As superintendents for the Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Cosmopolis school districts, we would like to share information about the upcoming election, which includes propositions for an Educational Programs and Operations Levy (EP&O), formerly known as a Maintenance and Operations (M&O) levy, in each of our districts.
We are fortunate to have quality educational programs for the children in all three of our school districts, and we appreciate the strong support from our communities for education and the programs you expect us to maintain. The upcoming EP&O levies for each of our districts will replace the current M&O levies, which expire in December 2018.
The state of Washington provides funds for a narrowly defined basic education program. These funds are not sufficient to pay for the actual costs of operating our schools. Each of our districts rely on this local source of funding for valuable programs and services for our students.
Your first question must be why school districts are asking for levies if the state is now “fully funding” basic education. The Legislature did pass EHB 2242 in July 2017 at the very last minute and after closed-door negotiations. This bill created a new funding model for schools, but is a work in progress and a step in the right direction. As with all complicated legislation, though, it has rough spots and problem areas. It was intended to comply with the State Constitution. Lawmakers increased the state school tax but also enacted restrictions on local school districts’ ability to collect taxes. These restrictions hamper our districts’ ability to use levy funds for our unique, local needs. The unfortunate result has been creation of even bigger inequities in school funding, especially for rural districts like Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Cosmopolis.
During the 2018 legislative session, the Legislature might change some aspects of the new funding model. However, our school boards believe it is in the best interests of our students to renew the expiring levies with the same levy amount as the current levy, because it is unknown how lawmakers may adjust the new model. It is anticipated that the rate per $1,000 of assessed valuation will be less than what property owners are currently paying for each of our school districts. Please remember this is a replacement levy that will take the place of the current levy, and is not a new tax.
We hope you find this information helpful as you consider the Educational Programs and Operations Levy propositions. Ballots are in the mail. Please remember to vote on or before Feb. 13.
Alicia Henderson, Ph.D.
Superintendent, Aberdeen School District
Superintendent, Cosmopolis School District
Mike Villarreal, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Hoquiam School District