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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Guest opinion: School district levies and bonds are crucial investment in community’s future

Adam Swinyard, John Parker and Travis Hanson

The three of us write this message with sincere gratitude for the ongoing commitment to public schools.

We do so on our own behalf and not on behalf of the school districts whom we serve as superintendents. Our region has a rich history of commitment to providing a well-rounded education for all students, and we are thankful for the enduring support that has shaped the success stories of countless individuals who have passed through our schools. Your past support and your future commitment are deeply appreciated. Education is not merely an expense; it is a strategic investment in our future.

Approximately 90% of youth ages 5-17 in Washington benefit from a public school experience. These students are the future leaders, public servants, health care providers, mechanics, educators and more. They will be called upon to fix the gas leak outside your home, repair brakes or help you invest your money wisely. Some may even be in the ambulance during your spouse’s emergency or providing lifesaving care as nurses or doctors. Others may end up teaching your children and grandchildren, caring for them and equipping them to chase their hopes and dreams. Let us renew our commitment to educating them well, recognizing that they will be a part of all our lives for years to come.

Schools throughout Spokane County are dealing with unprecedented levels of student needs as our communities grapple with pervasive issues. Significant declines in school attendance rates, a marked increase in mental health issues, and wide variations in academic preparedness have all contributed to an increasingly challenging school environment. Despite these complexities, our districts continue to post graduation rates at or above 90%.

The data and research are indisputable: A high school diploma serves as one of the strongest predictors to post-secondary success, whether entering the workforce directly or pursuing higher education. At the same time, embracing community conversations on how schools can improve to meet the needs of the moment is crucial. Yet to be successful, schools require the support of local communities through levies and bonds to maintain and enhance the quality of education, especially in a time when it is more important than ever.

Schools are more than just educational institutions; they are the beating heart of our community and a vital talent pipeline fueling our economy. A robust education system not only nurtures the minds of our youth but also plays a pivotal role in attracting and retaining businesses. Employers seek to hire individuals equipped with critical thinking skills, the ability to work hard and who can collaborate, all of which are fostered by the very local dollars we receive. The success of our businesses and the prosperity and health of our community are intrinsically linked to the strength of our education system.

So, the question is why levies and bonds? The answer lies in understanding the essential role these funding mechanisms play in bridging the gap between state and federal contributions and the actual costs of delivering the quality education our community values. Local levies are a lifeline for funding programs, services and staff that make schools exceptional. School bonds, equally crucial, enable your schools to maintain millions of square feet of facility space, accommodate growth, provide safety improvements, and contribute significantly to the local construction industry.

Your schools transcend the state’s notion of “basic education.” While lawmakers are tasked with defining and funding a uniform basic education program for each of the 295 districts in Washington, the educational environments and experiences that schools provide are so much more than basic. School districts collaborate with their community to create a truly comprehensive education – an engaging and enriching array of programs and services funded through local levies and bonds.

The quality of public schools matters deeply. The impact of a comprehensive education is immeasurable. Continuing to invest in our schools to secure a brighter future is critical. As communities seek to improve and adapt, they must also recognize the importance of continued investment. The collective commitment to education will shape the leaders and caregivers of the future. That commitment will ensure our schools remain pillars of strength, resilience and opportunity for generations to come.

Adam Swinyard is superintendent of Spokane Public Schools; John Parker is superintendent of the Central Valley School District; and Travis Hanson is superintendent of the Mead School District.