I have heard a passing comment or two recently indicating that many of us, inside and outside of education, think that since the legislature didn’t cut us again this year — that all is well. My response to that is that all is definitely “better,” but unfortunately, we are not there yet.
A little background...
Since 2004, our allocated funding from state and federal resources has decreased steadily. This was in direct response to the problems in our economy, and loss of state revenues. We do realize this hit many of our local businesses, our local government and support services, and families equally hard.
What that meant to the school district is that we not only had increasing unfunded mandates put upon us by legislation, (new layers of required testing, new learning standards, increased graduation requirements, and new teacher and principal evaluation systems for example), as well as increased costs to serve our students, and purchasing materials and services whose prices had increased due to inflation. We were asked to do far more — with far less.
We made necessary cuts that went to the bone in order to balance the books. Charging participation fees for athletics, cutting time allocated to maintain grounds and facilities, cutting time to staff our libraries, putting off curriculum adoption, cutting training for teachers, and cutting pay for employees, cutting 20 teachers and increasing class size for kindergarten through third grade are just a few examples of the very difficult decisions we had to make.
Amidst this economic turmoil, the legislature was found “guilty by the Washington State Supreme Court of significantly underfunding even a basic education — which is unconstitutional in our state. In an unprecedented move, the Washington State Supreme Court not only made this decision, but retained jurisdiction over the case to ensure that the legislature fulfill its constitutional duties, (for more information go to: http://waschoolexcellence.org/the-mccleary-case/).
So what did the Legislature decide?
The Court ruled that K-12 education in our state must be fully funded by 2018. Therefore, the minimum amount over this two-year budgeting cycle needed to be $1.4 billion to $1.9 billion if full funding in 2018 is ever to be a reality. The legislature did begin to fulfill its obligations this year. It must be noted that our local legislators — Representatives McCoy, Larsen, Hope and Hobbs — fought the good fight on our behalf.
After the regular legislative session, and two additional special sessions, our elected officials in Olympia passed a budget on June 28. Unfortunately, the legislature came up short on their payment plan at just under $1 billion statewide. This means that the Marysville School District will be funded at the level it was in 2010, with increased unfunded statewide mandates and increased inflationary costs.
We are thankful that more of our non-instructional costs such as insurance, supplies and materials will be funded by the state rather than using levy dollars. Pay cuts for employees are being restored by the state, transportation will be supported at a higher level and schools most impacted by poverty will be able to have all day kindergarten programs and/or more first and second grade teachers. We are indeed going in the right direction toward fully funding basic education but the state has a ways to go to meet the mandate to fully fund schools by 2018.
What are the next steps for the Marysville School District?
On Aug. 19, our Board of Directors will take action on our 2013-14 budget that both addresses our immediate needs, compensates for the federal reductions and builds our fund balance to put us on a more stable financial footing. We are so thankful for the legacy of support by our community of our maintenance and operations levy, our partnership with the Tulalip Tribes to support all of our children, and for the many volunteers who help us protect the education of our students during difficult times.
What can you do?
Please thank our legislators and Board of Directors for their selfless service to our community. Please continue to be vigilant in advocating for full funding of education in our state. Please encourage our Congressional representatives to fulfill the promises they made to our local Tribes 200 years ago and not reduce Federal Impact Aid. Please remember to vote in our upcoming maintenance and operations levy early in Spring 2014 — the local money raised represents 20 percent of our overall budget. Please stay involved in our local schools — we need you.
Our Marysville students deserve the highest quality education possible. Their time is now. It is up to us.
Dr. Becky Berg is the Superintendent of Marysville Schools. You can reach Dr. Berg via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 360-653-0800.