Opinion

NKSD’s financial belt is getting tighter ... again

Geez, Louise, the North Kitsap School District is in a tight financial predicament. To maintain its state-mandated balanced budget, the district has to cut about $2.8 million from its operating budget. Using the analogy of a perfect storm, the district gave the public an outline of the financial changes forcing the issue.

For starters, the concept of what makes up “basic education” is based on a formula created when President Gerald Ford was in the Oval Office. Children, learning techniques and the needs of the classroom have changed a bit since then. That passing fad called the Internet, for example. Oh yeah, and apparently some guy from Seattle — with Bremerton roots — decided to make the personal computer a pretty important thing in everyday life.

The technology needs of the classroom have increased, causing a need for changes in curriculum, energy needs and even school’s infrastructure.

Yet, reminiscent of those two stubborn Zaks created by Dr. Seuss, the state’s education formula dug in and stood still while the world progressed and grew around it.

But that’s just a piece of the puzzle. There’s more.

The district has to meet a mandatory — note: not voluntary — cost of living adjustment for its employees to the tune of $1.9 million. The state is gracious enough to fund $1.2 million of this, or 63.8 percent. Gosh. Thanks, Olympia.

Outrageous gas prices, too, have drained the cash from the district’s budget. Way back in September 2007, gas was $2.80 a gallon. As the defenseless public watched in horror, the price has slowly crept up 47 percent to a frightening $4.12 per gallon. While it translates to a pain in the wallet for the average household, the district is responsible for transporting hundreds of children to and from school every day. And those big, yellow buses aren’t exactly Toyota Priuses gas-mileage wise.

In addition, students who fall under the auspices of special education traditionally take more staff and curriculum resources, which means they are more expensive to educate. This isn’t anyone’s fault, that’s just the way it is. The state covers all but $2.3 million for special ed, while basic transportation funding for all students falls short $1.4 million. Turns out, the state once again has a hard time dealing with reality. To fund transportation, the state uses the straight-line method —it essentially draws a straight line from Point A (the student’s house) to Point B (the school) and funds exactly that much gas money. This would only be effective if buses could travel as a crow flies.

As previously stated, the district has to cut $2.8 million from its budget. That’s a lot of slashing. The tragedy of the situation is this isn’t the first year the district has been forced to look at every single expenditure and figure out where cuts can be made. The reality is, until the state Legislature gets enough pressure from the voting populace to create a more updated definition of basic education, it’s just going to get worse.

Want to do your share? Become educated about the budget process. Speak at the public hearings. But, more importantly, write to your local representatives and take them to bat about the way education is funded in Washington.

It’s flat-out archaic and doesn’t come close to meeting our students’ needs.

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