By Caroline Mason
Everett Public Schools is experiencing a wave of success. Graduation rates are at an all time high; state test scores outperform the state at every level and every grade, many in double digit percentages.
We are fortunate to attract some of the best teachers in the state, and our oversight of school finances continues to receive accolades by some of the most significant and prominent financial institutions. Then, why are we asking voters to approve a capital bond and replace the educational programs and operations levy this month?
Career readiness: Washington state will add 740,000 jobs in the next five years. As our area’s population increases and draws more businesses, so does the need for more — and more specialized — schools and classrooms. Hands-on vocational programs in high-demand and high-wage jobs will give students the education and training they need to be successful beyond high school and have the choice of living and working in our local communities. Whether their chosen path is a certificate program or two- or four-year college degree, students will leave Everett Public Schools more prepared for careers in high growth industries.
Growth readiness: In the next 10 years Everett Public Schools is expecting 1,600 more students. This is in addition to the 1,100 who have enrolled in our district in the past ten years. 22 of our 26 schools are at or over capacity. At the high school level, 400 students are in portable classrooms. The district continues to add portables to accommodate the growth, but even some schools such as Jackson High School have run out of room for portables. The bond addresses overcrowding by building a much needed fourth comprehensive high school and adding 36 permanent classrooms, mostly in four classroom additions, throughout the district. These projects will slow down our reliance on portables and put more students in secure spaces, and in closer proximity to the library, restroom, cafeteria and other students.
Facilities readiness: Much like you do with your own home, the district needs to continue maintaining existing facilities to get the most out of their useful life. Systems such as electrical and HVAC need upgrading and replacing to avoid the higher costs of deferred or emergency maintenance. The bond also modernizes the Everett High cafeteria building. Renovating and modernizing this deteriorating physical space adds space for students to gather and interact and strengthens school culture.
Despite the state Supreme Court’s ruling, the state’s increase in school funding does not pay the full cost of basic education. Until the state fully complies with the Supreme Court’s order, the levy will make up the difference in areas such as early learning, summer school, extended day programs, teaching materials, transportation, music, art, drama, athletics and extracurricular activities, special education, training for staff, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs, gifted programs, and ongoing facilities maintenance.
The district and school board worked carefully to put a capital bond and replacement levy on the ballot that will not increase the school tax rate. Although the state tax rate increase begins this year in 2018, the proposed Capital Bond and Replacement Levy collections do not begin until 2019. The existing four-year levy expires at the end of 2018; the Replacement Levy on the February ballot replaces that one at a lower tax rate beginning in 2019. Most importantly, the total local and state school tax rate in 2019 will be the same as it was in 2017 and will remain stable through 2024.
We encourage you to consider what is at stake for our community. Good schools do build strong communities. Education is the foundation, and we must continue to make it strong. Please mark your ballots for the capital bond and replacement levy by Feb. 13.
Everett Public Schools’ board of directors is Caroline Mason, president; Carol Andrews, vice president; Pam LeSesne; Traci Mitchell and Ted Wenta.