A number of people have let me know about an e-mail that the Superintendent sent out on Friday to all staff. She says this in the opening paragraph:
"I am writing to share some facts with you about the operations levy on the November 2 ballot. I ask you in turn to share this information with your family members and neighbors to ensure they are fully informed about the purpose of this levy request. "
She goes on to outline info about the levy and then urges people to remember to vote. She does not tell anyone how to vote.
I called and talked to the PDC about the e-mail.
Because she does give information on how much the levy is asking for and its costs to taxpayers, that is considered to be balanced. (Yes, I know that is funny that including the amount of the levy balances her message.) As well, I was told by the district that she frequently discusses policy issues via e-mail. So the e-mail is legal.
I asked a couple of people I know at UW if they ever get e-mails about ballot issues that affect UW. The answer is no and no way. UW is very sensitive to how they look to the public and even if it were legal, they wouldn't do it because of how it appears. Obviously, that's not the case for SPS. (And, from the audit, you can see that skirting ethical issues isn't a problem either.)
There is one interesting thing said in the levy that I see that is different from the language the district uses elsewhere. At the district's website, it says:
These levy funds are specifically targeted to:
Reduce the number and severity of cuts ($25.5M) that will have to be made to instructional programs and services over the next several years.
The e-mail says:
This 3-year, $48.2 M levy will:
· Reduce the number and severity of budget cuts we will need to make for 2011-2012 and beyond as a result of reduced funding and increasing costs (approximately $25.5M of total levy funds)
The key word here is "will" versus "targeted to." Will means "is going to be done" and targeted to could mean anything. At the end of the day, if the district gets the money, they can do whatever they want with it. That's how a levy works. However, if they are using wording like "will" then it's our duty to hold their feet the fire to use the levy against cuts. But again, they use the very vague "instructional programs and services" and NOT the word "classrooms."