Letters to the Editor

Bellevue-based opposition to Federal Way school levy is out of touch | Letter

Email your letter to: editor@federalwaymirror.com - Contributed
Email your letter to: editor@federalwaymirror.com
— image credit: Contributed

The following is an open letter to the submitters of statement in opposition to the Federal Way Public Schools Educational Programs and Operation (EP&O) levy:

Dear Ms. Laurie Lyford, Ms. Renay Bennett and Mr. Tom Henningsgard:

I read with great interest your written statement against the Federal Way EP&O replacement school levy that you submitted for the King County voter’s pamphlet. As far as I know, we don’t know each other. I am a parent with two children who have each attended 13 years of public school in Federal Way.

Since you have placed your names in front of our community as the leading voice of opposition seeking to take $53 million from our students in Federal Way, I was somewhat perplexed that I was not already familiar with your names from your prior involvement with our Federal Way community.

After spending some time on the internet, and making a few phone calls to King County Elections, I was advised that the three of you are not Federal Way residents at all, but that you are each Bellevue residents (it also seems that you may be in some way connected to an entity called the Freedom Foundation, although this connection is quite murky; I was advised by King County Elections that the Freedom Foundation had called, prior to your submission, to ask if it was legal to have opposition statements filed by non-residents).

While you appear to have no actual connection to the city of Federal Way, and no awareness of our actual school issues and needs, you are nonetheless seeking to sway the results of a local levy election that you cannot vote in, seeking to take money away from schools your children do not attend, reducing property values in a city you do not live in, all by submitting your opposition statement just a few hours before deadline.

Giving you the benefit of the doubt, I originally assumed that there was something in particular about the actual, distinct issues facing our local community and our schools that warranted your attempt, as Bellevue residents, to defund our Federal Way schools to the tune of $53 million.

However, my query to King County revealed that you did not just file statements against Federal Way; indeed, you three Bellevue residents were very busy seeking to influence levy outcomes in local elections outside your own city and district.

To date, it appears that you have also filed nearly identical statements opposing the pending levies for school districts in Federal Way, Vashon Island, Riverview, Auburn, Tahoma, Lake Washington, North Shore and Fife. I do note that you did play one “home game,” and you are of course opposing your own levy in Bellevue.

One of the troubling aspects of this tactic is a seeming lack of transparency. While we in Federal Way may loathe the ceaseless television campaign ads we see during election cycles, we at least know who the sponsor is that is paying for the campaign, and we can dig down into financial disclosures. Your approach – particularly if it is an effort conceived and supported by an undisclosed entity – seems to live in murkier shadows, designed to create an impression of local roots, but hiding a larger, non-local agenda.

Sadly, the degree to which your Bellevue-based opposition is out of touch with our actual Federal Way community values is self-evident in that your opposition does not address any of the obvious hot button issues that have recently galvanized the community of Federal Way to action during the last year. Instead, your effort to take $53 million from our students is focused solely upon your apparent dislike for unions and teachers.

Your opposition begins with this statement: “Union officials in the Federal Way schools have pressured the school board to divert levy funds from student services in order to pay teachers more.” Your use of the words “pressured” and “divert” appear calculated to imply that something improper has occurred.

If this is not the implication you intend, and your language is anything other than generic smear, we sincerely hope that you will provide the facts and individual names to support any allegation of any actual legal impropriety, no matter how small. We trust that since you are purporting to look out for our Federal Way students and residents, even though you reside in Bellevue, you will also provide these facts to the proper Federal Way or state authorities.

Your opposition statement focuses upon only that part of the levy that will lead to pay for teachers. However, by your own math, your “worst day” is that 15 percent of the $53 million levy will go to enhancing pay for teachers. You appear to think teachers in Federal Way are already grossly overpaid at an average of $49,853.

I am doubtful that our Federal Way citizens, who prize education and have been fighting tooth and nail over school board policy and district expenditures, and who have demonstrated that democracy works beautifully in Federal Way by changing out every open school board seat, replacing our mayor, and challenging our controversial grading policy, would prioritize concern over “overpaying our teachers” as one of our community issues.

If you had spent any time considering the hot button issues actually facing our community, school board, and district in relation to education, you would have concluded that cutting teacher salaries has not been on our list of fixes for the problems in our schools.

If you were trying to be “one of us,” here’s a free tip – you blew it.

Perhaps most troubling is the central goal of the argument is to reallocate 15 percent away from teachers by flushing the entire remaining 85 percent of the levy down the drain. Apparently, you have never heard the story that if you kill your half of the cow, the other half of the cow dies.

Your “victory” here is to keep teachers at lower salaries, but that dubious goal is placed squarely upon the backs of students. Are you really advocating that the $44 million of funding, for which you apparently have no complaint, be taken from the students of our district because you’re so bent upon keeping teacher pay low in other cities and districts?

Perhaps the explanation for all of this is found in one word that it seems that you could not help but include. You could have referred to us in the voter’s guide as “voters,” but instead you adopted the same rhetoric that recently shut our government down.

You call us “taxpayers” (ignoring that not all voters are taxpayers) and your call to action is in essence advocating extortion – you tell us to “hold off giving the school district any more money” until certain demands are met. But as voters, taxpayers or not, I believe Federal Way residents are wise enough to know that your agenda may not be the students in the hallways of Federal Way schools today, but your pocketbooks in Bellevue tomorrow.

I would agree with you on one point – more money could be spent on reducing class sizes and increased funding for at-risk youth programs. My fear is that these statements are lip service only to mask an anti-tax agenda, but I would love to be proven wrong.

If it is true that your tactic of opposing local school levies in cities other than your own is truly intended to support, in part, at-risk youth programs, I’m sure that the Federal Way school board would graciously and publicly acknowledge any donation you might choose to make to the Federal Way Coalition Against Trafficking.

Certainly, the size of your donation would well reflect the importance you are truly choosing to place on our at-risk students here in Federal Way, and assist both the board and Federal Way residents to assess the seriousness of your commitment to our at-risk students.

If your opposition to our local levy is really just about furthering anti-big government, anti-tax, anti-union objectives, I’ll conclude with this point: I find it incredibly unfortunate that with your intrusion into our community and our local issues, you have become exactly what you purport to oppose – an unwanted and unneeded burden being forced upon us from outside the borders of our capable community.

Steven W. Edmiston, Des Moines


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