A Matter of Choice, Not Necessity

There they go again.  Once more, the Kent School District is claiming a financial crisis, and is planning to layoff dozens of counselors, librarians, and music teachers who provide important services to students.  And, once more, the actual facts do not support this decision.  

The district wants you to believe they are losing $9M in funding, but this is not correct.  The actual reduction in revenue will be more like $4-5M from a $262M annual budget (a 2% loss).  Some of their potential reductions in funding were offset when the legislature raised the levy cap, allowing the district to receive an additional $2.7M. 

While the district continues to cry wolf, it is on track to end the current school year with $21.7M in the bank, which is over 8% of their annual budget.  This fund balance has not dipped below $18.2M at any point over the past four years.  The administration is wrongly claiming that they can’t touch the bulk of this Rainy Day Fund.  But, in reality, only $1.6M of their $21.7M fund is “reserved.” and they can designate the remainder for any purpose they choose— like keeping programs and teachers that help kids.

 Even if the district were to have an actual budget crisis, there are many options to consider that the administration did not put before the board or the public.  The district continues to purchase new books and materials, implement costly new programs, and bring in expensive outside consultants.  Their expenditures on teaching and instruction are already far lower in comparison to other districts than is their spending on administration.  Nevertheless, administrators have placed false choices before the board and community, and they prefer to eliminate dozens of educators who work directly with students.  This was evident in the district’s recent community budget survey, in which all who responded were forced to choose the option of teacher layoffs—the survey could not be submitted and counted without adding in the “points” generated by that selection.

None of this is necessary.   The layoff of educators, forcing families to “Pay to Play” in the athletic program, and other cuts that impact students, are a matter of choice, rather than of necessity. 

Parents and community members who are concerned with the quality of education in Kent, and who believe in the careful stewardship of public funds, should have a voice in this discussion.  You can speak at school board meetings (the next is scheduled at 7:00 p.m. on April 28th at the district office), and can call, email, or write to Dr. Vargas and the school board. Ask them to use the resources with which they have been entrusted to do the right thing for kids!

Mike McNett, UniServ Representative

Kent Education Association

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