Letters to the Editor

Crunching budget numbers

Your page 1 lead story, “Teachers safe from budget cuts,” (May 21) reports the North Kitsap School District’s decision to protect teachers from lay-offs, in spite of a budget shortfall of $1.5 million. Further, that the shortfall was reduced to $700,000 by two pick-ups — $400,000 from an estimated increase in levy revenue; and $400,000 from squirreled-away cash reserves — with the $700,000 remaining further reduced by attrition; 24 teachers are leaving and not being replaced.

Sounds like good problem-solving to me; and as a fanatic teaching advocate, supporting our highest values. But it caused me to wonder about the scale of things. Was this a big problem or just garden variety?

The data are interesting and insightful. The North Kitsap School District’s website, www.nkschools.org, is well organized, easy to use, and full of facts — facts which even Sgt. Joe Friday would appreciate. I’ve rounded off big numbers to save eyesight — the numbers tell a lot.

Schools: 13 in total: seven elementary; two middle; two high; Spectrum alternative high; and West Sound vocational.

North Kitsap county population: 66,674.

Students: 6476.

Staff: 697 total; 413 certificated; 284 classified.

Revenues: $65 million; $16 million local; $41 million state; $8 million federal. (It takes a village).

Expenditures: $66 million; $39 million instruction; $12 million special, vocational, and compensatory ed; $15 million support services.

Comparing Revenues with Expenditures, amazingly like the ancient Chinese proverb: $100 spent, $99 income — eternal damnation; $100 income, $99 spent — heavenly bliss.

Cost per student: $10,000.

Cost per staff member: $95,000.

Ratios:

Students to instructional staff: 16 to 1.

Instructional staff to support staff: 1.5 to 1.

Instructional expenditures to total expenditures: 59 percent.

Special, vocational and compensatory expenditures to total expenditures: 18 percent.

Total instructional expenditures to total expenditures: 77 percent.

From street level, what does this mean to me?

77 percent of our money is going into the classroom where teaching happens.

Our student/teacher and teaching/support staff ratios seem OK, especially when considering that the school system has to transport kids to and from school, feed them, tutor them, and counsel them, all these arguably the duties of parents.

The shortfall amounts to about $100 per student; the cost of dinner and movie for a family of four, a dozen packs of cigarettes, or two tanks of gas.The shortfall amounts to about $10 per citizen of North Kitsap; what can you get for $10 that compares to our future generation?

What if we narrow our focus to David Wolfle Elementary in Kingston?

432 students: 45 percent qualifying for free- or reduced-price meals, 25 percent special education.

26 classroom teachers; 18 with masters degrees, averaging 15 years classroom experience, and 100 percent meeting No Child Left Behind standards for highly qualified teachers.

My overall conclusion: a mighty fine system; well-managed, teaching as top priority, performed by top ranking teachers.

Possible actions? The website tells about the North Kitsap Schools Foundation. I wonder if it might serve as the nexus for raising that $100 per student — $10 per resident shortfall— outside of government?

Stephen Wald

Indianola

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