School bonds: School construction funded unfairly

February 7, 2014 0 Comments

Originally published Northwest Voices, Seattle Times Letters to the Editor on February 7, 2014

School bonds: School construction funded unfairly

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The article “Fast-growing school districts seek more money from voters” [Local News, Feb. 5] revealed that, next week, some of Washington’s richest school districts — like Bellevue and Lake Washington — will vote on more than $2 billion worth of bonds to build schools in their neighborhoods. Odds are these bonds will pass.

Meanwhile, in lower-income districts like Selah and Pasco, capital bond votes fail regularly, as they did in 2012, when more than $512 million in bonds failed statewide. When schools go unbuilt, kids get stacked into classrooms like salmon beneath blocked falls.

A little-known root cause: Article IX, Sec. 3 of our state Constitution stipulates that timber revenue from the Department of Natural Resources trust lands must help fund school construction.

For decades, this DNR mandate funded up to half of building costs. But as demand for schools has risen, the DNR’s share of costs has shrunk, thus increasing reliance on bond votes.

Cutting trees to pay for schools is archaic, ineffective, and embarrassing. We can do better by our environment and our schools. Olympia should abandon the DNR mandate and guarantee equitable learning conditions for all.

Our kids are counting on us to be up to the test.

Web Hutchins, Civics for All’s executive director, Seattle

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