Just because you hear it repeated, doesn’t make it true. We rounded up another ten frequently-seen critiques of our district for another round of…

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The School Board is going to take the bond money and use it to finance a secret swimming pool!

File this one under, “we wish we were making this up.” First, there is no pool on the 2019 bond. Second, there was no pool on either of the 2018 bonds. There has been a pool on Bethel bonds four times in the past: 1980, 1993 and twice in 2016. All four of those bonds failed. And just to be clear, one more time, there is no pool on the 2019 bond, and the School Board has no intention of lying to the community to fund a swimming pool, secret or not.

I heard that more than 83% of Bethel parents did not vote in the February 2018 election, and only 35% of parents voted in the November election.

According to data shared with us from the Bethel Citizens Committee for School Support, this is true. While 35% was an increase from February, we’d like to see even more parents making their voices heard.

Bethel already receives money from new construction impact fees. Use those to build new schools!

We wish those fees were enough to do that. Impact fees are charged at time of the building permit (so only new housing). This year, the fee per new house is $3,577 for a single family home and $1,886 for multi-family. It is nowhere near enough money to build a new school, let alone all the work that needs to be done in our district.

I just rent my house, so I can’t vote in the election.

This is absolutely not true. You do not need to own property to vote. You just need to be registered to vote.

You mismanage the money the state sends you!

We see this claim all too frequently with no facts (or even specific allegations) to back it up. Here are some facts. In regards to our budget for the 2017–18 school year:

78.87% went directly into the schools to support kids

5.84% went into custodial, maintenance and grounds

5.58% went into transportation

5.29% went into central office administration

3.01% went into Child Nutrition Services

1.41% went into paying our utility bills

Along with that, we have a decade-long record of clean audits from the state, and all of our 2001 and 2006 bond projects came in on-time (or early) and on (or under) budget.

We also do our best to help our taxpayers out as we can. In 2014 we took advantage of record-low bond rates and refinanced a portion of our outstanding bonds, resulting in a savings of almost $7 million for taxpayers. In 2016 we had another refinancing with another savings of $1.5 million over four years.

If you have a serious claim about financial mismanagement, please notify the School Board. If you are using the term “mismanagement” to indicate something else, please knock it off.

Going to year-round school was a scare tactic, it will never happen.

We wish this were true. Unfortunately, it has happened before, and it could happen again. Bethel was a multi-track, year-round district from 1974–1981 and we could be starting again in the fall of 2021. The community-led Long Range Facilities Task Force is scheduled to make their final recommendations to the School Board in March. As of the time of this writing, multi-track, year-round schools are still one of the front runners for solving overcrowding if new schools aren’t built soon.

Bethel so dumb. Why don’t you all build schools big enough to accommodate future growth?

We would build larger schools but we don’t have the money to do it. The state’s funding model does not authorize funding assistance until there is a significant number of “unhoused students.” Combine the need for classrooms for those unhoused students along with our rapid population growth, and you get 201 portable classrooms. The other option we have is to build new schools without state assistance funds, which would create a much larger tax burden on local residents.

Why don’t you use the Pierce County Skills Center to house students?

While Bethel is the host district for the Pierce County Skills Center, it has to support students from all participating school districts in the county. Skills centers provide instruction in preparatory programs that are either too expensive or too specialized for school districts to operate individually. Currently, there are 14 skills centers in Washington state.

The Pierce County Skills Center serves students from 10 school districts: Bethel, Eatonville, Fife, Franklin Pierce, Orting, Steilacoom, Sumner, Tacoma, University Place and White River.

More than 51% of PCSC students are from our high schools.

Why does it cost so much to build schools?

Because construction costs aren’t cheap, and they’re not getting any cheaper. We must follow state law in regards to the construction of educational spaces. We also have to pay Prevailing Wage. Prevailing Wage is defined as the hourly wage, usual benefits and overtime, paid in the largest city in each county, to the majority of workers, laborers, and mechanics. Prevailing wages are established, by the Department of Labor & Industries, for each trade and occupation employed in the performance of public work. They are established separately for each county, and are reflective of local wage conditions.

Bethel has enough money, stop asking for more! Take your marijuana, lottery and McCleary money and use it to build new schools.

There’s a lot to break down here. In short:

Washington is projected to rake in more than $730 million in marijuana revenue over the 2017–19 biennium, but none of that money is specifically earmarked to pay for the construction of public schools.

Other than a small portion that is allocated to the state’s General Fund, none of Washington’s lottery revenue is used for K-12 public education.

Finally, the McCleary decision was never intended to fund school construction. Local school districts and their voters are still responsible for the majority of the cost to build new schools and fix old ones through local School Construction Bonds.

For more information on these topics, and other frequently asked questions, visit our Bond FAQ page. You can also check out our original Bethel Mythbusters article here.

Helping kids learn is the driving force behind all we do in the Bethel School District.

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