Ayn Gailey on behalf of San Juan County Schools | Guest Column

by Ayn Gailey on behalf of San Juan County Schools

We believe our island children matter as much as Seattle’s. If you believe that, please read on. Around 2018, the state made two legislative changes that, combined, caused our San Juan County Island schools to lose upwards of $500,000 annually from our budgets. One of those issues is the capping of the levy. Our Orcas, Lopez, and San Juan Island voters have consistently voted to pass levies — it’s how most schools can afford to run nowadays—but the state voted to cap the levy, meaning that we cannot access the funds voters approved.

The current levy lid for our island schools is capped at $2,741 per student, while Seattle Public Schools receive $3,290 per student. How did that happen? Seattle schools hired a lobbyist and they were able to lift their levy lid. We did not want to burden our taxpayers with the cost of hiring a lobbyist, but we have initiated a grassroots campaign. That means we need everyone to email the key senators and representatives listed at the bottom of this article and let them know that you want the levy lid removed for ALL children in the state, including our Orcas, San Juan Island, and Lopez children. We do have legislators on our side who have proposed House Bill 1244 to make the levy lid equitable across the state. We fully support House Bill 1244 and SB 5692. Special thanks to Representatives Alex Ramel and Debra Lekanoff for their leadership and support of HB 1244 and to Senator Lovelett for her leadership and support of SB 5692.

The second issue we are fighting for is how the state applies regionalization which is the formula used to calculate how much a school receives for teacher salaries. The formula is based on housing prices in a region. In 2019, the state stopped factoring water when calculating distance, which meant our San Juan Islands schools were lumped in regionally with places on the mainland like Mt. Vernon. But, as we all know, our home prices are twice that of Mt. Vernon. This recalculation meant a loss of up to $200k per school annually. Because as we know, the water matters! We are asking our senators and representatives to calculate regionalization more fairly for all island schools. We especially need to convince Senator Lisa Wellman to understand this issue, provide equity, and fight for a fairer regionalization formula.

If you care about our children and these issues, please help us reach out. You can find postcards at our district office, or you can directly write our representatives at their contact info below. And, for those of you who are saying, why should I care if I don’t have kids or grandkids in the public school, please remember that we are educating future islanders. These kids are the kids who will be refinancing your mortgages, serving you at restaurants, directing your non-profits, running for public office, and shaping the future of our community and beyond. Ensuring that they are properly educated and cared for is an investment in your future, too.

Sen. Christine Rolfes (Ways and Means Committee)


303 John A. Cherberg Building PO Box 40423 Olympia, WA 98504

Sen. Lisa Wellman (Chair Early Learning & K12 Ed Committee)


218 John A. Cherberg Building PO Box 40441 Olympia, WA 98504-0403

Representative Monica Stonier (Majority Leader and Education Committee)


436A Legislative Building PO Box 40600 Olympia, WA 98504

Representative Steve Bergquist (Education Committee)


438B Legislative Building PO Box 40600 Olympia, WA 98504

More information, including sample emails and letters can be found at www.supportislandschools.org