Volunteers ready big push to promote $219 million school bond
March 13, 2012
By Tom Corrigan
At a kick-off in early February, the coming push for passage of a $219 million bond issue was advertised as being possibly the largest campaign ever mounted in the name of the Issaquah School District.
With the April 17 deadline for voting in that election a little over a month away, residents can expect to start seeing tangible evidence of that campaign shortly.
Last week, volunteers should have picked up campaign materials for the first of several planned and targeted literature drops, said Lesley Austin, a former Issaquah School Board member and one of two co-chairwomen of Volunteers for Issaquah Schools, the grassroots group promoting the bond.
Those materials are supposed to go out to specific areas at specific times, according to Austin’s counterpart, Kelly Munn. But Munn said volunteers sometimes hand out the materials when they have the time to do so.
Concurrent with the first literature drop, VIS also will start placing yard signs throughout the area.
On the Web
Learn more about Volunteers for Issaquah Schools at www.visvote.org.
The target is to have the first literature runs completed and the first yard signs up by March 24. VIS has so far raised $70,000 to help pass the bond issue and is looking for a total of $90,000.
In terms of fundraising, VIS is right on schedule, according to Munn. The group hopes to set aside an undetermined amount in order to at least launch a campaign behind an operating levy the school district is likely to put on the ballot in a few years, Austin said.
A certified nonprofit, VIS was founded in 1977 to work within the district to pass ballot issues. State law prohibits school districts from directly promoting money issues themselves. District financial resources can be used only to provide information and facts regarding bond measures, not for materials urging voters to cast ballots in one way or another.
In terms of strategy for its campaign, VIS organizers have called for newspaper and possibly cable TV ads. There will be additional literature drops. VIS leaders also are seeking endorsements from elected officials within the district, as well as from local community and business groups.
Both Austin and Munn are veterans when it comes to Issaquah school campaigns. Each has been involved with promoting every issue to go before voters since the early 1990s. Both initially got involved because they had children in the district. Munn’s interest in education is also professional. She serves as state field director for the nonprofit League of Education Voters.
The league promotes various education-related issues in the state, often lobbying Olympia legislators. For example, the league recently backed renewal of legislation known as WaKids, which proponents said promotes cooperation between parents and kindergarten teachers. The league also has backed the controversial idea of bringing charter schools into Washington. Her employment with the league never has been an issue in campaigns, Munn said.
Regarding the current bond campaign, it differs greatly from previous bond issues, Austin said. For Issaquah schools, this is the first time a capital improvement package is not primarily meant to address issues of population growth.
In the past, bond proponents could simply point to a portion of the district and argue that area was growing in population and more classroom space was needed as a result. For the most part, that’s just not the case this time around. The capital improvements proposed in the current bond package are mostly maintenance issues and replacement of the oldest schools in the district.
“We are basically going to use every resource we can think of,” Austin said in terms of promoting the bond issue.
VIS volunteers and school administrators have and will continue to speak with any community group or organization that will listen, Munn said, adding she figures VIS will have orchestrated some 500 speaking engagements before the end of the campaign.
Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.