To fully appreciate the need for passage of a local-option levy for the Beaverton School District, you have to consider just how deeply the district has cut in the past five years.

During that period of time — which includes the devastating effects of the Great Recession — Beaverton schools have eliminated $142 million in expenses, lost 640 teaching positions and cut 16 school days. Class sizes in the district now routinely reach into the 30s and 40s. Many children are not getting the attention they need to succeed.

Before it was forced to deal with these reductions in state funding, Beaverton’s schools always had been a point of community pride — attracting families to the area, keeping home values high and providing abundant educational opportunities for students. Today, those assets are placed at risk, even as the state is finally in a position to begin rebuilding funding for schools.

The local-option levy that appears on the May 21 ballot — Measure 34-204 — will keep the school district from having to make additional cuts. Passage of the levy would cost $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed value — or about $24 per month for the typical homeowner in the district. That’s a significant request, but it’s a necessary one for residents who want to protect community livability while also placing a safety net beneath their local schools.

The five-year levy would raise $15 million per year — enough for the district to make some progress in hiring back teachers and reducing the most extreme class sizes. Without the levy, the district would face even more cuts, because projected state funding will leave it about $5 million short of what’s needed to maintain current programs.

The students enrolled in Beaverton schools today will suffer educational harm if they have to endure another round of reductions and the resulting increase in class sizes. The district has done its best to curtail expenses in other areas, such as administration. Its board also has advocated at the state level for policies that will provide financial relief — including reform of the Public Employees Retirement System.

The Beaverton district narrowly lost a levy election in November 2011, but voters in other districts — including Lake Oswego and Tigard-Tualatin — have kept the local-option money flowing.

This election provides a chance for Beaverton School District voters to reverse the downward funding trend in their schools and begin to invest once again in education. They should approve Measure 34-204 with the knowledge that all the money raised will be spent in local classrooms for the benefit of local families.

Contract Publishing

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