In the Feb. 2 Mirror, I was accused writer Gary Robertson of providing misleading or inaccurate information in a previous letter to the editor. He states I was wrong when I said the Feb. 13 school levy was a stop gap fund, yet in his letter he writes that this is a four-year levy that replaces the one expiring this year, which voters have approved for the past 37 years, that basically provides funding for gaps not covered by state money and represents 10 percent of the school budget. That sounds like a stop gap fund to me.
He states in his letter that the levy is supplemental funding for 300 critical positions that the state does not fund and has always been a part of the budget. Paying employees using levy funds is one issue that the state Supreme Court addressed when it ordered the state Legislature to fully fund schools. The court ruled that state actions that force school districts to use local levy dollars to support basic education is unconstitutional. However, the Legislature has not yet found a way to change the funding formulas to reduce dependence on local dollars.
Robertson says salaries of the superintendent and her staff are paid by the state and set by the Federal Way Public Schools Board of Directors based on the requirements of the position. That is a half truth. The state pays a set amount for their salaries. When school districts want to pay them over that amount, they must tax themselves and us to make up the difference, as we did when the school board thought it necessary to raise the superintendent’s pay above that limit. So, if their positions and salaries are adjusted per the state, there will be more funds to pay for basic education, which in turn will decrease the need for levy funds. These funds will not be called new taxes. It’s a reallocation of taxes we are already paying.
Robertson says, maybe at some point in time the McCleary decision will fund the employees and programs that are not currently funded. I agree, with one big exception — the program for students who have problems with English. This group appears to require the most funds. The problem is the federal immigration law that states that people emigrating to this country will not create a burden to the community that they emigrate to. It also states that people emigrating to this country must have command of the English language — speaking, reading and writing. I don’t see the state risking federal funds to fight this battle with the current administration.
Gary Robertson says the district cannot wait for the completion of the McCleary decision because there’s no telling how long the Legislature will take, and the levy expires this year. The fact is, every school district in the state was aware the state Supreme Court put a five-year time limit on the legislature, so the district’s had four years to prepare for this. But some of them did not. Some of them didn’t put pressure on the Legislature to make a decision on McCleary so we could avoid this problem. Some waited and are counting on the taxpayers to continue this questionable funding.
In the Feb. 2 edition of the Mirror, it says the average homeowner will pay about $570 less per year with this levy. Fact: If the levy does not pass, a homeowner whose property is valued at $180,000 will save $2,700 per year.
So, I did do my homework. My views, opinion and statements are not shaded by the fact that I don’t work for the school district. So let’s stop hollering fake news and start examining what’s best for all the people.
Gary Grant, Federal Way