Archive for June, 2010

What Does The KSD Priority Analysis Tell Us?

June 25, 2010

Once again, here are some important points from the June 2 Community Budget Forum regarding the KSD budget and its comparison to other districts in the area:

  • Only one of KSD’s neighboring King County districts had a larger percentage difference between budgeted and actual spending.
  • The 2008-9 difference between Kent’s budgeted and actual spending amounted to more than $14.2 million.  That’s  the largest dollar difference amoung neighboring districts….by far!
  • KSD is near the midpoint in revenue per pupil, but KSD still manages to have a much larger fund balance (aka “Rainy Day” fund) than any other district in the group.
  • KSD’s ending fund balance asa  percentage of total actual spending at the end of last year was the highest among neighboring districts.
  • That same amount also equates to more money in the bank per pupil than any of the other districts.
  • KSD spends less per pupil on instructional activities than all but two of the neighboring districts, and only one of the neighboring districts spends less as a percentage of total spending on instructional activities.

You can view the entire Community Budget Forum presentation from June 2nd here.  We welcome your comments and questions!

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Could KSD find more money to prevent current or future budget cuts?

June 21, 2010

YES!

While the thought of increasing local levies is not something anyone, especially recession-hit tax payers, wants to deal with, it is possible that KSD could put the issue before the voters in order to save teachers and programs in Kent.  Without a doubt, the voters of Kent have seen in the past the value of education by supporting levy renewals– even in the current recessionary climate.    At  the June Community Budget Forum, it was shown that the local levy dollars, combined with Levy Equalization measures, allowed KSD to make up for cuts in education funding at the state level. 

Despite this fact, the District has chosen to RIF teachers and programs yet again.  This is unnecessary and harmful!  Going back to the voters to increase the levy is possible, but is not necessary to recall those laid off. The cost of restoring all the certificated staff who received layoff notices is about $1.2 million,  and the General Fund Balance will be almost $22 million by the end of this year’s budget. They can afford the recall of RIF’d teachers and staff without an election.   In light of the fact that the last levy passed with 53% of the vote makes the levy a long shot, but one that the District can consider if it needs to.  

Some facts about possible revenue streams that KSD has chosen not to take advantage of to protect the kids of Kent:

  • Total K-12 enrollment excluding Running Start in Kent has changed very little in the last four years.
  • Thanks in large part to the passage of SHB 2893, the District could collect an additional $5.7 million (11.3%) more in local levy revenue next year compared to this year’s collections if Kent voters approved an increase in local levies.
  • The District has chosen to do without $3.3 million in revenue over the last five years by not maximizing the amount of levy dollars they can collect under the law.
  • If KSD does no approach the voters this Fall about increased levy dollars, the District will be choosing to do without $3.5 million in 2011.

KSD continues to say that they have no choice but to cut programs and staff in Kent.  Clearly, based upon the information above, KSD could, in fact, avoid these cuts through an increase of the levy in Kent.  This is not the only solution possible, nor is it the most desirable, but it is an alternative to cutting, and cutting, and cutting some more from the budget in Kent.   Shouldn’t the voters of Kent have the opportunity to choose between an increase in levies and a decrease in education services in Kent? 

You can view the entire Community Budget Forum presentation from June 2nd here.  We welcome your comments and questions!

So What Does The Budget Overview Tell Us?

June 7, 2010

Below are selected points from the Community Budget Forum last week:

  • The District significantly underestimates fund balances because they overestimate spending considerably.
  • The result of the District’s budgeting practices is that the District has ended the last four years with as much as six (and no less than three) times the budgeted ending fund balance– and yet still KSD says there is a budget crisis.
  • Revenue from local levies and levy equalization combined has grown and continues to grow consistently.
  • Kent’s 2008-9 ending fund balance, equivalent to 9.3% of spending, was third highest among 9 districts of similar size.
  • Based on this year’s fund balances to date, the current trend indicates that the District will end the year with more than $21.7 million in the ending fund balance.  (aka “Rainy Day” Fund)  That amounts to 8.3% of budgeted spending, 8.8% of KEA’s forecast of their spending level, and over five times the budgeted fund balance.  That’s far more than sufficient for a District of Kent’s size.
  • KSD’s own forecast (as of April) is that the ending fund balance will be four times the budgeted level this year!

Where are KSD’s priorities when it comes to budgeting and spending?   By spending less than they budget, while projecting with near pinpoint accuracy how much they will take in, they continue to maintain (and even grow) their fund balance to levels well above what even conservative and prudent budgets would call for.  Meanwhile, they have laid off 24 teachers this year, and have not yet recalled all those laid off last year!    Clearly, their priority is not providing the best education for kids.  Teachers and programs are cut, class sizes increase, and the quality of education in Kent suffers.

You can view the entire Community Budget Forum presentation from June 2nd here.  We welcome your comments and questions!

Community Budget Forum Presentation Now Available

June 6, 2010

You can view the entire Community Budget Forum presentation from June 2nd here

(If the link doesn’t work, you can cut and paste the following link into your web browser: 

http://www.kentea.org/public/2010budget.pdf)

We welcome your comments and questions!

KEA Members Save Life of Horizon Elementary Student

June 6, 2010

http://kent.komonews.com/content/he-stopped-breathing-and-his-pulse-stopped

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWBDEU_nUN4

The links above point to the original story and YouTube posting of the news broadcast.

On May 12th, a child at Horizon Elementary School stopped breathing.  Teacher  Beth Lott was first on the scene, followed by music teacher Robert Heyde.  The two teachers performed mouth-to-mouth and CPR until help arrived.  Thankfully, the child survived and is currently recuperating. 

The sad part about this story is that Mr. Heyde is one of the teachers recently RIF’d by the Kent School District as part of their May budget cuts.  As one comment on the KOMO website’s story put it:

Best wishes to Austin for a speedy and complete recovery and yes, these folks are heroes, but one of them, Robert Heyde, has received his RIF notice for next year. Yes, the Kent School District, with over $20 million dollars in reserve, far in excess of their school board mandated 5% of an approximate $250,000,000 budget, has laid off teachers, one of whom I am sure will ironically be hailed as a hero, even by the district that sees no future need for his services. Another sad day in Kent.
Obviously, the KSD didn’t know that the teacher they RIF’d would perform such a heroic action.  However, the story illustrates just the kind of dedicated professionals that KSD has chosen to layoff rather than reduce its ridiculously large “Rainy Day Fund.”  Those in attendance at last week’s Community Budget Forum heard how the Kent School District continues to make maintaining their fund balance a bigger priority than preserving the teachers and education professionals that actually provide the services necessary for the children of Kent.  If Mr. Heyde was not there, would another teacher have stepped in and saved young Austin’s life.  Most likely, yes.  But isn’t it nice to know that Mr. Heyde was there?  And doesn’t that make his RIF even that much more of a travesty?

Community Budget Forum Well Attended, School Board Absent

June 2, 2010

Approximately 100 parents, community members, union members, and others concerned about the current Kent School District budget and recent layoffs attended the Community Budget Forum tonight at Daniel Elementary School.   Based upon those who stood when asked, about half the audience were members of KEA and other employee unions in the Kent School District, while the other half were parents, community group representatives, and community members. 

The Forum presented detailed information about the Kent School District’s budget, spending patterns, and comparisons to other districts in the region.  Additionally, a Question &Answer session provided further insight into the state of finances in Kent.  The presentation was given by Andrea Hardy, a budget analyst and expert on school district budgets for the Washington Education Association.  Multiple guests of honor attended, including representatives from several community groups and State Senator Claudia Kauffman of the 47th District.   Those in attendance were asked to contact the School Board to raise questions or voice their opinions to the Board, so that the KSD’s budget priorities will be changed to put kids first in Kent.

Conspicuously absent from the presentation was the KSD School Board and Superintendent Vargas, who were invited to the meeting previously, but declined to come!  Ironically, the Board and Dr. Vargas decided instead to meet with the Citizens’ Budget Review Committee for a work session.  Members of the CBRC had offered to postpone or cancel their meeting in order to hear what Ms. Hardy had to say, but District administrators insisted that they meet elsewhere as scheduled.  This was a shame, since many important questions and relevant comments were made at the Budget Forum that the Board and Dr. Vargas should have been in attendance to hear.  

Pictures and additional details about the Budget Forum will be posted in the next few days on this blog.  The slides from Ms. Hardy’s presentation will also be made available on the Kent Education Association website soon.  Keep checking back with this blog for updates, and forward this information to anyone you know that cares about kids in this community.