Seattle voters overwhelmingly approved the city's largest education levy yet, giving Seattle's school equity programs a boost in funding over the next several years and all public school students access to two years of free community college.
The levy is a property tax that will raise more than $600 million over seven years aimed to address educational disparities for low-income households. The levy received 68.5 percent support in the first ballot count Tuesday night.
The new tax combines two previous city education levies—which were both set to expire this year—to include preschool access, free community college tuition, and other K-12 programs like counseling for at-risk children.
“We had to navigate the affordability challenges in Seattle,” Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan said Tuesday night. “But the long-term solution to affordability is opportunity.”
King County saw a 51 percent voter turnout this election, a 14 percentage point spike from the last general election.
For Seattle homeowners with a median home price of $655,000, the larger levy means an increase of $112 per year in property taxes. Those homeowners will be paying a total of $248 a year—about $20 per month—for the education levy.
Seattle's tax increase comes on the heels of property taxes levied by the state government for education earlier this year, after the state Supreme Court mandated that the state fully fund basic education. Proposition 1 is raising property taxes again but funds Seattle programs that extend past “basic education.”
The levy received major backing form the Martin Luther King County Labor Council, which endorsed Durkan partly because of her promise to deliver free community college, MLK executive secretary-treasurer Nicole Grant said.
“It’s a value added to Seattle residency,” Grant said. “It’s saying, stay here. Do it here.”
Former mayor Tim Burgess, who helped push the education levy during his time at City Hall, said he was confident it would win because of Seattle's past support for children's education access.
The tax will begin in January, and the first funds will be used for the fall academic year.
"Seattle voters’ generosity on all of these investments—pre-K, K-12, and Promise—will continue to be focused on closing the opportunity gap and making sure that all students in our public schools are given the tools and support to thrive," council member Rob Johnson said in a statement.