The decision by Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Seattle City Council to set aside $7 million per year to provide free ORCA passes to Seattle public-school students is flawed in two significant ways.
First, it wrongfully excludes students in Seattle charter, private and Catholic high schools. In addition to being patently unfair, in the case of Catholic school students it is also discriminatory on religious grounds. The city of Seattle does not have a compelling reason to deny young people a public benefit simply because they have chosen a faith-based education. The exclusion is especially harmful to the thousands of low-income students who attend Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Seattle every year.
The second significant flaw in this legislation is that it provides ORCA passes to Seattle public-school students regardless of family income. That means that Seattle taxpayers will be subsidizing year-round transportation for young people from middle- and high-income families, a dubious use of limited resources.
Amend this legislation to provide ORCA passes only to low-income Seattle students, inclusive of those at charter, private and Catholic schools. Doing so would be better public policy, fair and compassionate.
Kent Hickey, president, Seattle Preparatory School