Op-Ed

Election View: Levy supports all areas of Blaine schools

Blaine High School sophomores take part in the 25th annual Roman Banquet at the school gym Dec. 16, 2015. Students research different aspects of ancient Rome, give presentations and speeches and then enjoy a Roman banquet. In Blaine, local taxes pay for 25 percent of day-to-day operational expenses at district schools.
Blaine High School sophomores take part in the 25th annual Roman Banquet at the school gym Dec. 16, 2015. Students research different aspects of ancient Rome, give presentations and speeches and then enjoy a Roman banquet. In Blaine, local taxes pay for 25 percent of day-to-day operational expenses at district schools. pdwyer@bellinghamherald.com

Maintenance and operations levies have served as an essential funding mechanism for school districts in the state of Washington for decades. School districts throughout the state remain reliant on local tax revenue for maintenance and operational costs. In Blaine, local taxes pay for 25 percent of day-to-day operational expenses. From staffing the classroom, to purchasing curriculum and technology, to providing professional development for staff, to the athletic arena, to after school activity programs for students, to transportation and food service costs, to facility and equipment maintenance needs, virtually every aspect of the program is necessarily supported to some degree by the maintenance and operations levy.

With respect to legislative fiscal challenges and expectations over the past five years, there has perhaps been no single issue commanding greater public attention in the state of Washington than that of the pursuit of ample funding for basic education programs in our public schools. At present, as has been well chronicled, the state Supreme Court has implemented financial sanctions against the Washington State Legislature for failure to follow through on K-12 basic education funding commitments.

The four-year maintenance and operations levy will replace the existing levy, which is set to expire at the end of the 2016.

As in each of the more recent legislative sessions, the 2016 session once again promises to be both dynamic and challenging, as some level of significant resolution on the matter of basic education funding continues to be debated. In the interim, and for the foreseeable future, local school district tax levies, formally referred to as maintenance and operations levies, will continue to be necessary to adequately support existing programs and future, pending mandates.

In the Blaine School District, registered voters are being asked to consider a four-year maintenance and operations levy which, once approved in the Feb. 9 special election, will replace the existing levy, a levy which is set to expire at the conclusion of the 2016 calendar year. The program expenditures currently supported by local levy funding in Blaine include, but are not limited to:

▪  Enhanced staffing (e.g. student supervision, crossing guards, reduced class size, counseling, etc.)

▪  Athletics and co-curricular programs;

▪  Enrichment and intervention programs (e.g. AP course offerings);

▪  Staff training and compensation for additional responsibilities;

▪  Routine maintenance and transportation needs;

▪  Associated economic inflationary variables.

The replacement maintenance and operations levy would also support:

Full Time Kindergarten

While the state will provide partial funding for full-time kindergarten, levy funds will cover the remaining costs beginning in the 2016-17 school year.

24-Credit Graduation Requirement

Beginning with the Blaine High School class of 2021, students will be required to complete 24 academic credits in order to graduate. Over the course of the next two years, the district will work to implement necessary resources to meet this new state requirement.

New Curriculum at All Levels

After years of budget cuts, we are now “catching up” with very critical curriculum adoptions. The selection and purchase of up-to-date curriculum materials at all levels of the program will continue during the coming levy cycle.

Rapidly Increasing Technology

Acquisition of technology is crucial to keep pace with the 21st century needs of staff and students to support both day-to-day instructional expectations as well as student assessment requirements that are now mostly done online.

Decreased Program -Related Costs to Families

The district is committed to offsetting athletic participation fees and supplementing necessary school supplies to decrease related costs for families.

While projected maintenance and operations levy rates increase slightly each year, to support the rising cost of existing programs as well as the district’s obligation to offset the cost of previously referenced state mandates, these rates remain very competitive with other districts in Whatcom County.

Parents and patrons of the Blaine School District are continuing to witness a solid return on their investment in the education of young people from the Blaine, Birch Bay and Point Roberts communities. It is evident that, for the foreseeable future, local maintenance and operations levies will continue to serve as the mechanism for assuring that school districts are in a position to offer the highest quality of educational experiences for all students. The Blaine School District is appreciative of the high level of support that our patrons have demonstrated in supporting overall program needs and priorities in the past, and we are committed to remaining responsive to expectations as well.

This is one in a series of columns about Whatcom County school levies. Ron Spanjer is superintendent of the Blaine School District. Ballots will be mailed Jan. 20 with drop boxes open from that date until 8 p.m. Feb. 9. One 49-cent stamp is required if you mail your ballot. It must be postmarked by Feb. 9.

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