Posts Tagged ‘School Board’

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.

Community Budget Forum Coming June 2nd

May 18, 2010

Kent Education Association is pleased to announce that it will be sponsoring a Community Budget Forum On the Kent School District Budget on Wednesday, June 2nd, from 7-9 pm.  The meeting will be held at Daniel Elementary School in Kent in the school’s Multi-Purpose room.  

Kent Education Association invites any parents, KSD employees, School Board or community group members, or anyone else who supports students in the Kent School District to attend.  The meeting will include an in-depth analysis of the Kent School District budget by Andrea Hardy.  Ms. Hardy is an expert on school budgets in Washington State for the Washington Education Association.  Her presentation will analyze the Kent School District’s financial picture, its spending patterns, and how it compares to other school districts in the region.  These facts will help shed light on the recent budget cuts announced by the Kent School District, which have led to 24 teachers being laid off, not to mention the cutting of vital staff, programs, and services.   We know that these cuts hurt kids, so we must all ask:  Are they really necessary? 

The information presented at this Community Budget Forum will help parents and community members to ask questions and take action to influence budget priorities in Kent schools for years to come.   The District has presented their budget in dire terms.  Now is time to hear the WHOLE story!

If you care about educating Kent students for their best possible future, you won’t want to miss this meeting!

KEA President Message To School Board Re: Budget Cuts

April 25, 2010

Last year, we heard the district wail that there was no money, but you did have it, and in fact you made over $4 million more.  

This year you say you want a budget that reflects the priorities of the district. A preliminary action plan was developed supposedly to help focus district reserves and put time, effort and money on improving student learning.

Out of the preliminary action plan came the Getting to Graduation plan. A focus on students starting in kindergarten, ensuring that there is a smooth transition for new students to Kent schools and from grade level to grade level. A plan to ensure that the graduation rates increased and students were ready for life beyond high school. 

Add on the other programs and initiates like:

1) district’s move to implement tiered intervention

2) the outside experts brought in for training

3) the training that KEA members spent time at

4) the SIOP books (strategies for teaching English Language Learners) for every teacher and

5) the time and training that goes with SIOP

It all looks impressive and seems to focus on the students, but we can’t judge it by the impressions it gives on paper.

One third of the Getting To Graduation plan requires implementation and work from counselors – but they are now on the chopping block.

Those who were sent to training for tiered intervention – are now on the chopping block.

Those who are to provide training, strategies for teaching and best practices for student learning – are now on the chopping block.

The people who provide additional literacy and math support, another part of the Preliminary Action Plan – are now on the chopping block.

It is inconceivable that the resources used to develop this plan, pay for outside experts for training, train staff for implementation and monitoring was wasted.

The very people that the district counts on to do the training and implementation are now on the chopping block.

It is difficult to improve learning conditions for students when teachers, counselors, and support staff will not be available for students. If the district really wants to focus on student learning and success, then they need to find a way to ensure that no cuts affect student learning.

Lisa Brackin-Johnson

KEA President

A Matter of Choice, Not Necessity

April 25, 2010

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

Board Votes To Approve Budget Sham

April 21, 2010

Despite the presence of over 200 passionate KEA members at Wednesday’s special session of the School Board on the 2010-11 budget, the KSD Board has voted to authorize the $9 million in budget cuts that will mean the elimination of 60 certificated positions, elementary music programs, librarians, IT professionals, and counselors at all levels.  While the Board did also move to reduce the “Rainy Day” fund by a small amount, it still lacked the intestinal fortitude to use the money they have been hoarding for the last several years to save vital jobs and programs.  Once again, their bond rating was deemed more important than the welfare of Kent kids.  The bright side is that new Board member Karen DeBruler voted against the cuts, and several Board members did express anger and frustration at having to make the decision due to unfunded state and federal mandates.  To many in Kent, however, these words are hollow and empty, devoid of meaning or significance when the final vote was taken and the cuts were approved.

For more than an hour, KEA members spoke with both passion and emotion about the impact these cuts will have not just on themselves, but on the students they work with each day.  Several painted a real and clear picture of the impact these cuts will have on students immediately next year.  Others, including several Kent Education Association officers and representatives, spoke about how the KSD consistently spends less per pupil than surrounding districts, that the KSD’s “Rainy Day” fund continued to grow even after last year’s budget crisis and strike, and how the KSD budget is filled with hidden dollars that go unspent from year to year. 

Their words seemed to have some impact, but not as much as was hoped.  What will happen in the upcoming months, as RIF notices are sent out and actual budget amounts are adjusted to fit the money TBD coming from the state, remains to be seen.  Let’s hope that no one in Kent will forget these decisions and the warning tonight that was sounded but largely ignored.

More details are forthcoming, but you can check out reports from KING-5 and KOMO-4 news here and here.