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A comeback to our school levy editorial

Post by Kim Bradford on Feb. 12, 2010 at 1:09 pm with No Comments »
February 17, 2010 8:03 pm

David Groves, a state Labor Council spokesman and author of many an entertaining rant, emailed me this response to our editorial today about the passage of school levies.

Your editorial today fails to explain/consider why school levies passed so overwhelmingly this year as opposed to past years. Supporters ALWAYS remind folks that maintenance and operations levies don’t raise taxes. Why is this year any different? I can’t find one single M&O levy that failed in the entire state, can you? Has that ever happened?! I can identify several that failed to get 50% two years ago — when state coffers were flush and 51% of us were supporting I-960 – that passed this year with 60%! I don’t think there has ever been a levy election so successful for schools. EVER. So what’s changed?!

No, I agree people don’t suddenly like taxes. Nobody — not even me! — LIKES taxes.

What’s changed is that people have seen firsthand the effects of an all-cuts budget on their local schools. Can you think of any other explanation? We have all seen teachers laid off, class sizes increased, some districts are closing and consolidating schools, extracurricular activities are being cut, school sports programs have begun charging new or higher fees for kids to participate, and people are being asked by local foundations and the schools themselves to help cover the costs of basic supplies needed for the classrooms. I’ve seen that happening where I live in Bainbridge Island, a place where these levies ALWAYS pass with 60-plus percent approval. (This year we passed it with 73%… 73%!)

I submit to you that what’s changed is that people don’t like the cuts the Legislature has made and they are willing to pay to fix it. Does that translate into support for broad tax increases? Probably not. Most certainly not if you suggest, as you do, that it’s simply for the state gov-mint. But it definitely does translate to a public that, despite the “conventional wisdom” narrative you espouse that now-is-the-worst-time-to-raise-taxes, is prepared to make the shared sacrifices necessary to avoid trashing valued state institutions because of short-term economic challenges. Maybe if you did a better job describing the real changes people will experience in their lives with an all-cuts budget, people would have more sympathy for the predicament that legislators are in, and less sympathy for those who want to allow a 34% minority to tie legislators’ hands in raising revenue to avoid those cuts.

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