Latest Special Election results give clearer picture to school districts struggling to pass measures

Some school districts saw big wins at the ballot box for the Feb. 13 Special Election, while other districts did not get support from voters at the polls.

As more election results were released on Wednesday, the numbers gave a clearer picture to those districts whose measures were on the brink of defeat.

Most of the districts proposed building bonds and levies. When repairing, maintaining and constructing schools in Washington, it’s up to local taxpayers to share the costs with districts. This is because the state does not provide funding for construction, rebuilding, or modernization. 

The challenge is getting voters to approve levies and bonds that would pay for it.

"We don’t have any other options but to go to our community for this type of funding," said Laura Marcoe, assistant superintendent of business and support services for Puyallup School District. 

The margin is slim for the Puyallup School District. Officials said they hope the 2024 capital levy does not fail a third time, as voters have not approved a measure since 2015. The latest results from this special election show its levy narrowly passing.

"We’ve tried to plan both with our bonds and levies several years out before that critical need hits. And we haven’t been able to pass those, and we are here. We’re at a time of critical juncture where we need that funding, or we’re going to start seeing more and more systems fail," said Marcoe during an interview with FOX 13 before the election.

Passing bonds, according to state superintendent Chris Reykdal, is a continuous challenge for districts. In a statement, he wrote, "To unlock access to school construction funding from the state, Washington requires local school districts to provide a local matching share of funds. That matching share is provided through a local bond, which needs at least 60% voter approval to pass."

North Kitsap School District did not meet the mark in this special election. The district’s capital bond failed, and officials said this means restarting a facilities planning process to address its aging buildings.


Washington 2024 Special Election results: See how local measures fared on the ballot

See the latest results for education measures, as well as a minimum wage raise in Renton, for the 2024 Special Election in Washington.

In a message to the community, the district wrote, "Thank you again for taking the time to vote. Thank you to our staff, Facilities committee members, School Board, and the Yes for NKSD Kids Citizens Committee for your work over the past year."

North Kitsap voters said they want their ideas to be included in the planning process next time.

"Sit down with us, talk with us, listen to us, have a conversation. We presented seven solutions and one of them was to have an equity counsel with members of all the different community groups that feel marginalized in North Kitsap School District," said Danielle Rueb Castillejo, a parent with three children in the North Kitsap School District.

Eighteen of 21 bond measures in the special election met the 50% simple majority, but not the required 60% supermajority. State superintendent Reykdal partnered with Senator Sam Hunt to introduce Senate Bill 5823. It would lower the approval threshold for school construction bonds to a simple majority, which increases the chances for districts to pass bonds.

Running out of money to maintain aging schools is leaving districts with even fewer options to address it. Some are looking to other places for solutions, like the Wahkiakum School District which took legal action against the state in 2021.

"There’s been a recent court case with Wahkiakum School District actually suing the state because it has been really difficult for school districts to pass this type of funding. And the State Supreme Court came back and said that it is these types of levies and bonds that are the responsibility of the community," said Marcoe.