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Alisha Benson and Lance Beck: Kids Worth Every Penny of Investment

By Alisha Benson, CEO, Greater Spokane Inc. and Lance Beck, President & CEO, Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce

*Published on January 31, 2024 by The Spokesman Review

You may know us from our day jobs as regional Chamber of Commerce and economic development leaders. What you may not know is that both of our families benefit from our regional school systems. As parents and representatives of the business community, we come to you, our community, with a request: Please vote yes for schools in February.

Our organizations have a long history of support for our schools and our school bonds and levies. We remain supportive because we know that the decisions we make now have lasting effects.

Voting to support our schools embodies a forward-thinking perspective. Similar to long-term investments that may not yield immediate returns, committing resources to education demands a focus on the future. Just as contributing to a retirement account sets the stage for a secure future, investing in today’s youth holds the potential for immeasurable benefits to our community.

We were disappointed in an article published in The Spokesman-Review this week heralding the total amount of all bonds and levies on the ballot this February. Although initially dismayed by the shortsighted take on school funding requests, we have since taken a different perspective. Yes, voters have an opportunity to vote for the school and library funding requests in their own particular voting districts. Yes, the collective sum of those funding requests is quite large, but here is where the author missed the mark: the collective sum is one of the greatest opportunities for community investment we have had in years.

We challenge The Spokesman, and our fellow voters, to look at the impact of those requests and not just the cost. Envision the substantial direct and indirect benefits to our economy, arising from local construction projects that involve hiring regional construction, engineering and architecture firms, consequently providing employment opportunities for local tradespeople. Delve into the comprehensive ramifications of each job that has already been funded by levies within every school district across our county. And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to evaluating the economic impact.

Our organizations are standing alongside schools because we know that the long-term future of our business community depends on the ability of our schools to provide an excellent education for students. Our business community tells us every day that they need talent who can excel in the technical pieces of their jobs while possessing skills that allow them to adapt, learn new things, innovate and imagine within the workplace.

Like you, we know that school is about more than academics. Our schools provide programs that teach teamwork and perseverance, spark lifelong passions, and provide opportunities for crucial social and emotional learning. Programs such as music, drama, sports and debate provide connections and help students grow into the leaders and collaborators our communities need.

These are activities paid for by levies. And so are many other vital school programs, positions and services – such as nurses, counselors, behavior specialists, intervention programs, special education services and tech support. Levies also help schools keep class sizes small and offer Advanced Placement courses. Levies make it possible for schools to support and educate kids as whole people.

We need “whole people” in our workplaces now, more than ever.

After reading our support for levies above, you may wonder what the other school funding mechanism, school bonds, have to do with the workplace of tomorrow.

The explanation is simple. School construction funding is a unique challenge in Washington state where we value local control for education. While this approach preserves our strong, independent spirit, it also requires local responsibility for funding capital projects. A double-edged sword. Furthermore, the investment addresses the pressing need to update obsolete facilities, fostering a forward-thinking educational atmosphere. By supporting these bonds, we prioritize the future of education in our community and lay the foundation for sustainable, state-of-the-art facilities.

So, the question is not just, “Will you vote yes for a school bond?” The question is much bigger. The question is:

“What kind of community do you want to live in?”

Our business community depends on this being the kind of community that invests in kids. Because those kids are our next artists, nurses, teachers, mechanics, manufacturers, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, contractors, restaurateurs and elected officials.

The kids we invest in today will run this community in a few short decades. Let’s give them the tools they need to take our community into the future.

Vote yes for schools in February.

Alisha Benson is CEO of Greater Spokane Inc. Lance Beck is president and CEO of Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.

To learn more about school bonds and levies, visit EducationGrowsEconomies.com

*Advertisements paid for by The Alliance for a Competitive Economy of Greater Spokane Incorporated. Contributors: STCU, ALSC Architects, Energy System Engineers LLC, Lydig Construction

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