Last year, they declared a funding crisis. This year, school superintendents around Puget Sound are turning the heat up a notch with a formal resolution, demanding that the state...
Last year, they declared a funding crisis.
This year, school superintendents around Puget Sound are turning the heat up a notch with a formal resolution, demanding that the state Legislature provide “adequate, equitable and stable” funding for basic education, which spans everything from school buses to special education.
The Northshore School Board was among the first in the area yesterday to consider the resolution, with dozens more districts expected to vote on it in coming months.
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“We’re trying to show the strength of the voice and the need,” said Joan Tritchler, spokeswoman for the Puget Sound Educational Service District, a nonprofit advisory group representing school districts in King and Pierce counties, as well as Bainbridge Island.
“I think there is truly a hope that the Legislature will do something about it this year.”
The resolution comes a year after dozens of Puget Sound superintendents gathered to announce the formation of a group called SAVE, or Superintendents Advocating for and Valuing Education.
The group declared a funding crisis last winter, insisting that the state had not met its constitutional duty to “amply” fund basic education.
As they face new state and federal mandates, superintendents across the state say they have fewer resources to implement programs that boost student achievement. From Northshore to Riverview, school districts are steeling themselves for cuts to programs and services next year, even as they prepare the first class of freshmen for a new set of graduation requirements.
“Our concerns have not gone away,” said the superintendent of Northshore schools, Karen Forys. “Matter of fact, they’ve gotten worse.”
Frustrated with inaction in the Legislature, various groups have pushed harder for change in recent months.
A coalition of 11 superintendents — from Spokane to Bethel to Federal Way — filed a lawsuit against the state recently, demanding the Legislature fully fund special education. The coalition said there is a gap of more than $100 million between what the state pays for special-education services each year, and what those services cost districts. A court date has been set for October.
The Washington Education Association — the state’s largest teachers union — asked the Bellevue School District to join in a lawsuit that would demand full funding of basic education from the state. The board has not decided whether to join that lawsuit.
The resolution that went before the Northshore board yesterday demands that the state take three “feasible and affordable” steps toward resolving funding problems: fully fund special education; fully fund transportation; and continue research on a plan that would adequately fund K-12 education in the long run.
State Rep. Rodney Tom, R-Bellevue, described the resolution as valuable and reasonable in terms of its expectations.
“As a Legislature, we have not stepped forward in the past,” said Tom, a member of the House education committee who represents parts of Bellevue, Issaquah and Lake Washington school districts. “I think the sad truth of it is that the only way for the Legislature to fully fund basic ed is for the districts to sue again.”
In the Snoqualmie Valley School District, the resolution will go to the board for review tomorrow. Superintendent Rich McCullough said his district has escaped budget cuts because of an increase in enrollment; for each additional student, districts receive more money from the state.
But the district is effectively “digging into its reserves” to keep its programs afloat, he said.
“We’re burning some of the furniture for firewood,” said McCullough.
Cara Solomon: 206-464-2024 or firstname.lastname@example.org