Vote Yes on school levies

As 2004 begins, many of us are looking toward the outcome of the November presidential election. But if you believe that all politics are local, then next month Seattle voters can make a huge difference in our own backyards. In February we have an opportunity to determine the course of our neighborhood schools and make a difference in our children's future. Seattle voters will be asked to renew both a capital levy and an operating levy to ensure that the progress we have made in our public schools can continue.

Our schools are at the heart of our communities-energizing students, parents, teachers and our neighborhoods. Our schools also say a lot about how we value our children and their futures.

If you're not sure how the Seattle School District invests these funds, take a tour of recently renovated schools. It's clear that a new building creates an atmosphere of student success. The need to keep investing in our schools is obvious.

The capital levy provides funds for specific, critical building improvements and technology.

Beacon Hill Elementary, for example, stands to gain what has been called "interior finishes" such as floor replacement of worn-out vinyl or sheet tiles, and carpet for priority areas; as well as mechanical systems, such as renovating radiators, unit ventilators, air handlers, exhaust fans and heat pumps.

Rainier Beach High School stands to gain the same interior finishes, but will also receive badly needed exterior renovations such as replacing doors, windows and locksets along with technology upgrades. Clearly, this levy is vitally important to the continued safety and security of our schools.

The operating levy provides almost one quarter of the Seattle Schools' operating budget. The funds provided by this levy support basic educational programs not fully funded by the state. It allows the district to provide additional staffing to lower classroom size and provide students with the opportunity for more individual attention.

Why should we continue to invest in our public schools? Neighborhood schools have a catalytic effect on the whole community. Every student in the Seattle Public Schools deserves the right to go to an excellent school. By continuing to invest in our schools, we help ensure that every student can have that opportunity.

Who benefits from the passage of these levies? Foremost, our students. But in the long run, all Seattle citizens will benefit from this investment in our schools. Good schools are the cornerstone of strong neighborhoods-helping improve the business climate, maintaining our high quality of life and ensuring stable property values.

By approving the levies, voters will ensure our schools continue the progress they've made in raising student achievement. But if the levies fail, there will have to be deep budget cuts that will undermine our schools and our entire community. Our public schools are in the midst of a major transformation and Seattle schools are making great progress -test scores are up and dropout rates are down.

Seattle and its students deserve a "world-class student-focused learning system." We need to pass the levies to give our kids the best possible chance for a good education.

Every child in every school deserves a great education. There is no more important investment that we can make as a community. We will not have a great city without great schools. We will not have great schools if we don't pass both of these school levies.

Please do your part. In February invest in our children's future and cast your vote to support Seattle Public Schools-47,000 children are counting on you. Vote YES on both school levies on Feb. 3.

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