Setting financial priorities isn’t easy for NKSD

Public education may be a basic right for all Americans, but somebody’s got to foot the bill.

Contrary to popular belief, the state doesn’t pay the full price tag, said North Kitsap School District Superintendent Gene Medina.

“The bottom line is the state of Washington nowhere near funds basic education where it needs to be,” Medina said with a little fire in his voice.

Fortunately, 72 percent of Washington’s voting population recognized this shortfall and passed Initiative 728 in November 2000. The initiative provides public school districts with cash needed to enhance public education by allocating a certain amount of money each year for every student. The initiative took effect during the 2000-2001 school year, as approximately $194 was allocated per student. Over the years those funds have more than doubled.

“Last year was the first time we (NKSD) got $450,” said MaryLou Murphy, executive director of teaching and learning, “and when you multiply that by each kid in the district that’s really quite a bit of money.”

To be exact, it’s $2,916,191 for this academic year.

Those funds, however, are earmarked for six uses: reduce class size in kindergarten through fourth grade; make selected class size reductions in grades five through 12; provide extended learning for students in kindergarten through 12th grade; allow for additional professional development for educators; provide early assistance for pre-kindergarten students; and supplement facilities improvements which are directly related to class size reductions or extended learning.

At NKSD the emphasis for I-728 funds is class size reduction, especially in grades 5-12, and boosting collaborative professional development for educators.

“Our goal is to keep class size as low as possible and it takes an awful lot of money to lower class sizes,” Murphy said. “It’s (I-728 funds) very important money for our district.”

Last year approximately $898,000 went toward kindergarten through fourth grade class-size reduction and $1,399,000 for fifth through 12th grade class size reductions.

Murphy said in the past the focus has always been on class size reduction, but in recent years the emphasis has shifted to secondary education class size reductions.

The district is currently heeding those desires, as I-728 funds have purchased 16.2 full-time equivalent (FTE) kindergarten to fourth grade certified teachers and 18.3 FTE certified teachers and 1.01 classified positions for grades five through 12.

The additional staff positions for grades five through 12 are placed in the core academic classes of math and English.

Murphy said more emphasis is being placed on secondary education because there’s “very high expectations at that level.”

Whereas Medina said there’s always been a need at the secondary level.

“There’s a major discrepancy between elementary and secondary funding to begin with,” Medina said. “The core problem is to expect a teacher at the secondary level to know more than 100 students intimately versus 20 at the elementary level. We’re not even touching the problem at the secondary level.”

The second district focus is encouraging collaboration between teachers.

Board members Melanie Mohler and Ed Strickland said collaboration between educators is essential because it helps students be more prepared as they advance grade levels, it opens dialogue between teachers about how to best meet a student’s needs and it allows for smoother transitions from one period to the next.

Strickland, a retired Bellevue teacher, said if kids came in hyper from one class to his it impeded his ability to teach.

“If I’m teaching science and the kids come in wild from an English class that impacts me,” Strickland said.

Approximately $159,000 of I-728 funds are budgeted for collaborated professional development. A portion of those support a .2 (approximately one day per week) FTE librarian and counselor.

“The librarian and counselor provide instruction and this allows time for professional development and planning for teachers,” Murphy said.

Parents, school officials and ultimately the board determine how the funds are prioritized. Currently NKSD parents are being asked to fill out surveys prioritizing how the funds should be split up between the six areas. A board meeting hearing will be in March, with the final decision set for April.

Parents have until the end of the month to fill out a survey and may do so at under the survey tab.

As parents continue to decide on how best to to prioritize next year’s I-728 money there’s going to be a little extra to go around.

Murphy said it’s projected the state will give a slight increase of $7.65 per FTE student.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” she said.

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