By Matt Nagle
Efforts to pass Proposition 1 in Tacoma paid off handsomely on election day, Tuesday, Feb. 11. With 100 percent of the votes now counted, 67.29 percent (19,906 voters) approved the measure, while 32.71 percent (9,676 voters) rejected it. Now, Prop. 1 can fulfill its mission to complete major upgrades or replacements to eight neighborhood schools as well as needed infrastructure, maintenance and Americans with Disabilities Act improvements in almost every neighborhood school.
“On behalf of the students, teachers, staff and the community campaign, we are full of gratitude to Tacoma voters who have come through in such a big way for our kids. More than 67 percent of voters said yes to making sure our kids have safe and quality neighborhood schools for teaching and learning,” said “YES” on Prop. 1 co-chair Willie Stewart, respected Tacoma educator and 2019 Tacoma Peace Prize Laureate.“Voters said yes to equity and making sure every child in every neighborhood school is safe and provides that best environment for teaching and learning.”
The passage of Prop. 1 continues a successful pathway for Tacoma students as reflected in graduation rates reaching a record high of 89 percent, surpassing the state average.
“Over the last 10 years, the citizens of Tacoma have joined a community-wide movement for student success that has seen gaps close and graduation rates increase from a low of 55 percent in 2010 to an all-time high of 89 percent last year. On Tuesday, they voted overwhelmingly to keep investing in what’s working,” Stewart said.
Approval of Prop. 1 was the highest support for a school improvement bond of all the school bond measures in Puget Sound.
As Stewart stated it, “Across the state of Washington, only about 23 percent of bond measures passed on Tuesday (five passing and 16 failing based upon preliminary results on Tuesday). Tacoma voters didn’t just say ‘yes,’ they said ‘YES!’ The 2020 results are the fifth election in a row where Tacoma voters have delivered a supermajority over 60 percent for Tacoma Public Schools.”
Prop. 1 will make needed improvements and/or safety upgrades to all neighborhood schools across Tacoma, including replacement of aged and decaying roofs; retrofitting buildings for earthquake safety; updating fire alarm, sprinkler, and intercom systems used in emergencies; improvements on playgrounds, playfields and athletic facilities to meet safety standards; create up-to-date technology infrastructure; and upgrade heating, ventilation and plumbing for clean air and safe water.
In addition to the 13 schools that have had major improvements since 2013 as part of the Neighborhood Schools Improvement Plan, the $535 million bond measure will provide for rebuilding or replacing these neighborhood schools with an average age of 69 years: Lowell Elementary (1949), Downing Elementary (1948), Bryant Montessori (1960), Fawcett Elementary (1950), Skyline Elementary (1962), Whittier Elementary (1962), Hunt Middle School Phase II (1957), and Oakland High School (1912).
Among the work to be done will be to build up-to-date classrooms, technology infrastructure and science labs; upgrade classroom technology, online digital media instruction and bulletin boards; fix or replace aging school boilers, elevators, and bathroom facilities; replace portable classrooms with permanent classrooms at Bryant, Downing, Oakland and Lowell; and seismic and structural upgrades for earthquake safety. Controlled school entry and access, security cameras, ID card readers for staff access to school and intercom systems will also be installed.
Other basic improvements include exterior building repairs to prevent weather or mold damage; repair aged brick walls, facades and masonry; replace worn out flooring in classrooms or common areas; repaint and update deteriorated walls in classrooms and other school areas; update with energy-efficient lighting and window replacements; installing solar energy panels for long-term savings; and installing energy-saving management systems to save energy and money.
Stewart expressed gratitude to everyone who helped make the passage of Prop. 1 possible. “Special thanks to the dozens of elected officials and honorary co-chairs of the campaign and the more than 40 community organizations that endorsed including the Chamber of Commerce, Pierce County Labor, Tacoma Education Association, PTAs, Realtors, League of Women Voters, Black Collective, Asia Pacific Cultural Center, Graduate Tacoma and so many more. Thank you, Tacoma, for renewing our commitment to helping every child succeed.”