Tacoma set to vote on school bond issue

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by HEATHER GRAF / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on February 10, 2013 at 11:14 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 11 at 6:54 AM

Time is running out for those in favor of a five hundred million dollar school bond issue in Tacoma. 

Supporters believe Tuesday's special election could transform education in their district.

"It's a huge day, I haven't slept for many nights," said Superintendent of Tacoma Public Schools Carla Santorno.  "It's going to take care of buildings in everything neighborhood, we're talking about buildings that are 74 years or more old."

Santorno and other supporters know it's a tough hill to climb.  Voters in Tacoma haven't approved a bond levy since 2001.

Similar proposals in 2006 and 2009 were overwhelmingly rejected.

That's why a group of parents and teachers spent hours on Sunday, taking part in a last-minute campaign to win over voters.

Among the people working the phones was 10-year-old Rosemary Sissel, a fifth grader in Tacoma Public Schools.

"Once my mom told me what we were doing, I was like, this is pretty cool," said Rosemary.

Her job was to call voters and remind them about Tuesday's special election.

"I've gotten a lot of answering machines," she said.  "It's funny because I called this one guy and his wife answered, and she was kinda rude."

Still, Rosemary is not easily deterred.

As she works the phones, she thinks about students at schools like The Tacoma Science & Math Institute.  Their entire school is composed of overcrowded portable classrooms.

"People just think it's about building, but I think it's more than that, it's about helping the students inside the buildings," said one SAMI student.

A group of seniors gave KING 5 a tour of the school on Sunday, pointing out the cracked floors, stained ceilings, and strong odor throughout the buildings.

"It's sometimes a hard learning environment to be in.  You have these great classes, but with all this stuff happening around you, it doesn't give you the ability to learn to your full potential," said student Gregory Smith.

That's all Rosemary and the rest of the campaign team need to hear. 

"It's not just lip service," said Rosemary's mother, Jessica Troy.  "But most of the people we've gotten a hold of have been really supportive."

If the bond levy is approved, supporters say the average homeowner would pay about $58 dollars a year.

Santorno can't think of a better investment.

"We have until 8 p.m. Tuesday," she said.  "And we need your support."

The bond measure would pay for safety, electricity, and security upgrades in 14 different schools. 

It requires a 60% supermajority to pass on Tuesday. 

As of Friday, only 20% of voters had returned their ballots.  All ballots must be mailed and postmarked by 8 p.m. Tuesday, February 12th.

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