Vote yes for Federal Way Public Schools levy | Editorial

A levy that is set to expire next year has been vital to providing educational programs that Federal Way students need.

It’s one of many reasons that the levy renewal merits a strong yes vote in February.

The educational programs and operations (EP&O) levy provides 21 percent of Federal Way Public School’s (FWPS) total budget. The levy funds a myriad of learning opportunities for students.

This includes a portion of the costs of the AmeriCorps program that puts 50 trained tutors in district schools and the Air Force Junior ROTC - an aeronautics-oriented program that teaches students skills that will qualify them for high-demand career fields.

In addition, the levy pays for programs, such as Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) that aims to prepare students for college, and the International Baccalaureate program.

It pays for Cambridge and College Board examinations, such as the PSAT and SAT, allowing all qualified students to take these important tests no matter their families’ ability to pay.

It allows the district to offer athletics, music, clubs and other “extras” that state funding does not include.

Since voters approved the first four-year EP&O levy in 2004, the levy has also funded school operations, including eight out of every 100 classroom teachers throughout the district’s 35 schools. The levy pays for 16 out of every 100 classified staff, such as secretaries, custodians, maintenance and security.

The $53 million levy will be collected for four years beginning in 2015 at an estimated tax rate of $4.95 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The school district would suffer devastating impacts if it lost the levy. The district would face staffing cuts three times the size of anything FWPS has done before, district officials said. First-year lay-offs would begin as soon as May without the levy renewal. Class sizes would also increase.

Some voters may have a difficult time looking past the political maelstrom that has engulfed recent school board meetings – and pages of The Mirror - with controversies over money spent on international travel, the superintendent’s salary increase and the standards-based grading system.

These are important issues and the school board should always be held accountable for their actions. And voters are already on a constructive path towards making their voices heard by electing two new board members.

But separate the political curds from this important vote. The Federal Way levy is about our students – not politics. Vote yes.

Contact: editorialboard@federalwaymirror.com


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