From Greenacres to Fairfield – and most points in between – community-based campaigns are getting the word out about education funding.
With a quartet of school districts from the greater Spokane Valley area appearing on next month’s special election ballot, citizen volunteers are planting signs, making phone calls and handing out flyers – all in the name of passing a levy vote that generally accounts for around one quarter of a district’s budget.
Ruth Gifford, co-chair of the citizens committee on behalf of the East Valley levy, says nearly 200 people will donate time to the cause. Volunteers have been calling voters since before the holiday break to provide information about the importance of the levy. Yard signs and banners should be in place by this weekend, Gifford said.
Ballots for the Feb. 14 election are expected to go in the mail by Jan. 27.
Recent East Valley concerts and athletic events have included teachers, coaches and administrators reminding attendees that such programs are supported by levy dollars. Fact sheets have also been distributed at various gatherings.
“We’re just trying to convey the message that this is really important,” said Gifford. “We want to make sure people know this is a renewal, not a new tax. We’re asking people to talk with their neighbors about it.”
Doorbelling will not be integrated into the East Valley campaign as in previous years, Gifford added. The district passed its last replacement maintenance and operations levy in 2009 with a 58 percent margin, but a $33.75 million capital facilities bond failed last April with only 39 percent of the vote.
In the Central Valley School District, levy advocates are hoping for a rerun of the 2009 election that saw over 62 percent of voters cast ballots in support of the replacement tax. As in other districts, levy funds in Central Valley go toward a variety of expenditures, including textbooks, transportation, special education, utilities, staff salaries and programs like sports and music.
“This levy is about maintaining quality education,” said CVSD spokeswoman Melanie Rose. “These are vital funds.”
The kickoff for the CV Citizens for Education group took place on Thursday with plans to distribute flyers, knock on doors and utilize social media to market the message.
“We want to utilized the most effective methods,” said Amy Mason, a member of the Central Valley school board who is serving as co-chair of the citizens group.
Mason said levy supporters are optimistic despite the disappointment of a capital facilities initiative last February that only garnered 47 percent of the vote. Levy proceeds in Central Valley account for $24 million, or 22 percent of the overall budget.
Mason said the citizens group hopes for a turnout of 240 volunteers for its first weekend of doorbelling later this month.
“There are people who think the levy pays for extras, but it is essential” Mason said. “It’s really about funding quality schools.”
CVSD will sponsor a series of community open houses to discuss the levy, beginning with a gathering at Central Valley High School on Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 6:30 p.m. More information is included on the district’s Web site – www.cvsd.org.
West Valley hosted a budget workshop on Tuesday with administrators providing information on the maintenance and operations levy as well as an accompanying replacement technology levy. Brian Liberg, co-chair of the WVSD citizens campaign, said the group is hoping for 300 volunteers to help with door-to-door canvassing on Saturday, Jan. 21.
“Out goal is 7,000 homes,” Liberg said. “We want to talk to voters before they get their ballots.”
In the Freeman School District, the rural composition of the area can present challenges in reaching voters. Some 1,500 households in the district are parceled out over 150 square miles.
Kate Coomes, co-chair of the citizens group, said the campaign will not include yard signs or bumper stickers, but focus on “targeting people who have supported education in the past.”
“We just want to be honest and concise,” Coomes said. “It should be a clear message. You look at the first thing in the (district) mailer, it says this is not a new tax, this funds education.”