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☀️An Imposing Sun
Friday, February 10 - 2023 Week 6
Has the week tried to buck you off? Hold on! The Sun is here.
☀️School Levy: Yes or No (again)?
The Marysville School District levy is up for a third vote this coming Tuesday, February 14. Though we have mail-in voting, and perhaps many Marysvilleans have already voted, I'm one who usually votes at the last minute. So for those still waiting to make up their minds, here are some details about the levy and some arguments for Yes and No.
As one of the Educational Service Districts in Washington defines, a levy is "a short term, local property tax passed by the voters of a school district the generates revenue for the district to fund programs and services that the state does not fund or fully fund as part of 'basic education.'" Stated another way, levies are voter-imposed additional fees on ourselves and our neighbors to pay other people to educate our kids.
Taxpayers are taxed twice, since the State doesn't have it’s own source of income to pay for government schools apart from our taxes. A school levy supplements by a second, local, yearly tax based on personal property values. The proposed levy is a tax of $1.67 for every $1,000 of property value. (For example, the median sale price for homes in Marysville in December was $605k, which would equal $1010.35 of levy tax per year.)
There has been quite a full-court press of advertising for this third round. Our household has received multiple large, full-colored flyers supporting the levy. Bright signs are posted in many yards around town "for our future" in support of the levy.
Some of the promotional materials emphasize that the levy is necessary:
to keep athletics
to keep the MPHS pool open
to lower class sizes
to enhance school safety and security
to upgrade technology
to improve health supports (such as nurses and “health services”)
to maintain early learning programs (for kids ages 3-4)
to maintain student co-curricular activities (such as after-school clubs)
That said, the pie chart on the official district page has the levy funding 61% for “Teaching + Support.” (This does cause one to wonder, if “basic education” is part of what State dollars are supposed to provide apart from levy dollars, and if the MSD is already getting over $16k per student, then why is the majority of proposed levy dollars still going to the “basic” category of teaching?)
Among those in favor of voting Yes, and who is not directly associated with the school district, Mayor Nehring has made his case in a couple places. Among those willing to argue for a No vote is Marysville resident Katie Gutenkauf.
Last week Mayor Nehring wrote an endorsement for the levy in the Herald Forum. He didn’t say much there that isn’t on the levy website and mailers, though he did add that he’s had meetings with the Superintendent and visited classrooms. He said,
“It is encouraging to see some of the fresh ideas and the new direction of our school district. Staff are working hard to increase student engagement, and teachers in the classrooms are changing their instructional practices to meet students’ academic needs.”
That sounds more like boilerplate positivity and not many particulars.
He also said a bit more in a three minute video endorsement on his Facebook page. “You cannot have strong communities without strong schools.” It’s hard to argue with that, though “strong schools” have been a less and less dependable product of government oversight. In other words, there are other ways to get strong schools. Nevertheless, Mayor Nehring points out that the levy gives a chance for some necessary changes in the Marysville School District.
“I’ll be honest with you, I think like a lot of you out there, we really want to see changes made and improvements made in our school district. And I think we need to insist on that, and there needs to be accountability in that. But I can also tell you that in fairness, the voters, just about a year ago, voted in an almost entirely new school board. And that school board has since hired a new school district superintendent, Dr. Zac Robbins, who’s only been on the job about six months. … And I really believe we need to send a message to our students that we’re going to invest this kind of money in them, and insure that the school board and the superintendent have the opportunity to make some of the changes that they’ve already started.”
Katie Gutenkauf has lived in Marysville for over 30 years. She went to Cascade, Tulalip, and Marshall Elementary Schools. She went to Marysville Middle School, Marysville Junior High, and graduated from MPHS in 2002. She and her husband have two school-aged children. She posted the following thoughts on her Facebook page earlier this week and gave the Sun permission to share it here.
I have an unpopular opinion. I am voting no on the Marysville school levy. And before you cast me into the outer darkness, let me tell you why.
1. I oppose property taxes as a general principle. If you pay taxes on a piece of property when you purchase it, that should be the end of it. If you have to pay taxes on that property perpetually until the end of time, you never actually own it. You're still renting it from the state, which is ridiculous.
2. Marysville received $17k per student in the 2020-2021 school year. SEVENTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS...per student...for one year of school. Previous years it was closer to $13k. They spent the extra $4k on laptops and other tech to aid in distance learning (which is itself a whole separate topic worthy of debate). But even if we go off of the previous year's average of $13k per student per year, that's more than twice as much as I pay out of my own pocket for my kids private school. In fact with $13k I could pay for both my kids and no longer rely on work scholarships and the generosity of school donors to afford it on our single income. I could pay for 2 children fully for the price our local school receives from the government for one student (no more cleaning bathrooms for me).
Of course it doesn't work that way. The state gives the money to the school, and the school does what they want with it. But what are the results? Currently the MSD average testing ranking is 4/10, which is in the bottom 50% of public schools in Washington State (source). If you were working hard to afford the $13k per student per year to send your child to school you'd expect high scores wouldn't you? You'd have some things to say to that school if you were paying that amount of money out of your own pocket.
But because it comes from the government.. you don't see it, so you don't even know about it. And so you DO NOT VALUE IT. And then when they come asking for more money (the levy is asking for an additional $25 million a year, increasing to about $28 million over four years via a property tax increase) they appeal to your emotions. "iIt's what's best for the kids...you want the kids to succeed don't you?" Because you don't know that they're already receiving more than they need to do the job you asked them to do, you concede. Ah well those kids need paraeducators and support staff and after school clubs, right? No. How about we figure out what's causing our schools to rank 4/10 in the state before you try to get more money from struggling taxpayers.
3. I already pay more than we can technically afford to send my children to a school that outperforms public school, hands down, year after year. Why should I have to also fund a failing system that's causing our community more harm than good? Get your act together Marysville. The kids DO need you. They need you to be a better informed voter, and they need you to understand where your money is going and they need you to ask WHY you're not getting what you're paying for.
Vote: It’s Yours to Make
Ballots are due on February 14. If you think the solution to the school system is more money and are happy to wait and see if the board and superintendent will actually spend your money better, it’s an easy choice. If you think the solution to the school system is to rethink the system, and are ready to do hard work with your money for sake of better education, it’s a different choice. If the turnout is similar to last February, only 21% of residents are even going to vote anyway. And everyone can enjoy the midwit meme.
☀️Allen Creek Community Church
by Maggie Rothenberger
Pastor Rick Thiessen of Allen Creek Community Church has always been passionate for those outside the church. After converting at age fifteen, he grew to believe that the church excelled at serving those within its walls, while perhaps neglecting others. AC3, founded in 1995 by Pastor Rick, his wife, and a group of dedicated believers, is specifically designed to reach those outsiders.
I recently reached out to ask for an interview with Pastor Rick, and have arranged a few of his kind answers below.
Our church has always been geared towards that arms-folded skeptic we all know who has rejected faith or never really considered it seriously. AC3’s passion runs through my own gift mix and training which puts a heavy emphasis on making the truth claims of the Christian faith understandable and providing good reasons for believing them. Besides leaning our weekend services toward making the Message as accessible as possible, we’ve done other things to create a question-friendly culture: We have regularly offered at “talk back” time after services, we have a “Ask Anything” BlogSpot on our website where people can literally ask any question they want about God, the Bible, or the Christian faith. And a few times every year, we offer a special class for question askers. We call it Investigations 101, and the curriculum of the class is not predetermined ahead of time. It is created on the first week, when attendees ask any question they have about a thorny bible problem, a theological conundrum, a contradiction, a social issue with Christian morality or how Christianity deals with science, aliens, ghosts or, well, anything.
Secondarily, AC3 is known for an emphasis on compassion ministry, both locally and internationally with our partners. Locally we have historically hosted a food bank and the cold weather shelter. Our concern, of course, is to meet needs the way Jesus said we should. But we’ve found that in our mission to create safe space for investigators of Christianity, we earn a much greater right to gain a hearing for our Faith in Jesus when our neighbors see us offering care in His name.
The church’s reputation has taken a beating in recent years. Public scandals and disappointments with Christians have played a role. The public marginalizing of Christian belief has been ongoing now for decades. And all of this might lead someone to think that the Church is passé and the relevance of Jesus is past due date. These are common thoughts, but they often come from people who have never really considered where all their most cherished values really come from. We presume that a world where things like equality, compassion, consent, science, freedom and progress are key must be a world that is opposed to the world of Jesus and the movement he started. So we feel perfectly justified and satisfied with leaving that in the past and getting on the “right side of history”.
But in fact, if one were to consider where all these things come from, we can chase a direct line from equality, compassion, consent, science, freedom and progress, back to Jesus and His movement. We suffer so much from chronological snobbery. In a historically naïve world, we don’t really understand where our world came from, where it learned its unconscious values, starting with the presumed inherent value of all human life, leading to “human rights” - something so self-evident to us. But before Jesus, “human rights” were not self-evident at all. Everything we cherish, turns out, rests on Him.
So while the Church has proven it is run by very fallible people (as it always has been), somewhere in all its cracks is a glory that every thinking person ought to ask, “where did this come from?” Ironically, when you turned your face against the Church, you may be the proverbial man out on a branch, cutting off the very limb he’s sitting on. Could it be that inside these buildings in Marysville, with their stained glass and strange ceremonies, there is a treasure so great it could change the world even through the fumbling of its public figures and officers? And wouldn’t that be worth investigating?
I think we all can feel, that disconnected from a real outside Source, all the things that Jesus did to change the world for the good, are growing dull and disfigured. Do you feel it? The wilting of our culture? We have everything and we’ve never been sadder? Maybe it’s time to put those pretty but wilting cut flowers back into their native soil once again. I urge everyone to investigate Jesus, seek Him with all your heart, and you may find hidden in a field where you never expected it, a Treasure worth giving your entire life to.
Men make tools to make work easier. Then sometimes they use those tools to make work fun.