On Tuesday, Feb. 8, residents of the South Whidbey School District (SWSD) will vote on whether or not to renew the Educational Programs and Operation Levy. This three-year levy will actually lower the tax rate from the previous levy.
However, this is because property values continue to go up, and the school district has hit the ceiling for the total amount of money they are allowed to collect through a levy. Thus, they will still be receiving the maximum sum.
But is renewing the levy, even at a lower rate, in the best interest of the taxpayers in SWSD and the children that receive district services?
No. Renewing this levy is an unnecessary burden on the taxpayers. Nor does it beneficial the students because the schools have failed to provide a basic education: reading, writing, mathematics, history and science.
For decades, the American taxpayer has continued to pour more money into the schools, but they don’t see little improvement in student achievement. We need to stop throwing money down a black hole and tell the school district to tighten its belt and focus solely on the core subjects and get its test scores up before we give them extra funds.
Our state constitution requires all children to receive an education and it collects property taxes to accomplish this. Since 2018, the state has fully funded basic public school education according to the McCleary decision. Also, the legislature determined levies are an inequitable increase property taxes.
The levy requests funds for “teaching, school supplies, technology, athletics, employee benefits and transportation.” Aren’t “teaching, school supplies, transportation, and employee benefits” elements of “basic” education that should be state funded? Perhaps the district wants unnecessary school supplies or offers extra benefits.
Salaries have increased faster than inflation. The superintendent now earns a $202,177 base salary, more than the governor or a congressman. The highest-paid teachers receive over $150K in salary and benefits. SWSD spends $16,500 per student, exceeding the funds received from the state. Yet, student mastery in core subjects is low: 62.7% in English, 45.5% in math and 58.2% in science.
How are these high salaries justified with such poor educational outcomes?
It is time for the district to readjust its financial priorities and make do with the state’s funds. More info at www.schooldataproject.com.