School funding is a hot topic because the public has a vested interest in both education and tax dollar appropriation. Funding is generated both at the state level as well as the local level, and while a basic education is ensured, support staffing for extended learning programs come from voter approved levies. Tumwater School Board of Directors voted on and passed a resolution to put a Replacement Education Programs and Operations Levy on the February 2024 ballot.

The ballot levy asks voters to continue the previous levy for four more years with the same estimated maximum tax at $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Between 2025 and 2028, a continuation of the levy would raise up to an estimated $109,703,045 for the Tumwater School District.

a woman hugs one kid and has two other kids standing next to her on a sidewalk
Staffing health positions, such as school nurses and social and mental health support positions, custodians, resource officers and athletics personnel is supported by the Tumwater School District levy. Photo courtesy: Tumwater School District

The Washington State Basic Education Model

Washington state law establishes that education will be provided. The prototypical funding formula stems from student enrollment, which then dictates how many certificated teachers, classified staff and administrators each school in a district receives.

State law also indicates number of instructional hours; that there will be learning standards provided; and that certain subjects will be covered. RCW 28A.150.210 lists basic education subject matter to include reading, math, the sciences, civics, history, geography, art, health, fitness and integrating technology. Additional program costs fall to the responsibility of individual districts.

“I think even at the state level they would agree that there is inadequate funding for education,” says Tumwater School District Superintendent Kevin Bogatin. “The state provides approximately 75.4% of our general fund budget, while our local levy is about 17.3%. There is around a $20 million gap between the state and what our local levy is funding.” 

school band performing at sunset on a football field
As of winter break in the 2023-2024 school year, 1,342 students in grades 5 through 12 participate in band, choir and orchestra in the Tumwater School District Photo credit: John Leary

Levy Funding Supports Educational Program Staffing in Tumwater Schools

Federal funding, local non-taxes and other agencies make up the remaining 7.3%. To translate dollars into staffing, Tumwater School District has 727.05 employees, and the state funds pay for 430.05 of that staff. The funding from the state includes a .6 school psychologist position (the district employs 7 in total), 270 teachers (the district employs 342), and 10.1 paraprofessionals (the district employs 104). Levy funding pays that difference and also pays for safety in the form of school resource officers and health program staffing, such as school nurses, health assistants, custodians, and social and mental health support positions.

Bogatin says that while the state funds a basic education based on a state prototypical model, funding doesn’t cover all the staffing needed to effectively run schools. For example, state funding pays for about 10 of the 104 paraprofessionals that work in the district. It is the paraprofessionals who help in the classroom and work with small groups when students need additional help or their Individualized Education Programs (IEP) calls for additional support.

“It enhances special education,” Bogatin says. “The state underfunds special education. This last legislative session they got a little bit closer, but we have more kids identified than they say that they’ll pay for. So, then again, local levy helps pay the difference. Additionally, there is not funding for transportation. Levy funds also provide enrichment opportunities such as the arts, STEM, activities and athletics.”

When it comes to athletics, levy funds support athletics personnel, such as coaches. The levy also provides staff for programs like the Black Hills High School aeronautics program. Neither of these programs are included in the basic education model established by the state.

grade school students playing on string instruments
Elementary music teachers in the Tumwater School District are the specialists who introduce elementary students to music and teach them how to read and perform music. Photo credit: John Leary

Tumwater School District Music Programs as an Example

Elementary music teachers are the specialists who introduce elementary students to reading and performing music, exposing them to multiple styles and genres. At the end of elementary school, fifth graders are able to join band and orchestra. Tumwater Middle School and both Black Hills and Tumwater high schools have jazz bands that meet outside of the school day, and the chamber choir Noteables meets after school at Tumwater High as well.

“We have a marching band at Black Hills High School, and we have pep-bands at both high schools that support football and both boys’ and girls’ basketball,” says Tumwater district music coordinator and music teacher Andrew Landowski. He shares that music students also have the opportunity to attend winter concerts and festivals. “It’s different each year, but our secondary programs perform in parades, local community events and even travel to Disneyland and Carnegie Hall.”

“I’ve seen the same thing in theater and drama,” Bogatin says. “You have highly committed people doing this work. They do amazing things.”

The Thurston County Special Election is on February 13, 2024, and school levies require a simple majority to pass.

The public can visit the Tumwater School District website to learn more about the EP&O Levy ballot measure. Feel free to reach out with questions and comments about the levy by calling 360.709.7001, email tsd.levy.information@tumwater.k12.wa.us, or mail to Superintendent Bogatin at the Tumwater School District, 621 Linwood Avenue SW, Tumwater, WA 98512.


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