Letters to the Editor

Vote yes on schools | Letter

Ballots have recently been mailed to voters in the Lake Washington School District (LWSD).

In anticipation of the Feb. 11 special election, three citizens with somewhat different perspectives contributed letters appearing in the Jan. 24 Reporter.

Steven Swedenburg opines that LWSD bureaucrats have spent more than enough money on new or replacement facilities instead of modernizing existing ones. He also states, “It is time to reign in the wasteful bureaucracy and work for our students’ futures.” Accordingly, he recommends a no vote on Proposition 3, the bond measure.

Writers of the ballot statement in opposition to the bond measure make some valid statements, implications and assertions similar to Mr. Swedenburg’s. Independent documentation reveals that, over time, LWSD has played loose with facts and figures, statistics and terminology. School board directors and/or LWSD employees have been disingenuous when it suits their agendas. And citizens have experienced bullying tactics, rudeness and dismissive and know-it-all attitudes. Vote for schools anyway!

Larry Christensen encourages residents to vote yes on the two levies and to approve the bond measure. He praises teachers and administrators, and recognizes the value of a mix of innovative college prep and career-technical curricula. Apparently referring to the taxes we pay, he comments — and rightly so — that homeowners and taxpayers are concerned about “return on investment.”

He also claims that residents in the LWSD can be proud of the exemplary record of fiscal management and accountability by district officials. Swedenburg and many others would, however, consider this to be very questionable.

Christensen closes with his opinion that supporting levies (and bond measures) is not a matter of altruism — it’s economics. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere between pure altruism and pure self-interest. Usually we remember that what is obviously a specific and “immediate” benefit to students in a particular attendance area also benefits the entire LWSD community in the long run. In education, just as in other endeavors, we must pool our resources. With proper stewardship, every neighborhood should “get its turn.” One example at present is the critical need to build an elementary school in Redmond Ridge East.

About that “return on investment:” Let us always remember that our investment in education is one of the very best investments we can make. Sure, we can compute its outcomes in dollars and cents. Good education — from preschool through adulthood — serves to equalize opportunities, increase citizens’ earning capacities, and consequently increase our nation’s overall productivity. Ripple effects can be to greatly decrease class conflict and greatly decrease crime.

In purely human terms: Education enables even our very youngest students to begin to realize their potentials, to discover exciting new interests and develop one’s best talents, to discover and appreciate facts about our world and its peoples, to develop respect for oneself and others, and so on …

Jeff Newport recognizes the skills of teachers, secretaries and other staff, along with the ongoing support of parents and community. Thus he also writes in support of the upcoming levies and bond measure. He rightly reminds us the LWSD has a strong reputation as one of the finest school districts in our state and in the entire country. We must assure that this is, and remains, a well-deserved reputation.

Let’s remember that we are to be voting on two levies and a bond measure, rather than on who will be on our school board. Stated another way, we need to support these propositions because they are to benefit our children and our communities — not the aspirations of non-educators who adopt policies and, yes, essentially control the expenditures of our taxes designated for education.

Perhaps many of us do have legitimate grievances and disappointments. We should, however, avoid knee-jerk, emotional, or angry inclinations to “show those guys by not voting for their doggone propositions.” Elections for board positions will come later.

We can, as necessary, provide powerful incentives to board members to improve on past performance, demonstrate better stewardship of resources derived from taxpayers, and increase accountability. Some ideas include: Attend board meetings, sometimes in large numbers. Submit requests for public information to LWSD. Write to this newspaper. Contact additional media. Contact higher levels of government. If and when warranted, request the courts to intervene.

Educators like Newport are to be commended for appealing to, and succeeding in bringing about, the best in our human nature. The core purpose of this letter is, likewise, to appeal to the best character traits in all the voters within LWSD. Please vote yes, yes and approved!

Larry Happ




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