One of many vital functions that the Educational Programs & Operations (EP&O) Levy helps fund is access to school counselors and Swedish mental health counselors – both of which are critical for our students as they continue to navigate school and life during the pandemic.
“Many students’ social, emotional, and mental well-being has been impacted by the pandemic,” said Pam Ridenour, Director of Student Interventions for the district. “The EP&O Levy is essential in maintaining this support for all students in our district. Our students access these services daily through a school counselor, Swedish mental health counselor, Positive Behavior Social Emotional coach, or a school nurse.”
There is a gap between the state funds that are allocated for student services and academic programs and what the district provides to all Issaquah School District students. Local levy dollars fill that gap. The EP&O Levy is up for renewal in Prop. 1 on the April 26 Special Election Ballot. The current EP&O Levy, which expires this year, provides 13 contracted mental health counselors through Swedish Medical Center. It also supports school counselor positions throughout the district, and provides more than $3 million for positive behavior coaches. While the state funds 3.5 nurses for our nearly 20,000 students at 27 schools, local levy dollars enable the district to employ 26 nurses, ensuring that each school has a dedicated registered nurse or licensed practical nurse on staff.
“The Issaquah School District has worked hard to strategically align resources to assure that we are serving all students, while providing additional support for those who need it, and crisis response for those who need immediate services,” Ridenour said. “I fear that without this funding, we will see essential mental health services for our students being removed. In normal times, this would be impactful, but considering the extreme needs that exist in our community, it would be detrimental to the well-being of our students.”
The district’s Swedish School-Based Mental Health Counselors are contracted through Swedish Hospital and support the schools in our district, while teaming closely with our school counselors. They provide brief therapeutic counseling and referrals to outside resources when a student or family needs long-term services or crisis care. Having this medical model located in schools allows students to confidentially connect to essential mental health services where otherwise it may not happen, Ridenour added.
The renewal EP&O Levy represents 15.6 percent of the district’s revenue, and is one of three propositions on the ballot; voters will also consider Prop. 2, a replacement Capital (Technology & Construction) Levy and Prop. 3, a Transportation (School Bus) Levy.
The EP&O Levy helps fund:
- Student Services: In addition to school nurses, counselors, mental health services, behavioral and instructional coaches, funds support the 7-period day in high school, family partnerships and equity programs, extracurricular activities and athletics.
- Academic Programs: Levy funds help pay for special education, Multilingual/English Learners program, highly capable program, elementary Dual Language Immersion Program, secondary summer school and Pre-k summer school.
- Support Services: Among the important work not fully funded by the state are custodial services, maintenance and repair, school safety and security systems. Local levy dollars also help cover the costs of student transportation so that all students can get to and from school safely: bus driver salaries, fuel and maintenance.
“I believe this money is essential for the district to continue functioning at the level of service that our students need – and at the level that our community expects,” Superintendent Ron Thiele said.
“These are programs that help support our students’ mental and social emotional well-being; they enable us to maintain the breadth and rigor of our academic offerings; and they help keep our students and staff safe and secure day to day,” Thiele continued. “Many of these items in my mind should be state-funded, but instead they are considered ‘enrichments’ under Washington’s education funding model. These levies are crucial to our district’s ability to offer all of our students the opportunities and resources they need to succeed.”
How to get more information on the levies
How and when to vote
The April Special Election ballots will be mailed by King County Elections to all registered voters in the district in April. If you are not registered to vote, or if you need to update your address with King County Elections, visit their website. Return your ballot by mail (there is no postage cost for mailed ballots in King County) or at any ballot drop box by April 26.