Levy funding helps prepare students to learn
Oct. 14, 2021
Battle Ground Public Schools believes every student should have a chance to succeed. Accomplishing that requires investing in not only the academic needs of our students, but also their physical, mental and emotional needs.
Following a series of tragic student suicides several years ago, the district committed to improving support services at all schools. These resources are increasingly necessary in the complex world young people navigate today, including social media and 24-hour peer pressure.
“A key part of providing our young people with a good education is making sure they are ready to learn,” said Superintendent Denny Waters. “The investment we’ve made in these programs is part of the district’s commitment to giving all students a chance to succeed, both at school and in life.”
Local levy funding is critical to ensuring students receive the services they need to be able to learneffectively. Under Washington’s prototypical funding model, which is based on a survey done in the 1970s, Battle Ground Public Schools receives state funding for just 0.34 school psychologists, 1.71 nurses and 2.04 security personnel for a district with over 12,000 students in 18 schools. But education is vastly different than it was in the 1970s, and it takes many more people to meet students’ needs, many of which are required.
Special Education, for instance, is mandated by state law, but required services are not fully funded. In 2020-21, the district used $3.6 million in levy funding to cover the total cost of special education beyond what the state provided. The story is the same for districts all across the state. It is typical for districts to dig into local funding to make up for the necessary expenses that the state does not fund. Without the local levy, Battle Ground Public Schools would still be required to provide special education services, meaning funding cuts would come from basic education. This could lead to reduced access to student programs, larger class sizes, or deferred maintenance on aging buildings.
In Battle Ground Public Schools, approximately 13 percent of students require special education services. Providing that requires highly trained staff including special ed teachers, paraeducators, speech-language pathologists, physical and occupational therapists, interpreters, audiology specialists, psychologists and more.
“Serving these students isn’t just an obligation, it’s a privilege,” said Ellen Weissner, executive director of Special Services for Battle Ground Public Schools. “Since we are required to care for any student who needs special services, a levy failure would mean the district would have to find other places to cut in order to cover the shortfall.”
Meanwhile, approximately 20 percent of students in the district will access social-emotional support services during a typical year. Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) includes school counselors, psychologists, and prevention-intervention specialists. These experts work with school administrators as part of Positive Behavioral Intervention Support (PBIS) teams. They set behavioral expectations, respond to students in crisis, work with parents, and monitor ongoing situations to ensure needs are being met.
The presence of these specialists not only improves the learning experience of students with behavioral needs, they help to create a safe learning environment for all students. PBIS teams let teachers focus on teaching, while potentially disruptive students are temporarily given a safe space to self-regulate and receive the support they need in order to return to the classroom.
“Research shows that strong SEL systems lead to better academic performance,” said Becky Gawenit, a positive behavioral interventions and support coach for the district who previously served as a school psychologist. “You have to have a safe and supportive learning environment, and it just takes more to do that these days because of the societal changes and pressures that kids are under.”
Battle Ground Public Schools also uses levy funding to make sure each campus has a school nurse. Beyond mending bumps and bruises, nurses are responsible for monitoring students with health concerns including asthma, allergies, diabetes, blood disorders, and much more. They make sure necessary medications are kept in stock and administer treatments to students who require it. School nurses have also taken the lead in providing contact tracing and notifications when there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in schools.
The replacement levy on the Nov. 2 ballot is crucial to ensuring the district can meet the needs of all students and continue critical services that allow them to learn and be successful. Without the levy, the district would be faced with a loss of more than $28 million next year, requiring significant cuts to staffing and programs throughout the district.
Battle Ground Public Schools already has the lowest K-12 tax rate of any district in Clark County. Under the replacement levy, the rate would be reduced from $2.32 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2021, to $1.99 per $1,000 in 2022. The rate is projected to remain at $1.99 during all four years of the replacement levy.
Visit our levy information page for more details and answers to frequently asked questions about the replacement levy.