Q: Why is the school district putting a Replacement Educational Maintenance and Operations Levy on the ballot?
A: The four-year renewal levy replaces the one that was passed by Mercer Island voters in 2014 and expires in 2018. This levy would replace the one that is expiring and would continue local levy funding for Mercer Island schools through 2022.
Q: What will our local levy pay for?
A: Our levy will continue to pay for:
- Transporting students safely to and from school (backfilling what the state does not cover)
- Qualified substitute teachers
- 7 period day at HS
- Expanded electives at HS and IMS
- FTE to support students in the online learning program at CREST
- Smaller class sizes for “focus” sections for struggling students or very specific
- Ongoing professional development opportunities for staff in a myriad of areas
- Stipends for staff to offer additional opportunities for students
- Afterschool clubs and activities at all grade levels including Destination Imagination, student interest clubs such as coding, community service, etc.
- Athletic opportunities beyond what ASB covers
- Enhanced library collections
- Some curriculum materials
- Classified support in classrooms with overloads, additional Special Education/English Language Learning students, as well as student supervision and safety
- Special Education, 38% of Special Education funding comes from local levy
- Elementary K-5 Music, Art, PE and Spanish
Q: Isn’t the state required to invest more money in public education because of a state Supreme Court ruling?
A: Yes, that decision is called the McCleary ruling and requires that the state legislature must fully fund “basic education” by September 1, 2018. But the current state budget will not pay the full cost of special education or many Mercer Island school programs, including the seven-period day at the high school, music, art, PE and Spanish in the elementary schools, or expanded electives at the high school and middle school.
School funding is still a work in progress. The additional funding from the state is intended to close the gap between what the state pays teachers and what local districts pay teachers. It is not intended to add more capacity for additional teachers or programs. Most districts, including Mercer Island, require additional staffing to meet student needs and reduce class sizes. The additional funding from the state must be spent in very specific ways. On Mercer Island, local levy dollars are used to provide educational experiences beyond the state definition of basic education.
Q: Isn’t the state supposed to pay for basic education?
A: Yes. In response to the state Supreme Court decision, the state will increase its share of funding for basic education and the school district’s share will go down. But the school district will continue to pay for programs and activities that are not funded by the state, including special education programs, even though special education is a part of basic education. This is what the levy covers.
Q: How much can the District collect from the levy?
A: The District may collect only up to the amount approved by voters regardless of assessed valuation changes. Senior citizens or disabled persons may qualify for tax exemptions. Contact the King County Assessor’s Office for information, 206.296.3920.