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"Streamline levy, get it passedThe Oak Harbor School Board voted last week to put another maintenance and operations levy proposal before local voters in March.The board is leaning toward a $2.3 million request. The levy that failed last May was for $2.6 million. The new proposal would pay for such items as increasing the elementary school day, reducing class size by hiring more teachers and assistants, adding new equipment and initiating a hot lunch program in the elementary school. Dropped from proposal is an expanded summer school program.The wild card here is Initiative 728, which Washington state voters will vote on Nov. 7. I-728 would dedicate state lottery money, existing taxes and state budget reserves to use for education. In the Oak Harbor School District it could mean another $1.2 million in annual state funding for local schools. If I-728 passes, the school board plans to reduce the local levy request to reflect these new revenues. The levy would likely be in the neighborhood of $1.5 million.So let's hope Initiative 728 passes. But in the meantime, let's also acknowledge another fact: The Oak Harbor School District desperately needs a victory. Decades of rejected levies have eroded morale among school district employees and affected the quality of local education. For that reason, the suggestion by school board member Jim Slowik - to separate out the hot lunch program in the upcoming levy request - is a wise one. There is no doubt that a hot lunch program is needed in the district. There's plenty of research that shows these programs have a positive impact on the education of young children. A well-fed student is more attentive and alert.But it's also true that the hot lunch program was a flashpoint for opponents of the last levy. They viewed the hot lunch program skeptically, as an attempt to pull at voter heart strings. Obviously, this view had an impact at the polls.It's a fine line for the school board. On the one hand, board members want to be honest with the people who pay taxes to support local schools. The needs of the Oak Harbor School District are genuine and urgent, and it serves no one to hide this fact. On the other hand, the population that votes on school levies feels overtaxed already and needs to know that their concerns are being heard. Making the hot lunch program a separate levy issue is one way to do this. The most important thing, by far, is that the Oak Harbor School District experience some success with a levy request. If this levy needs to be pared down to the bare minimum in order to pass, then let's do it. Happy birthday, NavyThe United States Navy is part of our lives on North Whidbey. Many island residents serve at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, and many local civilians are employed by the Navy. The rest of us probably have at least a few friends with ties to NAS Whidbey, past or present. So when the Navy celebrates a birthday, as it did last week, it's worth taking notice. The following is a note from Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig on the celebration of the Navy's 225th birthday last week.Our Navy has - for 225 years - always been there for America, and in fact, is older than the American Republic itself.Over these years, the most tumultuous in human history, more than 170 nations have emerged or disintegrated.The Founding Fathers realized at the earliest stages of their great work that creating and preserving a new nation would require the capabilities unique to a naval force, and they saw fit to place into federal service the first American Sailors and ships.Since then, we have never failed to live up to our awesome responsibilities. In fact, over this period we have increased our power, influence and relevance to the point where what was once a small, junior force is now universally recognized as the world1s greatest Navy.While the size and shape of our Navy has changed dramatically throughout our history, the demand for our services has not waned. Throughout this evolution, the secret to our success has been a willingness to change while adhering to our core identity and values. This philosophy has guided us through the reliable performance of our duties during times of peace and war, and will be the key to our continued success in the years ahead.Birthdays are a time for joy and celebration. A 225th Anniversary is especially to be savored. Happy Birthday, Navy! "

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