Opinion Columns & Blogs

School ballot measures benefit students, economy

We urge voters in the North Thurston, and Tumwater school districts to vote for the school bond measures, and voters in the Olympia to vote for the technology and safety levy.

Thurston County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the state, and with that comes the need for ongoing investments. According to the Thurston Economic Development Council, our population is projected to grow by about 40 percent over the next 20 years.

Local real estate experts tell us that when families relocate to a new area, one of the first things they look at in determining where they will move is the schools. We are lucky in Thurston County to have some of the best school districts in the state, both in terms of student achievement and per student investment.

Certainly one should not judge a school’s potential solely by the state of its bricks and mortar, but just like homes, the quality of construction and infrastructure plays a major role in property values. It’s not uncommon when people are getting ready to list their homes to do some long-needed repairs and maintenance. And we know the longer you put off needed repairs — like a new roof — the more costly it can be in the long run.

And today, technology is a key point of our infrastructure. Just like housing students in crowded and outdated schools is not good for education, requiring students to use outdated computers and other technology — or have limited access to technology — is not good for our students and their futures.

The difference is while only one family may live in a home, 1,700 students, plus teachers and community members, use can use a local high school every day. This steady wear and tear over 30 years or longer can take its toll on a school and the quality of learning environments for kids.

We have a pressing need to make repairs and upgrades. So many things have changed in our economy and nation over the last three decades including technology and safety – both of which are major components of the upcoming ballot measures for Olympia, Tumwater and North Thurston Public Schools. Things such as panic alarms, secure entry-ways and upgraded science and computer technology are things our students and teachers deserve to feel safe and stay competitive in today’s society.

And, yes, as our population continues to grow, we need more classrooms and space to learn.

While the state does assist school districts with the costs of construction and modernization of schools, there are not enough state funds to meet the needs of all districts. Proceeds from state timber sales help with these costs, but with continued growth they are often not enough nor do they cover costs for things such as additional classrooms, maintenance, land purchases for future school sites.

Local school district and citizen volunteers have studied their facility needs long and hard over the past several years in determining the needs for the future. These local investments in terms of bonds and capital levies are worthy investments in our future, our community and local property values.

A community is only as good as its schools.

We encourage you to study the issues and vote “yes” by Feb. 11 – our children and community will benefit.

Sen. Karen Fraser, Rep. Sam Hunt and Rep. Chris Reykdal represent the 22nd Legislative District.