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School Levies and Lacey’s Police Project Reflect Our Government’s Backwards Priorities

I was recently working in a 6th grade classroom when a student told me that they tried to end their life the night before. I was the first adult they shared that with that day. Not because we had any rapport, but because the counseling office had sent them back to class to wait until a counselor could see them. After the student told me, I walked them to the counselor’s office, and we arrived as a counselor was leaving for a meeting. I repeatedly asserted that the student needed to talk to someone before the counselor begrudgingly took the student into the office. 

I was disturbed and frustrated at that moment, but I feel for the counselor. They’re one of only two counselors serving a middle school with hundreds of 11-14 year-olds. It is difficult for them to do their job and all that it entails with the attention and care it deserves. 

My disturbance and frustration are directed at our system that does not prioritize the safety of our kids or our communities. A system that creates schools where a suicidal child, with visible self-inflicted wounds and a fear of being alone, cannot speak with a counselor when they ask for help. 

A Banner that Reads "Stop Cop City Everywhere"
Image originally published by CrimethInc. For more information on the Lacey Cop City, please visit

I sat with those feelings just days after Thurston County residents voted on whether or not to fund counselors, nurses, and other school necessities via the school levies. This vote occurs every four years because our school districts are underfunded by the government. For example, Washington state only funds about 55% of the budget for North Thurston Public Schools, so funding the remaining 45% of the district budget is left up to a public vote. 

However, the city of Lacey has asserted on its website that “a public vote was not required” to fund its new $61.5 million dollar police station and training facility. The project’s ground breaking ceremony on February 5th was met with vocal opposition. That opposition has been echoed by residents, students, parents, educators, and organizations across Thurston County who want money invested into the social services proven to make communities safer. 

A closer look at the numbers reveals where the government’s priorities lie. The Lacey Police Department was allocated $16.9 million dollars in the city’s 2024 budget (a number that will significantly increase as the police force is set to nearly double once the new police station is live). That same budget has allocated a mere $1.2 million dollars for social services which address affordable housing, homelessness, at-risk youth, veterans and seniors needs, substance and alcohol abuse, food insecurity, hazardous weather response, and more. Statistics show that investment in those social services, along with things like job creation and healthcare, significantly reduce the very crime used to justify increased police budgets. Many states have invested in more training for their police forces since 2020. Yet, police have killed increasingly more people every year since. The year 2023 was the deadliest year on record with at least 1,340 people murdered by police in the U.S. These statistics question the claim that better trained police are less lethal. 

Many of those in opposition to Lacey’s new police project refer to it as a “cop city” because it is one of many massive expansions of the police state occurring across the US. Lacey’s cop city will create a new two-story building equipped with an eight-lane shooting range, armory and gun cleaning facilities, and simulator and defense tactics training rooms. The training facility is expected to be used by all regional forces. Twelve acres of forest and its inhabitants will be exterminated. The funding for this project is sourced primarily from three different reserves of public money. Federal COVID-19 relief funds are also being used to fund the project. This is an egregious misuse of money earmarked for public health. 

Had the school levy to fund the remaining 45% of North Thurston’s budget not passed, I wonder if the government would have stepped in to allocate reserve money to the district. Or, if the district’s staff and students would have been hit with more detrimental layoffs and budget cuts, a common practice in US public schools. My educated guess is the latter. 

The amount of $61.5 million for police expansion and tactical training was unanimously approved without a public vote. Billions of US taxpayer dollars are being sent Israel as it carries out a genocide of Palestinians despite the protest of millions here at home. Meanwhile, our suicidal children can’t access school counselors and our social services receive less than 1% of city budgets. These are the priorities of a sick society.

We – our students, our neighbors, and our communities – deserve better. We can have better if we organize to build it. Demonstrations are being held every Friday from 3-5:30 pm at the corner of 3rd Ave SE & College St SE to protest Lacey’s cop city. Instagram accounts like @southsoundabolition are online hubs for updates and information. Email to organize. 

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