Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Wednesday announced a new 2018 education levy that would swell the city's school funding—to $636.5 million over seven years. That includes an 80 percent increase in preschool dollars, college tuition, and 30 percent more funding for K-12 education at a cost $249 per year in property taxes for the typical homeowner, Durkan said.
"We are taking an incredible step today to really close the opportunity gap that exists in our city," she said at a press conference Wednesday.
But as Seattle Public Schools gets a boost in funding as a whole, elementary schools could still feel a pinch in the future as their funding relies far more on what legislators decide to do with state funding.
Durkan's proposed levy would reduce the dedicated funding to elementary schools from the current $11 million to $2.1 million a year by 2020, and assumes lawmakers' solution to the McCleary decision will pick up the slack.
As council members consider the proposal to be sent to the November ballot for city voters—expecting a council vote by sometime in June—council member Rob Johnson told PubliCola he's worried that reduced local funding to elementary schools is "leaving students behind."
Johnson, a co-chair of the select committee on the levy, will be looking at whether he believes elementary schools are getting enough for "early intervention"—meaning, students are more likely to succeed if they start succeeding early.
Council members will be looking at the funding for college tuition critically, as the 2011 education levy had been laser-focused on K-12 and couldn't be used for higher education. The 2018 education levy combined both the Families and Education and Preschool levies, both set to expire this year, into one larger property tax levy.
That's just one of the changes Seattle council members will consider in the months to come.
Another goal to check off the list for co-chair Lorena Gonzalez and council member Teresa Mosqueda would be increased funding for affordable child care—and they'll be looking at whether the education levy could be a place to do it.
These would include families that aren't part of the Seattle Preschool Program, Gonzalez told PubliCola, but addressing child care would help funnel toddlers into SPP. (Mosqueda has said she wanted families to pay no more than 10 percent of their income toward child care.)
Then there's student homelessness, which new data from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction shows is at an all-time high. And 10 percent of the state's total homeless student population is in Seattle. Durkan's plan includes $4 million over the seven-year proposal in dedicated funding for student homelessness, according to her office. The question is whether that will be enough.
"My goal is to make sure that there’s a significant enough investment to really make a difference and an impact in that area," Gonzalez said.
Though the levy could still change, it won't see much of a fight in council. (Four stood by her side at the press conference Wednesday.)
The Martin Luther King County Labor Council executive board in a meeting Wednesday afternoon endorsed the proposed ballot measure and praised Durkan's free college tuition plan as an investment in the "workforce of the future."
Updated 8:51am on April 19, 2018, to include more numbers from the mayor's office.