EDUCATION

Seattle's $232 Million School Levy Passes, Doubling Taxes As Voters Decide Taxes For Ed Nationwide

11/09/2011 04:21 pm ET | Updated Jan 09, 2012

Voters in Seattle approved of a $232 million education levy Tuesday, nearly doubling the current levy, which has been in place for seven years.

Now, the owner of a $462,045 home will pay $124 next year, up from the current $65, SeattlePI.com reports.

"This Levy was a big ask, especially during these tough economic times," Mayor Mike McGinn said in a statement Tuesday. "Our voters have strongly embraced doing all we can to provide our schoolchildren a high quality education and prepare them for college and the career of their choice."

The levy passage comes amid a financial scandal involving former superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and two other officials, accusing the three of corrupt activity in lucrative public contracts, and after Seattle Public Schools closed for an entire day in August to show the effects of a $1 billion budget cut from the state's education funding.

The school board has also downsized its contingent of elementary school counselors in an effort to close the district's $45 million budget deficit.

But eastward in Cincinnati, voters defeated a levy that would have increased taxes by $243 for the owner of a $100,000, in addition to the current $1,324 tax. Had the it passed, the levy would have generated $50 million annually and funded school technology, building maintenance and renovations, Cincinnati.com reports. Now, Cincinnati Public Schools faces a $30 million budget gap and will likely face layoffs.

While Seattle and Cincinnati targeted property taxes, voters in Durham, N.C. elected to approve a quarter-cent sales tax, which is expected to generate $9.2 million annually for schools. The tax excludes food, prescription drugs, utilities, housing, motor vehicles and gasoline, and the greatest portion of tax revenue -- 67 percent -- will go to save the jobs of 150 teachers and school employees, according to The (Durham) Herald Sun.

Voter sentiment across the country on taxes to fund public education is uneven. Last week, in the nation's only statewide tax vote, Colorado voters defeated a measure that would have generated $3 billion for public schools by raising individual and corporate tax rates as well as the sales and use tax.

The tax votes across the country come as districts nationwide are facing massive budget cuts, and school programs, teachers and students are taking the hit. A report last month suggests that cuts to education funding are hurting class sizes and leading to cutbacks in art, music, physical education and other elective subjects. Schools are also losing Advanced Placement and foreign language courses as well as extracurricular activities.

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