Who is behind the anti-schools lobby? | Guest Column

Jill Stoddart is the chairperson for the Redmond Action Group for School Overcrowding. - Courtesy of Angel Solgot
Jill Stoddart is the chairperson for the Redmond Action Group for School Overcrowding.
— image credit: Courtesy of Angel Solgot

In February, the Lake Washington School District’s (LWSD) Proposition 3 fell just short of the 60 percent “yes” votes needed to approve the $755 million bond to address our urgent growth crisis. In the April 22 special election, the district’s Proposition 1 asks voters to approve an updated bond measure of $404 million. Proposition 1 funds our most urgent needs for seven new schools. The remaining $351 million originally proposed in February for the Strategic Modernization Plan will be proposed to voters in future years. The district’s website, www.lwsd.org, details more information under “April 22 Bond Measure.”

The anti-schools lobby that fought the February bond measure is again fighting this new proposal. So who is behind the anti-schools lobby and what are their real goals? The arguments against Proposition 1 in the Voters’ Guide were written by Kirkland residents Mike Nykreim and Steve Swedenburg. They want you to believe they care about our schools and if only the school district were more transparent and more fiscally responsible, then they wouldn’t oppose investing in new schools. Is that really true?

They tell us that they support quality schools, yet their public record shows that they only want to do this if it meets their definition of quality. They want the school district to build cheaper buildings and mega-sized institutions instead of community schools. They don’t want to spend dollars up front for environmentally sustainable heating and cooling systems, roofs and exteriors, despite evidence that it provides cost savings in the longer term. They equate 21st century learning environments, which include science and engineering classrooms and flexible learning spaces, with “palaces.” If we allow their vision of public education to become a reality, my daughters will be sitting in a big one room schoolhouse with a wood-burning stove in the center.

Nykreim’s history of attacking LWSD spending dates back to at least 1995. Fact checking with the Seattle Times found that “Contrary to what a conservative group’s campaign claims, the district’s administrative costs appear to be about average.” Archives show that Nykreim has a 25-year history of using the same arguments against all LWSD and city of Kirkland bond proposals. Nykreim and Swedenburg are supporters of the Tea Party movement, a group known for its disdain for government and public education. Would they ever really support capital investments in our public schools?

We live in an area surrounded by exemplary school districts, all of which passed their most current building bonds. If we fail again to address our overcrowding crisis, we hurt our children and hurt our pocketbooks when prospective residents avoid LWSD communities.

The anti-schools lobby is relying on our complacency during the April special election. With only two measures on the ballot, it would be an easy election to ignore. Your “yes” vote matters, now more than ever. Vote to approve Proposition 1.

Jill Stoddart is the chairperson for the Redmond Action Group for School Overcrowding.



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