By Sarah Schrock

Exercise your right. NPR recently reported that despite the Arab Spring, the number of oppressive regimes around the world has risen in the past decade, meaning fewer people globally are empowered through self-governance. Filling out your ballot and exercising your right to vote this week on our school levies is one step of peaceful protest to tyranny.

Exercise your left. Use your left brain to do the numbers. Hank’s Harvest Foods is selling wild sockeye for $2.99 a pound — an average savings of $6 a pound. Figure conservatively, consuming 2 pounds of salmon a month for an annual consumption of 24 pounds per year, that’s $144 in savings if you stock up now. The meat department has hundreds of pounds in the back and the price will stay put until the stock runs out. With a combined levy rate of $0.23 per $1,000 of assessed value, a property worth $250,000 would pay $57.50. So, for the price you save eating wild sockeye from Hank’s a couple times a month, you still come out ahead with money in your pocket.

Liberty Bell High School has repeatedly ranked among the top schools in the state, graduating on average 19 percent more students and sending them to higher education or training. The 2016 class will send graduates to esteemed universities such as Stanford, Dartmouth and Claremont-McKenna, among other prestigious state colleges and universities. That’s quite an accomplishment for a rural public school district. These accomplishments are not serendipitous. Our valley has consistently invested in and supported our schools through local levies, leading to quality leadership, technological updates, and services and facilities that serve our students and staff.

At the elementary school, the maintenance and operations levy will ensure smaller class sizes. This is especially important because, have your noticed how many families are choosing to move here? The influx has led to larger enrollment.  Our K-6 classrooms are maxed out, squeezing kids in while teachers allocate more time to classroom management rather than instruction. Our kids and our teachers deserve a smaller classroom ratio.

Besides voting yes on the levy, you can help out our overstretched teachers by volunteering with the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO).  Jennifer Taylor, the new chairperson of the PTO, recently organized a work space at the elementary school to help teachers with small clerical tasks. Activities like cutting and laminating can eat away teachers’ limited down time. The extra help keeps teachers where they are needed most, in the classroom.

The levies represent almost one-third of the operating budget of the school. Not supporting the levy would have drastic, noticeable ramifications at the school and the local economy. For example, 83 percent of the budget is staffing. Unlike many districts around the state, our school staff lives and spends money here, locally. They buy groceries, gas, real estate, hardware and services here. Putting money in their pockets keeps money in our pockets.

So if you’re wondering how to contribute to a free society and save money, eat Hank’s sockeye, exercise your freedom to vote, and vote “yes.” Ballots need to be mailed by Feb. 9.

PREVIOUSLY, IN TWISP