Letter to the editor: Vote no on Feb. 11 Edmonds School District bond and levy

Editor:

Over the next few days every householder in the Edmonds School District will receive a ballot for an Edmonds School District bond and levy with ballots due by Feb. 11.  This nearly three-quarter-billion-dollar proposal is an unprecedented number that will result in significant increases to your Snohomish County property tax bill that you will receive next month and for every February for the next six years.

We all want to have a strong school district that meet the needs of our students but enough is enough. This Proposition 1 Bond request ($600M) plus Proposition 2 Technology Levy ($96M) that if passed will make Edmonds and surrounding areas even more unaffordable due to taxes. This proposal is more than double what Edmonds District voters passed in 2014 even though the district student enrollments have increased at less than 1% each year and in 2018 actually decreased.

I urge every homeowner in Edmonds, Lynnwood, Woodway, Brier, Mountlake Terrace, and unincorporated Snohomish County to vote no on these 2 measures when you receive your ballot. The district must be challenged to resubmit a reasonable proposal that meets critical needs but does not force residents to pay this level of property taxes.

Tom Nicholson
Concerned Edmonds resident of 35 years

  1. The Bond and Levy will maintain a level tax rate. I urge every homeowner to vote yes. There is no more important vote than that for the future of our children and our families. As our schools are asked to do exponentially more to meet growing needs in a complicated and confusing world, we need to invest proportionately in that work. The district has shared a careful and wise planning strategy on their website: “To maintain a level tax rate for the proposed 2020 bond, the district has structured bond issues on a cycle that allows for older bonds to be paid off just as new bonds are issued. The tax rate is dependent on the assessed valuation of the district. That means, as the assessed valuation increased because of growth, the tax rate per one thousand dollars of assessed property decreases, which allows the district to consider future bond measures while maintaining a stable tax rate.”

    1. What our schools need is more discipline not more money. Whatever happened to good old reading, writing and arithmetic? It seems like everyday I see the children at College Place Elementary going home early or there is no school at all for some reason. The hours are short and I’ll bet there’s not much homework. My wife and I spend time in Dalian, China and I’ve been tutoring a young there girl for several years via wechat. There is absolutely no comparison to the amount of time and effort she and her classmates spend studying and attending class compared to what I see here. It’s sad. We better wake up to the fact that it isn’t the fancy buildings or latest equipment that results in a good education. It’s old fashioned discipline and hard work. I’m tired of my taxes going up year after year to support new infrastructure that likely won’t improve test scores. Vote No!

      1. “Old fashioned discipline” AKA “The beatings will continue until morale improves” Though I guess in this case test scores instead of morale?

        Your age is showing. In most cases more discipline is not what’s needed in schools. There is study after study that shows having discipline does not make it better, but in fact makes schools a less desirable place for children to want to be and has the opposite effect on their education.

        Trying to compare our children to China is just ridiculous. Those kids are overworked and punished if they don’t meeting stringent expectations. That is NOT how children should live. More homework is also not the solution, as studies have actually proven that it does not help education either. In fact, as a parent I am already irritated by the amount of homework that my children receive. By the time that they get home, start homework, break for dinner, finish homework, and shower then it’s already time for bed. With less homework they could spend time interacting with me and discussing the things they learned that day, which actually has a greater impact on educational success.

        You know what else has an impact on classroom success? Smaller classroom sizes. Kids are getting packed into rooms with teachers at a 30:1 ratio, which makes it extremely difficult for teachers to give 1-on-1 time with students. If a student begins to struggle in an area they end up falling behind even further because they aren’t able to get the help they need so they can catch up. No amount of discipline or homework will solve that.

        1. The 2020 Bond Committee Report is incomplete. It did not include a “do-nothing alternative” which is standard in engineering economics and analysis. The reports should have included an economic analysis with the option of maintaining the buildings per their original designs with no upgrades. The school district should also make the full report available to the public online.

          I’m an engineer and spent the last 17 years in the federal government managing the design and construction of health care facilities and evaluating older healthcare facilities for replacement. I read the 2020 Bond and Enrollment committee reports and called the school district to discuss the recommendations with one of the committee members. I wanted to obtain all of the condition assessments for the replacement schools because they were not included with the reports and because the one sample report that was included for Oak Heights Elementary indicated many of the building elements ratings were 90% Good with several rated 100% Excellent. I was curious because I frequently walk my dog on weekends around the College Place schools and noticed the structures and exteriors are in pretty good shape.

          For Oak Heights, notwithstanding the domestic water distribution, the sample report indicates most of the building is in good to excellent condition with a few issues that might be easily resolved such as rebalancing the HVAC system and some painting. When I asked if the other assessments were similar the committee member responded that the buildings were “not in terrible condition.” The reasoning behind the replacements appears to be that upgrading them to current standards would cost more than building new facilities and I agree that is likely the case.

          The committee member offered to make the conditions assessments and full report available to me but I would have to go to the office to look at them (again they should make the full report public and easily accessible online). I asked if the reports included a cost benefit analysis of replacement versus upgrading and the committee member confirmed that was the case. It should be noted however, that the option to use the buildings “as is” with only required repairs to maintain them per their original basis of design was not presented in the reports (the do-nothing alternative was only discussed). So, for example, at Oak Heights, the do-nothing alternative might include rebalancing the HVAC system because some rooms are hot and cold, unblocking blocked grilles, repairing the existing domestic water system and painting the ceilings where stains occurred from roof leaks. Note the roof is now in 100% excellent condition. Go read the report. The assessment is at the end if you want to scroll down to it.

          The do-nothing alternative would simply be implementing typical maintenance and improvements items versus the upgrades desired by the school district. It would exclude items such as electronic access (security upgrades), upgrading the doors to meet ADA, space for intervention programs and meetings, increasing the number of bathrooms, adding room for cafeterias etc.

          The point is the do-nothing option combined with adding new schools would reduce class size. Given the school district is proposing 17 replacement schools at a cost of nearly 1.5 billion dollars it is incumbent upon them to provide a complete engineering analysis for the public to evaluate and that includes a do-nothing alternative (show us the math and why it is not viable). It very well may be their decision to replace the schools is the most economically viable, but without a complete report how is the public to know? For that reason, I am voting no.

          With respect to my comments regarding discipline I was referring to academic discipline, not physical. And no, they don’t punish their students in China for not doing well. Good luck when your kids get to the U.W. 100 level classes with 200 students. They will have to compete with the Chinese school system there and at their future jobs. If you think comparing our system to theirs is ridiculous you are naïve. You are showing your age.

  2. Edmonds School District now wants
    $96,000,000 and $600,000,000 ! When will they be held accountable for their spending? Millions spend on new buildings wasn’t enough?

    1. Turns out they originally wanted 1.7 billion, so that means after this levy passes they will get to work on the next couple of levies to get the rest of the money.

  3. This is the same school district that laid off teachers? I may be wrong (and happy to be corrected if so), but I see nothing in the language about recruiting and retaining well-trained teachers. We should be spending millions making sure that teaching is a highly-regarded and well-supported profession that talented and caring people actually want to go into, and that they can sustain for years without burn-out. Kids can learn just fine in slightly shabby buildings (and let’s be clear, the existing buildings are hardly health hazards), and without laptops (rich folks tend to send their kids to low-tech schools). Kids *can’t* learn without great teachers, and teachers can’t be amazing without support. ESD’s priorities seem a bit topsy-turvy to me.

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