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Spokane Voters Asked To Approve Public School Levy

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Fourteen Spokane County school districts have placed measures on the February 9 election ballot. They include Spokane Public Schools’ three-year maintenance and operations levy. That measure would replace the district’s current levy.In Washington, local property tax levies supplement the basic education funding the state allocates to school districts.

Spokane Superintendent Adam Swinyard says the money allows his district to hire more out-of-the-classroom employees, people such as nurses, librarians and custodians. He says levy money also adds to the state’s special education funding.

“We’ve really become a hub for those services because of the quality of the programming, because of the health care sector in Spokane, the social service network in Spokane. Families move in from western Montana and northern Idaho and northeast Washington. They come and they reside in our district so their students can have that academic experience and there’s a cost to that and it’s an unfunded gap that our levy helps to fill," Swinyard said.

This excerpt came from a levy discussion that will air Monday night on KSPS Public Television and Tuesday at noon on KPBX.

During the last few years, the bulk of school funding in Washington has shifted to state property taxes with limits on the amount of local money for which districts can ask taxpayers. Swinyard says his district expects to receive about $42 million less from the state over the next three years, so it’s asking for a little more in the new levy.

"The modest increase from the last couple years is to address that project loss in state funding," he said. "We’re also opening some middle schools to accommodate for the growth in the district. And we are looking to bring back some of the things that we’ve lost a couple of years ago, such as custodial staff, make sure our schools are clean, librarians, some of the things that have been historically part of the experience that our kids have had.”

The district is looking to bring more students back to the classroom during the next few months as public health officials allow. Swinyard says the work done to make schools safer places has added extra expenses that the levy can help pay for.

“As we emerge from the pandemic and our students come back and we return to a typical school environment, it’s critical that we maintain the programs, the services, the supports, the extracurricular activities, things that we know kids desperately need to recover from the pandemic, from an academic perspective, but also a social and emotional perspective. This has been a hard time for everyone," Swinyard said.

Spokane Public Schools has more information about the levy at its website.

The district’s patrons will soon receive ballots for the levy if they haven’t already. They must be postmarked by February 9 to be counted.