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FHSD Goes for New Tax Levy, Prop Learn


Credit to Carolynn Gonzalez

Mary Lange speaks at the volunteer committee meeting on Jan. 23. Lange is a canvassing consultant and is leading fundraising with Kevin Supple for the volunteer committee for Prop Learn. She talked about a social media push for educating people on Prop Learn.

By Carolynn Gonzalez, North Star Editor-in-Chief

After the failure of both Proposition Y in 2015 and Proposition Howell in 2016, the District will introduce Proposition Learn on the April 3 ballot this year. Proposition Learn is a 48 cent operating tax levy that will assist the district in remaining a leader in the county. The last tax levy passed was 14 years ago.

“Our community wants us to remain the top-achieving district in the county,” Matt Deichmann, chief communications and community relations officer, said. “In order to give stakeholders what they want, we need this levy.”

The levy will help update technology in the district, increase STEM-related classes, reinstate the full freshman sports schedule and provide assistance for the social and emotional needs of students. The District is also looking to end the two-year salary freeze for its employees, provide more competitive salaries for its support staff and end the activity fee that was implemented earlier this school year. In order for Proposition Learn to pass, the district needs a simple majority of 51 percent voting “Yes.”

“I think this time we have a few things working for us,” superintendent Mary Hendricks-Harris said. “The economy is better, so we’re hoping that will make it easier for our stakeholders to vote ‘Yes.’ The political pendulum is swinging, so last April all school districts that went out for a levy passed.”

According to Hendricks-Harris, the District is looking to build on the momentum they gained in November 2016, when Proposition Howell was on the ballot. Unlike past levies, the District is asking for a smaller amount, with Proposition Y being a 90 cent levy and Proposition Howell being a 60 cent levy.

“We’ve asked for a smaller amount, we’re hoping that will be more palatable to our voters,” Hendricks-Harris said. “Our Board of Education is not only united in their vote, but they’re all advocating the passage of the levy.”

The District is only able to release factual information on Proposition Learn, which appears on the district website and is sent to stakeholders via eNews and postcards. Information also appears in press releases in local publications as well as in paid advertising by the District.

In addition to the release of information by the District, a volunteer committee, composed of parents and teachers in the community, has been established to rally for Proposition Learn. Volunteer groups have promoted previous levies, but the committee for Proposition Learn is taking a new approach to persuade the community. This year, the committee plans to make more personal connections, target parents and encourage people to vote, along with the traditional canvassing they have done in the past.

“We have done some research; we have reached out to different districts on how they’ve passed their levies,” Mary Lange, fundraising and canvassing consultant for the volunteer committee, said at a Jan. 23 volunteer meeting. “One of the biggest items that was returned back to what they did was they targeted their parents, so that is why we’re taking this campaign and we’re going to target our parents.”

Another goal of the District and the volunteer committee is to get stakeholders to register to vote in time for the April 3 election. The last day to register to vote in time for the election is March 7. It is the hope of the District that, with their encouragement, 18-year-old students and alumni of the district will be present at the polls to show their support. According to Deichmann, the district has approximately 44,000 households in its boundaries, and over 8,600 of those homes have at least one parent who is a registered voter.

“The strategy is to more fully engage our school community and why is this is important for us,” Kevin Supple, chief operations officer for FHSD, said.

In the past, the volunteer committee has focused on garnering the support of all the district’s voters and worked to persuade those not in favor of the levies. This time, though, they’ve decided to focus their efforts on those they know are in favor of the levy by getting them to the polls on April 3.

“I know people in our district think taxes shouldn’t raise anywhere for anything, but I hope voters see the wisdom of the passage of Prop Learn,” Deichmann said.

The District believes this levy will be successful due to the smaller amount requested. It is also believed that a better economy and strain due to previous reductions will lend to the levy passing.

“The district can continue to function with the right cuts, we can continue to have school, but what we want to do is to be a great district and to lead,” Hendricks-Harris said at a volunteer meeting Jan. 23.