- Schools First - the levy support group
- Committee for Responsible Education Spending - the group challenging the levy
- Facebook page for Teachers Against the Levy
- Facebook page for No on the Supplemental Levy
- CRES page with links to: official resolution, explanatory statement for Voter's Guide, teachers contract and levy, and endorsements
What can you do? Well, vote of course.
Also, follow the directions. I can't find it now but I saw an article where ballots were rejected not just for being late but for not signing the ballot. They must be postmarked by Election Day and have a first class stamp. You have to SIGN the returned ballot envelopes.
From the King County election site:
"You can also return your ballot at a ballot drop box or an accessible voting center by Election Day."
There were 1,072,442 ballots sent out. As of yesterday, the Elections Board had received 125,804 (which is 11.73%). The February levies received roughly 130,498 votes (from 368,494 registered voters). which is about 36% voting. That's for a levy ballot in which the levies were the only item. On a crowded ballot with all mail in voting? That's a hard call to make. (This has made national news because only Washington State and Oregon have all mail-in ballots.)
Q: Won't defeating the levy start us on a bad cycle and send a message of mistrust into the greater community?
A: First, in Seattle, we pass levies. We have only had a couple of short cycles of difficulty in passing levies. Defeating one levy does not a cycle make. As for mistrust, well, between the vote of no confidence in the Superintendent, the horrible audit report and solid citizen entities like the Seattle Times and the League of Women Voters expressing deep concern, the issue of mistrust and concern already seems to be out there.
Q: Can the district run this levy again if it doesn't pass?
A: Absolutely. If it does lose, it might encourage the Board to press the district for a levy that is more plausible and less vague. Meaning, show us the money going directly into the classroom.
Q: Does the district have to use the money for what they are stating they will?
A: No. Once the money is voted in, the only restriction is that it must go to Operations (not capital uses).
Q: Won't this hurt the teachers because they won't get their raises?
A: Ask your child's teacher. What is obvious is that the teachers don't care a whole lot because they signed their contract KNOWING they would not get their raises if the levy fails. Now, they could just have been hedging their bets because levies rarely fail and/or they realized that if they pressed the district into giving them the raises even if the levy failed, it would just come out of the classroom. Either way, I give the teachers credit for not making this a solid guarantee for themselves.
Q: What about the other parts of the teachers contract; career ladder, stipends for struggling teachers, merit pay?
A: The district did win a federal grant which will enable them to do all those things at 34 low performing schools. In a way, it's almost a pilot program for this new contract to see how it works. So yes, all of the teacher contract items will get addressed at some schools (except the raises). Also, note that even since the district got awarded this contract, they haven't changed the amounts they will spend on the teacher contract implementation. Why would that be if they have the money for teachers at 34 schools? That would mean there is no extra money for classrooms and yet the district isn't saying that at all.
Q: Don't we need to get the work on the teachers contract started?
A: We do (and the federal grant WILL start it). But keep in mind, there is no sustainable revenue stream for this work after the levy is gone. In three years, where will this money come from? The district says the work "IS" sustainable and yet doesn't give any indication where the money will come from EXCEPT to say that the legislature authorized districts to lift the lid for SIX years so in THREE year, they will come back with another supplemental levy. Where does this end?
Q: What's the real story on Central Administration cuts?
A: The story is what Meg Diaz' analysis showed it is - a lot of smoke and mirrors. There was this confusion over the district using the term "central office" versus the term "central administration" (which are two different things to OSPI) and so it looked like many more jobs were cut than were. Additionally, as we all saw the Education Directors jobs were cut and then promptly renamed and recreated as something else. Also, if you look at the district's FAQ page on the levy, they list Central Office costs for 2009-2010 that were cut but, for example, leave off freezing the travel budget. Why? Because even though Mr. Kennedy, our COO, told the Board they were freezing the travel budget, it didn't happen. Why not?
Q: It's not that much money for the average taxpayer. Why not just vote it in?
A: I want to gently remind everyone that this district doesn't just exist for parents. Our friends and our neighbors who don't have children in SPS help us vote in the levies. So one, we, as parents, have a special responsibility to make sure those tax-dollars are accounted for and used wisely. And two, we have a responsibility to consider ALL other taxpayers especially those on a fixed income. For us, maybe $48 a year isn't a lot. But if you are a senior, with multiple levies, initiatives and referendums coming at your income, it IS a lot.
Q: The district says the funds will "absolutely" be spent in the classroom. Isn't that a guarantee of sorts?
A: Not really because they can say that everything done at central relates to the classroom. That the district is just NOW saying the School Board is going to create the new budget based on "the primary guiding principle was to protect funds to classrooms" and the Board will "consider" input from stakeholders.
Q: Will this levy restore cuts made to school budgets?
Q: Will this levy be used to reduce class size?
Q: Will this levy be used for some of the nearly $500M in backlogged maintenance?
Q: Textbooks are in this levy. Don't we need new textbooks?
A: Absolutely. But if textbooks are a classroom staple, how come textbooks aren't a line item in the budget (a question Director Martin-Morris has asked) and why wait for a supplemental emergency levy to replace aging textbooks?
Q: The district and the Board say they are addressing the audit. Isn't that good enough?
A: It would be except, as Charlie has pointed out, there are a lot of non-action items "we will, we shall, will direct" - where's the real action? As well, the Auditor points out in several places in this audit that they are reminding the district of items they had in PREVIOUS audits from 2007 and 2008. So if the district and Board didn't address items in previous audits, why are we to believe they will in this audit?
Q: How do you know a levy defeat will send the district and Board a message?
A: Simply, NO ONE can tell you why any single voter casts their ballot a certain way. What you can see, though, is that the district is working harder and harder to push the levy (the Superintendent sent out an e-mail to all staff about it, the principals handed out info to all staff at their schools, the district send a postcard - which oddly carried an non-profit stamp that was not ID'ed), so they are clearly worried. Ask a Board member that question and I'm sure they will tell you, "If the levy fails, I know it means we need to listen more."
It's about trust, accountability, oversight and transparency. Those items are sorely lacking in this district and this levy should be defeated.