By Elaine Couture and David O’Brien
On Tuesday, voters will be asked to vote on school district levies across Spokane County. These replacement levies come before voters every three years to replace expiring levies and maintain important services at our schools. We are asking our community to join us in voting “yes” to support these levies.
As major employers in our region, we know school levies create strong schools, which are essential for building strong economies, strong neighborhoods and strong communities. We serve as board members of Greater Spokane Inc., and we are joining our fellow business leaders and employers in voting “yes” for our schools. Businesses rely on quality schools to attract and retain our workforce. Schools grow our future leaders and workforce, right here in Spokane.
We are also parents and grandparents, and we want what is best for our families and our youth. The education we provide students now will not only set the trajectory for their lives, but it will have a ripple effect in our communities. We are shaping the future of our region by shaping our youth today.
Communities that invest in their local school districts tend to see higher graduation rates, a better educated population and better outcomes for students. Some of the biggest employers in the region, including Providence and MultiCare, employ former students who graduated from our local schools. Many former students have started successful businesses here. Students educated in our district have built careers, homes and families here. They have kept our community vibrant. These successes come from an education that was supported by our community.
Local tax investments are an important part of making our schools strong. In districts across our region, between 10 and 20% of annual school budgets come from a voter-approved local levy, including state matching funds.
Passing replacement levies will provide important local funding that schools need to maintain essential services and programs like special education, AP courses, school athletics, music, drama and debate. Levies also fund important staff positions ranging from nurses to counselors to campus resource officers.
Local levy dollars fill the gap between basic education and high-quality education. Levies fund the services and programs that support student social and emotional well-being, creating a well-rounded educational experience, keeping our students engaged, and supporting students with special needs. Levies also allow schools to provide critical health and wellness services and keep class sizes small for optimal learning.
Levy funding provides flexibility to meet community needs – which was incredibly important during unprecedented circumstances. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when schools closed, health care workers at MultiCare and Providence were supported by our local school districts, which provided child care to ensure health care workers could continue to treat patients during the pandemic.
In addition, levy-funded nursing staff and counselors have played critical roles in supporting students during the pandemic. School nurses have been on the front lines of the pandemic serving students and families and the larger community.
Many of these positions are funded through local levy dollars. Levies allowed schools to fund distance learning technology infrastructure and devices for students.
There may be a misperception that because schools pivoted to remote learning during the pandemic they don’t need levy funding. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
School staff have been working since the pandemic began to find ways to keep students – and our region – healthy and learning. They made distance learning possible to help control community spread of COVID-19. They implemented safety measures to reopen schools first to high-need students, and found ways to begin phasing in elementary grades.
As we look beyond the pandemic, we want to ensure our schools will be able to bounce back and continue to provide the high-quality programs our region expects.
Three-year replacement levies create stability for schools – and for our students – and they will be key to recovery in our region. Levy funding will help us to again provide the programs students used to enjoy before the pandemic.
Our region has a strong history of supporting our schools. During these challenging times, let’s show up for our schools again – for our youth, our future, our community. Join us in voting “yes” on Tuesday.
Elaine Couture, RN, BSN, MBA, is executive vice president/regional chief executive, Providence Washington and Montana. David O’Brien, MD, is senior vice president/chief executive, MultiCare Health System, Inland Northwest Region.