About 68.5 percent of voters marked their approval for the heftiest education levy in city history, but thousands of ballots still need to be counted.
Seattle’s $600 million-plus education levy, Proposition No. 1, was approved by a wide margin Tuesday, with 68.5 percent of voters agreeing to the largest-ever education tax proposed by the city.
The seven-year Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Program levy will cost homeowners of a median assessed property of $655,000 an average $248 a year.
As of Tuesday night, King County had tallied 239,382 total votes on the measure; there were 463,432 registered voters in Seattle.
City officials have pitched the education levy as a way to curb educational disparities for low-income and students of color that can appear before kindergarten and follow students into young adulthood.
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“This margin just reaffirmed my belief in the people of Seattle,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “We have a city with a generous soul, and we’ll tax for the things we believe in.”
More than half of the money from the levy — about $341.8 million — will fund the expansion of the Seattle Preschool Program. The second-largest chunk of revenue, about $255 million, will fund supplemental programs and resources in K-12 schools: summer school, four new school-based health-care centers and salaries for family support workers, who help low-income families navigate the school system and access resources such as food and housing assistance.
The rest, about $40 million, will finance a free community-college program for all Seattle Public Schools graduates, one of Durkan’s campaign pledges.
Voters here have favored education levies in previous years. The expiring Families and Education Levy and the Seattle Preschool Program pilot — which will be replaced by Proposition 1 — passed with 63 and 69 percent approval, respectively.
The only challenge this time around, said Durkan, was convincing Seattleites that this tax was a viable solution to the city’s growing income inequality.
Families Yes, the campaign created in support of the measure, had raised just over $530,000 as of Tuesday. Some of the largest contributions came from corporate donors such as Amazon and Microsoft.
Critics of the measure included the League of Women Voters of Seattle-King County and some charter-school opponents. They say the money for K-12 programs could be accessed by the publicly funded, privately run schools, which now have more legal stability in the state because of a recent Supreme Court of Washington ruling that upheld their funding.
Durkan said she was still “not sure” about whether charters can access the levy’s K-12 funds. She added that the city’s legal department is still considering the recent ruling.
Correction: The spelling of Anna Boone and Sabrina Bolieu were incorrect in the photograph cutline.