WALLA WALLA - In the coming weeks, voters will decide the fate of our public schools replacement levy. If passed, the levy will continue important funding for programs and teachers not supported by the state of Washington - athletics, music, performing arts, Future Farmers of America and many others.
It is not a new tax on community members. Rather, the levy merely continues current funding much needed by the schools.
In writing about the levy, we believe that voters should ratify it. Doing so will continue very important programs for our students, schools and our community.
By rejecting it, we run the very real risk of severely weakening our schools, increasing the rates of school dropout, and hurting Walla Walla businesses and organizations seeking to bring talented people to live and work in our community.
The programs, teachers and coaches supported by the levy's funds play integral roles in lives of our children and grandchildren. They model and teach leadership, encourage participation in and appreciation of the performing arts, improve fitness and athletic ability and introduce students to a wide range of career opportunities and skills.
Yet, the impact of these programs far exceeds what students who participate in the programs learn. Their activities effectively weave students into the social and academic fabric of their schools.
In doing so, they improve the academic performance of many of our children while strengthening their attachment to their teachers and the pro-social values that our schools promote.
Further, the discipline of after-school practices, events and performances fosters students' self-confidence, reinforces the importance of attending classes and ultimately ensures that many remain in school through graduation.
Although not purely academic in focus, the programs offer balance in students' school experiences that aids in their academic and personal development.
Strong public schools benefit not only children in the Walla Walla Valley; they also are magnets drawing successful businesses, talented workers and community leaders to our area. Businesses looking to move to new areas seek communities with strong schools for the families of their employees.
Well-funded schools with diverse programs and opportunities for students are equally important to individuals considering moves with their families. Each of our colleges aggressively recruits exceptional faculty and staff from across the state and country.
Like many of the businesses in our community, we seek people who will strengthen and advance our institutions and who will play critical roles in Walla Walla and College Place. Without strong public schools, recruiting talented employees proves very difficult. Thus, adequate funding for our schools is as important to every business and organization in the Walla Walla Valley as it is to our children.
This represents a critical moment for Walla Walla Public Schools. We recently recruited an energetic, bright and exceptional superintendent in Mick Miller. Walla Walla should embrace his leadership and the excellent team of administrators he has appointed and the many teachers who dedicate themselves and their time to our sons and daughters and our grandsons and granddaughters. All need our support.
Finally, the world these students will inherit when they become adults will be far different than the world we now know; people will be more connected through technology, environmental issues will be more complex, our economy will depend even more heavily on global trends, and many of the jobs they will hold do not now exist.
Our schools must prepare them to adapt to and live successfully in this new world. Without adequate funding, our schools face impossible obstacles in preparing them adequately.
We urge passage of Walla Walla Public Schools levy. By passing it, we promise a much brighter future for our children, our schools and teachers, our businesses and our hope for an even stronger Walla Walla in the years ahead.
George Bridges is president of Whitman College, Steve VanAusdle is president of Walla Walla Community College and John McVay is president of Walla Walla University.