In a letter to the editor titled, “Questions Before the Centralia School Levy” from Brian Moog, of Galvin, a lot of questions were about curriculum or what’s being taught in the classroom. But the most important question that deals most directly with levies was his No. 1: “Which programs (details please) are being cut?”
As a Chehalis School Board member, let’s talk about what exactly levies fund and might need to be cut.
1. Busing and transportation — some funds are used here.
2. Maintaining facilities — when not maintained, larger bills usually follow for major repairs.
3. Paraeducators and teachers’ aides — a most important part for struggling student help who may not qualify for other programs. Some paraeducators can be funded through specific programs, for example Title, LAP and special education. However, a larger number are covered by levies. Medically fragile or students with major behavioral issues may even require a one-on-one (one helper to one child all day). These may be covered with levy funds.
4. Technology — not fully funded by the state.
5. Athletics and extracurricular activities — Athletics build character, cooperation, leadership and teamwork. Very important to some students, not to mention parents and community! It’s part of Centralia’s identity. Activities such as Knowledge Bowl, theater, forensics, etc., are covered here also.
6. Substitutes and some teachers’ salaries — The Legislature decides what “basic education” involves based on formulas. Often the funds to districts don’t cover what districts are offering. So additional teachers for special programs like Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSA), teachers for highly capable programs, reduction of class sizes in grades 4-12, and other additional programs not covered under basic education.
7. Counselors and psychiatrists — basic education may cover partial funds for some of these positions, but elementary counselors are usually the first to be eliminated if they are available at all. We are finding more and more students requiring these services and additional help would most likely come from levy dollars.
8. Unfunded mandates — this is a huge category. These are things school districts must do by legislative action, yet no money comes from the state to cover the costs. I once saw a list of close to 100 things not financially covered through state funding.
These are only some things covered by levies that I realize have already been severely cut in Centralia, like having 90 personnel let go at one time. Hopefully, you now realize just how important a levy is to the students and district. What Centralia schools have been through with two levy losses is tragic. A third would be devastating.