It’s school budget season. As we at the Kitsap Sun wrote last
schools got a modest boost in funding from the state for the
2015-2016 school year, as part of the Legislature’s effort to
fulfill mandates of the state Supreme Court’s McCleary
What will that mean for your child and your family? More on that
later. First, some talk about school district budgets. I know; it’s
exciting. Try to contain yourselves.
Some members of the NK Education Facebook group got themselves
copies of North Kitsap School District’s draft budget, all 133
pages of it. The budget will be the subject of a public hearing on
Thursday. Other districts have given recent presentations and plan
to hold hearings on their budgets before the Aug. 31 deadline to
What does this mean to you? You’ve got kids to shuffle to swim
lessons, family vacations, back-to-school shopping. Summer’s going
fast. Who has time to pore through 133 pages of financials?
A post from Suzi Crosby, the NK Education group administrator,
inviting discussion of the budget was met with a response of zero
comments in this normally active group. The post began, “Do you
love number crunching?” which no doubt explains the lack of
As the education reporter for the Kitsap Sun, I’ve had to learn
to read budgets, but it took me some time. I had to ask a lot of
questions of district finance officials, and I’m still no pro. The
thing to know, if you are interested in digging deeper, is that
districts are required to provide you with a copy of their budgets,
both draft and final versions. You also are welcome attend school
board meetings and ask questions.
So here’s my invitation to parents: If you want to know more
about your district’s finances and/or how to read the budget, I’m
available at (360) 792-9219, firstname.lastname@example.org or via
Facebook message. Find me by searching “Chris Henry Kitsap
We’ve written about school budgets
twice this month. The good news is that the years of budget
cuts and staff layoffs seem to be behind us for now. As the
Legislature works to fulfill its own goal (and the McCleary
decision mandate) of “fully funding” K-12 education, districts for
the past couple of years have gotten increased allocations from the
The amount each district gets is based on enrollments and a host
of other factors, such as the relative poverty of children at each
school. The allocation formula is so complicated that the state has
an online tool districts use to project their allocations for the
In Central Kitsap, for example, budget officials estimate the
district will see an extra $10.2 million from the state in its
general fund budget of nearly $129 million. The district, with more
than 10,500 students, is the largest in Kitsap County.
Bremerton School District, with about half as many students,
will see an estimated increase of $4 million. BSD’s general fund
budget for the upcoming school year is $63 million.
Most of the extra money this year will go toward an increase in
teachers’ compensation, lower class sizes in grades K-3, and more
money than in past years for all-day kindergarten. So in essence,
the largest chunk of that is spoken for before it’s even released
by the state.
What will this mean for your child? If he or she is in
kindergarten through third grade, class sizes may be smaller but
buildings may start to feel crowded, as the need for classroom
space increases. Funding for smaller classes is higher in schools
with large numbers of low-income students, so if your child’s
school falls into that category, the effect may be amplified. The
Legislature needs to address this increasing need for space in
upcoming years, as it works its way toward a 2018 goal for class
sizes specified in earlier legislation.
As for the impact of class size reduction, this is just the tip
of the iceberg, since the Legislature shelved I-1315, which would
have shrunk classes in all grades this school year. Legislators
have pledged to fulfill the initiative … when they can find a
funding source. And they’ll have to pony up more money to build or
expand schools, or the crowding your kid may feel this year will
only get worse, local school officials say.
“Our burden will continue to be reclaiming space for the
inevitable additional classrooms that will be needed to achieve the
state’s goal,” said Patty Glaser, Bremerton School District’s
As for the increase in teachers’ salary, it includes a COLA and
a temporary pay boost that expires after 2017. The Legislature has
agreed that they need to revise the way they pay all school
employees to make sure their wages are competitive to comparable
jobs elsewhere. And that work is wrapped up in a proposed overhaul
of school funding that’s supposed to take the burden off local
taxpayers. But the Legislature has barely moved the needle on this
task. So as you can see, there’s still a long way to go to satisfy
Money for teachers’ compensation amounts to money in, money out
for districts. So, unless you count happier teachers, you and your
child may not directly notice the impact of this extra money for
Kitsap and North Mason schools.
Teachers are happy with the COLA etc., but they’re still pushing
for the big overhaul that includes major changes in compensation.
There’s been talk among unions about a possible long-term strike in
the fall. We’ll keep an eye on that.
So the bottom line is, districts have discretion over relatively
small amounts of the extra money from the state. When the dust
settles, Central Kitsap for example will get to make local spending
decisions on only about $1.2 million.
CK is considering long-overdue replacement of equipment,
increased intervention staff, new sports and co-curricular
equipment and an upgrade to the district’s internal assessment
system. And North Kitsap will use its $1.8 million in discretionary
revenue from the state and other sources for academic and
behavioral support, technology and staffing upgrades. Bremerton
will use most of its discretionary funding for technology and new
curriculum aligned with Common Core standards.
“We are thankful for the additional funding but believe the
state needs to ‘keep their foot on the petal’ to ensure continued
progress is made,” Glaser said.
Remember, if you’ve got school budget questions or other
questions or comments about Kitsap and North Mason schools, call me
at (360) 792-9219 or email email@example.com. Your
input and news tips are appreciated.
Finally, I keep an archive of local education stories on my
Facebook page, so you can follow the Kitsap Sun’s coverage,
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