Your kid, your school district’s budget

It’s school budget season. As we at the Kitsap Sun wrote last week, 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 decision.

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 finalize them.

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 boundless enthusiasm.

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, or via Facebook message. Find me by searching “Chris Henry Kitsap Sun.”

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 state.

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 upcoming year.

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 spokeswoman.

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 McCleary.

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 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,

One thought on “Your kid, your school district’s budget

  1. The column talks to parents, but a large number of people do not have children in the schools. Yet we fund education as part of our community responsibilities and hope we get a good outcome for our investment. The problem is throwing more money at K-12 does limited good if results do not change. Each school district has their own individual issues and problems. School boards throughout the county have delayed needed repairs and capital investments to continue funding areas Olympia has failed to fund. Unfunded mandates from politicians who have no clue as to what is happening on the deckplates continues to suck funds into politically correct black holes. The below was taken from the article:

    “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. ”

    From my tax statements in 2010 I paid $441.89 to State General and $517.80 to Local Schools. In 2015 I will pay $444.94 to State General and $753.50 to Local Schools. State General increased by $3.09 and Local Schools increased by $235.70. Olympia has failed and continues to fail not only the schools, but taxpayers. This is not just a problem for parents, it is not just a problem for kids, it is a problem for every tax paying voter in Washington. Education needs to be paid for, but education also needs to be useful, complete, and an investment for the future. What we have now does not come close to that. When students entering college spend the first quarter taking remedial classes, a problem with K-12 becomes evident. When enrollments decline yet costs to taxpayers sky rocket a problem becomes evident. When school infrastructure becomes unsafe and hazardous, a problem becomes evident.

    All of this points to a legislature in Olympia that continues to be dysfunctional, divisive, and ignorant as to the reality that taxpayers see everyday. At what point will Olympia be held accountable and by who? Taxpayers? Supreme Court?

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