Seattle Council Frees Revenues Tied to Busing

November 06, 1991 1 min read

The Seattle City Council has voted to repeal Initiative 34, a measure passed by voters in 1989 that prevented the city government from spending money on public schools until the school beard ended mandatory busing.

The council’s unanimous decision last month freed up $9.3 million in sales-tax revenue that the city had been forced to sot aside under the initiative.

City officials last week said they would use the money to help close a $29-million deficit in the city’s $370 million budget projected for 1992 and to avoid cutting back as severely on police, parks, and libraries.

Leaders of “Save Our Schools,"a citizens’ organization that campaigned for the initiative two years ago, said they would seek to return the initiative to the ballot in November 1992, if not sooner.

Initiative 34, passed by a narrow margin, required the city to pay 6 percent of its sales-tax receipts, or about $4.5 million per year, to the school district if the school board ended mandatory busing for racial balance.

If the district beard refused to end mandatory busing, the initiative prohibited the city from offering direct financial assistance to the district and required it to put the sales tax revenue aside.

Mark Murray, the press secretary for Mayor Norm Rice, called the initiative, which was intended to encourage voluntary desegregation efforts, “a Band-Aid solution to a lot of big problems that were hurting cities all over the country.”

The Seattle school beard was not bound by the initiative and refused to adopt it, citing its likely loss of tens of millions in state and federal funds if it abandoned its mandatory busing plan.

The city council skirted the initiative by taking up the financial burden for many health-care and family-service programs that previously had been funded by the school district.

A 1990 levy backed by council members and passed by 57 percent of the voters generated $60 million over seven years to pay for early-childhood education, latchkey programs, and other city services for children and families.

The school beard, meanwhile, implemented voluntary desegregation and choice programs on its own and reduced the number of students required to be bused by about half, to 1,500. --P.S.

A version of this article appeared in the November 06, 1991 edition of Education Week as Seattle Council Frees Revenues Tied to Busing