Originally published Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 4:23 PM

Voters got it right on Families and Education levy

The Families and Education Levy's win was a smart connection by Seattle voters between the levy and academic improvements in the schools.

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WHEN it came to choosing the best investment for their dollars, Seattle voters smartly chose the Families and Education Levy.

The levy's $232 million price tag is not insignificant. On average, homeowners are expected to see the levy portion of their property tax jump from $65 this year to $124 in 2012.

That is a critical investment our community is willing to make.

Seattle voters have made that important trade-off since the first levy was passed by voters in 1990 and handily renewed every seven years since.

That is as it should be because the levy is making real progress.

Times reporter Lynn Thompson chronicled the levy's impact on rising math test scores at Denny International Middle School, where two-thirds of students come from low-income and immigrant families. Denny's principal credited the levy-funded extended school day for struggling students, summer academic programs and math coaches for the academic progress.

The levy's value extends beyond one school or group of students. In education, scale and reach are critical components of effectiveness. Helping a few students does not move the academic needle; helping many — from early learning to high school — does.

In the next seven years, the levy will pay for broadening and deepening proven academic programs that support student learning. The number of 3- and 4-year-olds in early-learning programs will double and more resources will go toward the city's lowest-performing elementary schools. After-school and summer programs will spread to more schools with high rates of student poverty and health clinics will remain at middle and high schools.

Mayor Mike McGinn and the City Council have consistently provided the public with progress updates and visible benchmarks for measuring the levy's effectiveness, a reassuring sign of accountability. Schools and nonprofit organizations are being steered toward innovation and change as a condition of levy funding.

With the levy's passage, Seattle continues a bold and unique tradition of supporting its public schools and children.


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