09262018 Headline:

58% of voters approve funding for education and student programs

HSD Levy makes up difference between what the state funds, what students need

By Nathan Simmons

In Feb. 2018, voters approved the Highline Replacement Educational Programs & Operations Levy, with 58% voting in favor of it. This levy will continue to fund teachers, educational help for students with special needs, athletic programs, and school nurses, among other things.
Although the Highline School District (HSD) receives some funding from the the state, RAHS Principal Therese Tipton notes that levies are used to close the gap between what the state funds and what is needed.
“Levies, such as the one in Highline [School District], are super important because they make up that difference of what the state funds and what we really need for student success,” said Tipton.
According to Catherine Carbone Rogers, the Highline School District’s Chief Communications Officer, levies are critical to any school district’s budget.
“Levies were intended to fund ‘enrichment’ – extras above and beyond basic education,” said Rogers, “but since the state has not fully funded education, districts have had no choice but to rely on voter-approved levies for about 20% of their budgets.”
Levies play a vital role in the quality of education that the Highline School District can provide for their students.
“The Levy helps keep class sizes small — 32 is the max for high school, which is fairly large; it helps keep that number small,” said Tipton. “It could go up to 38 or 40 if we did not get that additional support. The Levy supports students who need an IEP, an Individualized Education Plan, so that funds paraeducators to help. We have somebody who is part time here that helps students who need extra help in the classroom.”
Although RAHS will not benefit from some programs that the Levy funds, the Levy will still enrich education at RAHS.
“The Levy dollars pay for 15 nurses [for the entire Highline School District],” said Tipton, “and also teacher training days, because as state requirements change, teachers have to be trained in that, and athletic programs, which we don’t have, but which some of our students take advantage of. One interesting thing is school security officers. We don’t have a school security officer here, so that’s not a benefit we get, but we do get support staff, like Ms. Tranholt, and activities such as Camp Waskowitz with our 9th graders (we just went for the second year in a row, so we’re making that a tradition every year).”
Rogers is thankful that the Levy was able to be passed.
“Speaking on behalf of Highline leadership team, we are grateful to our voters for supporting our schools by approving the Levy,” said Rogers. “Passage tells us we are on the right track and that our community wants to support our schools.”
Rogers believes that the 58% passage rate is not as low as it may seem.
“In my experience, 58 percent is not particularly low for a school levy,” said Rogers. “In fact, Highline had one of the highest passage rates in the region. For example, Kent School district barely passed at just a few votes over 50%; Issaquah got 51% and Lake Washington [got] 54% on their levies.”
The Washington State Supreme Court, however, concluded in their McCleary Decision that the Washington legislature has not fully funded education.
“We are hopeful that the state legislature will comply with the [Washington] State Supreme Court ruling (McCleary v. Washington State) and appropriate the funds to fully fund the cost of public education,” said Rogers. “Lawmakers did pass a funding plan last session, but they have not yet appropriated enough money to fulfil the plan.”
Nevertheless, if Washington lawmakers do pass education funding, Rogers believes that Highline School District funding could still decrease. When the legislature raises property taxes to fund education, they ask districts to cut the amount of money they request through levies, which is a form of property taxes.
“Unfortunately, the amount Highline will get from the state will not make up the amount we will lose in local levy funding,” said Rogers. “So ironically, once the state plan is fully implemented, Highline will actually see revenues decrease, not increase. We anticipate this to occur in the 2019-20 school year, unless the legislature changes the funding formula in a future session.”
Tipton, however, is optimistic about the future of Highline School District funding after almost 60% of voters voted for the Levy.
“6 in 10 people support public education in Highline and I think that speaks a lot — there is a lot of good,” said Tipton.

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