports transportation, special education and textbook adoption.

The levy will provide $36 million in 2009, $39 million in 2010, $42 million in 2011, and $45 million in 2012, according to the district. About 72 percent of funds will go to basic education, 18 percent toward special education, 8 percent for transportation and 2 percent for English language learning.

In addition, the tax rate for the new levy will be lower. The expiring levy’s tax rate is $2.83 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. For the replacement levy, the tax rate will be $2.74 per $1,000. Combined with the current technology levy and the recently approved construction bond, the total tax rate is $4.19 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation.

The levy shouldn’t be confused with the recently approved school construction bond. A levy pays for the district’s educational and school operations, while the bond pays for school construction and repairs.

In November, the school district won a summary judgment in its fair funding lawsuit against the state. Despite an appeal by the state, school district officials remain optimistic about receiving per-student funding equal to similar-sized districts. However, a new levy is still necessary because the legal process won’t be resolved in time to meet the school district’s current needs.

In any case, Federal Way schools will face serious cutbacks in basic education services if the levy fails at the polls.

The Mirror recommends voting yes for the levy on Feb. 19.

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