Should lawmakers make it easier for schools to pass bonds?

RENTON, Wash. – We’re learning the details of a $443 million bond measure just passed for the Bethel School District to build and renovate more schools, but in Renton, it's back to the drawing board after the district’s bond measure failed again.

Because more families are moving to the area, the Renton School District asked voters to approve a bond measure to build another elementary school.  While it got enough ‘yes’ votes, not enough people voted overall for the results to be valid.  It was a big disappointment for Renton father Oscar Clark.

“I’m not really happy about that,” said Clark.

We’ve been talking a lot lately about funding for schools from teacher strikes to school bonds and levies.  One common theme boils down to how the legislature controls school funding options.

Rep. Monica Stonier has been trying to change the super majority margin for school bonds for years.

“The super majority requirement is left over from Great Depression age, when we moved from the original position of a simple majority. And since then the voters and the legislature has returned to the simple majority for passing our school levies. I think it’s time that we do the same for school bonds,” said Stonier.

But still, the bill didn’t make it out of committee.  Stonier vows to try again next year.

The Bethel School district finally passed its bond measure on the Feb. 12 ballot, but lost the previous election by just one percent.

“We’re simply running out of places to put kids.  We currently have 201 classrooms we just ordered 18 new classrooms for next year. And we’re actually running out of places to put them all,” said Bethel Schools Superintendent Tom Seigel.

Instead of the wrestling team practicing in the cafeteria, Tuesday night people can learn how Bethel Schools plans to build and renovate to accommodate its growing population.  A new elementary school is priority number one and a new high school is also in the first round of projects.

But for other districts, the legislature isn’t making it easier to get bonds passed.

“I would like you to think about the tax burden this bill will put on seniors,” said Lucinda Kimble.

That tax burden is why Cheryl Crossman thinks some Renton voters didn’t come out for February’s election.

“The taxes are definitely going up. We vote for all kinds of things in this county, for the light rail and the taxes do go up and I can understand why people are concerned about it,” said Renton resident Cheryl Crossman.

The Renton School District says it still needs another elementary school, so expect to see the bond measure on the next ballot despite the latest failure.

Rep. Stonier says she’ll push to eliminate the super majority again next legislative session. She will need a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate for a constitutional amendment, which many argue is near impossible.  As far as the Bethel School District, you can have a closer look at its plans for new schools and renovations at the school board meeting Tuesday at 5:30 pm.

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