When we asked this question last year, parents and community members stood behind Kent teachers in responding that KSD’s top priority should be students and supporting learning in the classroom.
Nevertheless, KSD is pursuing a course that will negatively impact our children by cutting elementary staff positions: Librarians who provide key literacy support; counselors who provide support emotional health and coordinate services; intervention specialists who support struggling learners and coaches who help teachers implement best practices.
Yes, KSD is surveying the community about these potential cuts. The catch? To submit your survey, your answers must accumulate at least 60 “points”. Reducing elementary staff, such as librarians, counselors and specialists, is the only way to accumulate these points. This does not truly allow the community to establish district priorities.
Does KSD have other options? Absolutely. In the last five years, KSD has had as much as $15 million more in its “rainy day fund” than the school board policy calls for. Last year, KEA forecast a KSD “rainy day fund” of $22 million, while KSD asserted that the fund balance would not exceed $17 million. At year end, it was $22.6 million. This year, KEA forecasts KSD will end the year with a “rainy day fund” of $21.7 million.
KSD has maintained a fund balance between three and six times the budgeted level and well over the board policy of 5%. What’s more, they spend just 90% of what they budget to spend in the classroom and about half of what they budget on purchased services (hired consultants, attorneys and other outside contractors). Just setting the budget for the actual expenditures would reduce the budget significantly and potentially eliminate the need for cuts.
Families must sometimes dip into savings to cover expenses. If necessary, the Kent school district should do the same.
During a budget crisis, staff members agree that support in and for the classroom should trump new programs and trainings with consultants.
We believe that the number one priority of the Kent School District should be the students. We urge the district and community members to keep cuts as far away from students as possible to ensure that our children continue to have the opportunity for a quality education.