NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, January 31st, 2022

Most Washington voters think upgrading our seismically vulnerable school buildings is a state responsibility, NPI poll finds

A major­i­ty of like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton vot­ers think that upgrad­ing Wash­ing­ton’s seis­mi­cal­ly vul­ner­a­ble school build­ings is pri­mar­i­ly a state respon­si­bil­i­ty that the Leg­is­la­ture should act on, as opposed to a local respon­si­bil­i­ty that should be left to school boards, NPI’s most recent statewide sur­vey has found.

52% of 909 like­ly 2022 midterm vot­ers inter­viewed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute said they think upgrad­ing Wash­ing­ton’s seis­mi­cal­ly vul­ner­a­ble school build­ings should pri­mar­i­ly be a state respon­si­bil­i­ty, paid for with state tax dol­lars appro­pri­at­ed by the Wash­ing­ton State Legislature.

29% of respon­dents said it should be a local respon­si­bil­i­ty, financed by bonds that require 60% affir­ma­tive sup­port from vot­ers at the request of local school boards.

19% were not sure.

Visualization of NPI's school seismic safety poll finding

Visu­al­iza­tion of NPI’s school seis­mic safe­ty poll find­ing (Click or tap to enlarge)

The find­ing, unveiled by NPI at a pub­lic hear­ing in the Sen­ate Ways & Means Com­mit­tee this evening, affirms that vot­ers see the Leg­is­la­ture as prin­ci­pal­ly respon­si­ble for uphold­ing the state’s para­mount duty to “make ample pro­vi­sion” for the edu­ca­tion of all of the state’s chil­dren, as the Framers of the Con­sti­tu­tion intend­ed when they wrote Wash­ing­ton’s plan of government.

For too long, the Leg­is­la­ture has failed to take deci­sive action to ensure Wash­ing­ton’s youth have safe school build­ings to learn in.

But that could be about to change.

SB 5933, prime spon­sored by Sen­a­tor David Frockt (D‑46th Dis­trict: Seat­tle) would cre­ate a school seis­mic safe­ty grant pro­gram to facil­i­tate the retro­fitting or replace­ment of the state’s most decrepit and vul­ner­a­ble school build­ings. The pro­gram would be backed by $500 mil­lion of gen­er­al oblig­a­tion bonds issued by the state that would have to be approved by vot­ers this November.

State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ger­ry Pol­let has intro­duced a com­pan­ion bill in the House.

Frock­t’s bill is notably cospon­sored by three Repub­li­can sen­a­tors: Mark Schoesler, the for­mer minor­i­ty leader, Jim Hon­ey­ford, and Jeff Wil­son. All rep­re­sent rur­al dis­tricts. Hon­ey­ford and Schoesler’s dis­tricts are east of the Cascades.

The bill is also sup­port­ed by Super­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic Instruc­tion Chris Reyk­dal, the Wash­ing­ton State PTA, the Alliance of Edu­ca­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tions, the City of Seat­tle, the Depart­ment of Nat­ur­al Resources, and for­mer Repub­li­can State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jim Buck, who joined NPI in pro­vid­ing tes­ti­mo­ny for the bill.

Hap­pi­ly, no one spoke against the bill dur­ing its pub­lic hear­ing or signed in against it. Six­ty-sev­en indi­vid­u­als, many of them edu­ca­tion advo­cates, signed in “pro” on the bill along with the sev­en speak­ers who tes­ti­fied in its favor.

Pro­tect­ing youth, teach­ers, and school staff from geo­log­ic haz­ards by pro­vid­ing state fund­ing to replace or repair seis­mi­cal­ly vul­ner­a­ble build­ings is one of NPI’s top ten leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties for the 2022 ses­sion, which ends March 10th.

Pas­sage of this leg­is­la­tion would be a huge win not only for Wash­ing­ton’s youth, teach­ers, and par­ents, but for all Wash­ing­to­ni­ans. If prop­er­ly engi­neered to with­stand severe geo­log­ic haz­ards, school build­ings can pull dou­ble duty as emer­gency refuges and com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion and recov­ery centers.

Here’s the ques­tion we asked and the respons­es we received:

QUESTION: Many of Wash­ing­ton State’s 2,000 pub­lic schools oper­ate out of build­ings that are extreme­ly vul­ner­a­ble to geo­log­ic haz­ards like earth­quakes, tsunamis, or lahars. A recent sur­vey of five hun­dred and six­ty-one school build­ings con­duct­ed by the Depart­ment of Nat­ur­al Resources for the Office of the Super­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic Instruc­tion found nine­ty three per­cent with struc­tur­al safe­ty sub-rat­ings of just one out of five stars. Do you think upgrad­ing Wash­ing­ton’s seis­mi­cal­ly vul­ner­a­ble school build­ings should pri­mar­i­ly be a state respon­si­bil­i­ty, paid for with state tax dol­lars appro­pri­at­ed by the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture, or should it be a local respon­si­bil­i­ty, financed by bonds that require 60% affir­ma­tive sup­port from vot­ers at the request of local school boards?

ANSWERS:

  • Think upgrad­ing Wash­ing­ton’s seis­mi­cal­ly vul­ner­a­ble school build­ings should pri­mar­i­ly be a state respon­si­bil­i­ty: 52%
  • Think it should be a local respon­si­bil­i­ty: 29%
  • Not sure: 19%

Our sur­vey of 909 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, Novem­ber 10th through Thurs­day, Novem­ber 11th, 2021.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

More infor­ma­tion about the survey’s method­ol­o­gy is avail­able here.

When we looked at the respons­es by geo­graph­ic loca­tion, we found that a major­i­ty or plu­ral­i­ty say it’s pri­mar­i­ly a state respon­si­bil­i­ty in every region.

RegionState Respon­si­bil­i­tyLocal Respon­si­bil­i­ty
North Puget Sound62%28%
King Coun­ty56%21%
South Sound54%39%
Olympic Penin­su­la and South­west Washington47%29%
East­ern and Cen­tral Washington42%35%

We know that geo­log­ic haz­ards like earth­quakes, tsunamis, and lahars are a fact of life in our state. We know it’s a mat­ter of when, not if.

And, as men­tioned, we know that the Con­sti­tu­tion says it is “the para­mount duty” of the state — the state, not local school dis­tricts — to “make ample pro­vi­sion for the edu­ca­tion of all chil­dren resid­ing with­in its borders.”

Our kids require and deserve safe school build­ings to learn in.

Sen­ate Bill 5933 will allow us to make mean­ing­ful progress in upgrad­ing our seis­mi­cal­ly vul­ner­a­ble school build­ings. It is absolute­ly imper­a­tive that this leg­is­la­tion be act­ed on by the Leg­is­la­ture this ses­sion.

NPI thanks the Sen­ate Ways & Means Com­mit­tee for hear­ing this bill and urges its swift pas­sage. Read­ers, if you would like to join us in express­ing sup­port for the bill, you have until 4 PM Pacif­ic tomor­row to sub­mit writ­ten tes­ti­mo­ny here.

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