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Families and Education Levy

The City’s primary role in the education of Seattle schoolchildren revolves around the Families and Education Levy. Using revenue from a voter-approved supplemental property tax, the Levy funds a variety of support services to improve the academic achievement of struggling students.

First initiated by Mayor Norm Rice and passed by voters in 1990, the 7-year Levy has been renewed twice by Seattle residents. The Levy approved by voters in 2004 placed a much greater emphasis on academic achievement than the first two. It also placed greater importance on accountability and outcome measurement. The City’s Office for Education, housed in the Department of Neighborhoods, administers Levy programs and tracks results.

In the first quarter of 2011, the City Council is considering a proposal to place a renewal of the Levy before voters on the November ballot. The proposed legislation is the result of eight months of work by a 24-member levy advisory committee and excellent collaboration between the Council, the Mayor and the School District. The committee unanimously recommended renewing and enhancing the City's investment in education.

The Committee adopted a single, overarching goal:
All students in Seattle will graduate from high school ready for college and career.

As proposed, the Levy would collect $231 million in Seattle property taxes over the next seven years, a cost of $124 (about $10 per month) to the homeowner of the average assessed residential value of $462,045 in 2012.

A final decision by the Council on the measure to send to voters is scheduled to occur in late March or early April.

Committee Information
The Need
  • Only 67% of the Seattle Public Schools’ Class of 2010 graduated on-time. For African Americans the graduation rate was just 53%, and it was well under 50% for Latinos and Native Americans. Of those who graduated, only 46% were prepared for admission to a four-year college.
  • Academic achievement gaps in Seattle Public Schools are staggering, even at a young age.
    • In 2010, almost 90% of white students and students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds were reading at grade level in 3rd grade, compared to barely half of African American and Latino students and students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.
    • Less than 30% of African American and English Language Learners performed at grade level in 4th grade math, compared to almost 80% of white students.
  • School reports released for the first time this past fall show great disparities in academic outcomes.  Thirteen schools were found to have poor academic performance overall as well as low academic growth—in other words, they are not improving. All but one of these are elementary schools and all but one are located south of the ship canal. Nearly half are concentrated in southeast Seattle neighborhoods. 
  • A good education is increasingly necessary for a living-wage job and an educated workforce is critical for a strong and growing regional economy.
    • A study by Georgetown University reports that by 2018, 67% of all jobs in Washington State will require some form of post-secondary education.
    • Individuals with only a high school diploma are twice as likely to be unemployed than those with at least a bachelor’s degree. Most individuals with only a high school degree can expect to struggle to make a living wage – they earn 39% less than those with a college degree. A high school dropout earns well less than halfthat of a college graduate.
Levy Programs

Using researched-based best practices, the Levy proposal seeks to reduce the academic achievement gap by targeting the students and schools that need the most help. The renewed Levy would provide a spectrum of support interventions, including (but not limited to):

  • early learning for pre-kindergartners;
  • focused academic support for children who have fallen behind at key school transition points;
  • school-based health centers proven to keep kids in class; and
  • case management services to families who need extra help negotiating the education system.
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