Too many of Seattle’s kids aren’t graduating, but we can’t talk about education without addressing equity. This November, we have the choice to invest in the future of education for our youth. More importantly, we must use our democratic voice and cast a vote for education investments that seek to close the achievement gap. The Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise Levy on the November 6, 2018 ballot provides the City of Seattle a crucial chance to invest in kids’ success, close the opportunity gap and make sure all kids are prepared for jobs of the future.
In Seattle, just 79 percent of students graduate from Seattle Public Schools. We know our education system is disproportionately failing people of color and low-income students. As a first-generation Vietnamese woman that grew up attending public school in Seattle, I lost count of how many times I’ve heard that since Asian students have the highest graduation rates the education system must not be that broken. However, this model minority myth is challenged when we consider the vast difference in dropout rates across race and ethnicity; in 2016, Seattle Public Schools reported that under 9 percent of Asian students dropped out compared to nearly 27 percent Pacific Islander students.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We have an opportunity in November to vote for a levy that provides K-12 support to help historically underserved kids deal with challenges they face through counseling and social services, in addition to academic support. We need targeted investments that look not only at K-12 but what takes place before and after.
This levy replaces and enhances two expiring levies – the Preschool Levy, which funds high quality preschool for low-income families, and the Families and Education Levy, which provides proven K-12 support. It also launches the Seattle Promise scholarship program to expand access to community college for Seattle public high school graduates.
As proposed, this levy funding will make seven years of investment to:
● Nearly double the number of low-income children in quality preschool;
● Increase K-12 and community investments, including critical school-based health services, increasing teacher diversity and targeting support for historically underserved students;
● Expand access to college for Seattle Public School graduates through the Seattle Promise College Tuition Program.
We’ve already started to hear the rhetoric that this levy will cost way too much and that therefore we should not vote for it. There is certainly a cost to take a step forward in addressing the opportunity gap in our community.
Because this levy replaces two expiring levies, the additional cost for the typical Seattle household is about $9 a month. That’s a modest price to pay for helping thousands of Seattle’s children to get the opportunity in life they deserve. And for the first time, low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and veterans will be eligible for an exemption.
We need to consider this levy as an investment into the future and hope of an education system that gives all students the ability to succeed. Our kids deserve better.