Voter's Guide

What to Know About Seattle's Education Levies

Look out for your February special election ballot. Then vote.

By Hayat Norimine January 30, 2019

Ballots have been mailed out for King County's February 12 special election, and it's time to know a little more about those education levies you thought you never heard of. 

Why are there two education levies on my ballot?

City voters will decide on two separate levies for the Seattle School Board: Proposition 1, which would renew an operations levy that voters last approved in 2016, and Proposition 2, which would renew a levy for capital expenses. 

For many years, the state hasn't been funding as much as local school districts need. So the school board has been asking voters to approve an operations levy every three years to make up for that funding gap. 

Proposition 1: This would approve a property tax—$1.05 for every $1,000 of assessed value in 2020—that would go toward extra services the Seattle School Board offers not covered by the state. 

The three-year operations levy would collect $271.3 million next year, $271.7 million in 2021, and $272 million in 2022—also the year voters will need to approve the levy again. 

Proposition 2: This six-year levy would approve another property tax—$0.90 for every $1,000 in assessed value in 2020—and collect $1.4 billion total, or $233.3 million a year for capital projects. 

But I just supported an education levy in Seattle. How are these two different?

Voters in the November general election supported a measure that combined two city education levies meant to help close the educational achievement gap—with additional preschool and early learning access for low-income households and other community-based programs. It also added mayor Jenny Durkan's goal to offer two years of free college tuition for graduating public high school students. 

The two levies on the February ballot would go to the Seattle School Board directly, not the city, and address ongoing operational and capital costs not funded by the state. 

Some opposed the city's levy in November because they worried that it would create more tax fatigue for voters, knowing they would face two more education levies in February. 

Where is the money going specifically?

For one thing, the Seattle School Board needs funding for its special education students. Proposition 1 funding would help with that.

Proposition 2 would fund upgrades in dozens of schools—including construction or safety projects at 16 schools, many of which are overcrowded and need earthquake upgrades or renovations. (Check out this helpful Seattle Times article for more details.)

What exactly did McCleary do?

The McCleary decision was a state Supreme Court mandate for Washington to fund "basic education." It does not, however, cover many of the costs local school districts are fronting. 

Updated 10:59am on February 5, 2019, to clarify Proposition 2 funding beyond the construction, safety, and renovation projects at 16 schools. 

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