Last week, during my weekly breakfast with friends at Black Bear, I was asked by a former council member why the Federal Way City Council took the unprecedented action of endorsing the school bond. While I wasn’t aware our endorsement was unprecedented, setting a precedent wasn’t a consideration for me. Rather, it was making a clear and unequivocal statement of support for what I believe is a vital issue for our city.
Another reason for having the council endorse the school bond was that our discussion would reach a wider audience than the School Board usually does, allowing additional voters the opportunity to understand the reasons for the bond. While our vote was unanimous, the council proved it is not a rubber stamp for this bond, but rather an informed body unified in the end in our support for it.
Finances were a big part of our conversation, as the council understands the impact adding to the tax burden has. A key point we reached an understanding on was that the bond would be structured as a continuation of the current bond measure, allowing multiple construction projects to move forward without adding to the current tax burden. We also came to understand that the bond amount is fixed, meaning that as property values rise over the life of the bond, the revenue collected will be capped.
The council also gained a better understanding of the dire need that exists in our older schools, many of which were built in the 1960s and 1970s. Considering all the students over the years who have walked the halls, myself included, it’s not surprising that, at some point, our schools would just wear out, regardless of how well maintained they are. By adding classrooms and modernizing the existing classrooms and school buildings, we can provide a learning environment that addresses the space requirements of our growing city and provide the classroom technology integration from which teachers and students can benefit.
Expanding further on the need for more room, I recently visited Wildwood Elementary. Principal Michael Schwartz and his team are doing a great job engaging parents and students to create successful educational outcomes. While they are faced with space challenges, they are meeting them with both good humor and ingenuity, as their students deserve nothing less. Some examples are using storage rooms for temporary classrooms and utilizing hallways for storage. The age of Wildwood also became obvious to me as I walked through the halls. While I remain convinced of Michael and the Wildwood team’s commitment to provide the best education possible, the distractions faced by them and our students make the education process more difficult than it needs to be.
Finally, when thinking about the need for improved and expanded schools that also offer integrated technology and resources matched to the 21st century environment our graduates will enter upon graduation, one thing became very clear to me: As a community, we leave a legacy with every investment we make or fail to make. My hope is that you will join me and the rest of Federal Way City Council in voting yes for our schools and leave a legacy of educational opportunity, providing a solid first rung on the ladder of success we want the next generation of students here in Federal Way to be able to climb.
Mark Koppang is a Federal Way City Council member for Position 5. He can be reached at Mark.Koppang@cityoffederalway.com.