By Polly Keary, Editor
After years of reductions in funding and spending, the Monroe School District could get an increase in funding next year as the result of a lawsuit last year that found that Washington doesn’t spend enough on its schools.
In McCleary vs. State in 2012, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the state was violating its “paramount duty” to adequately fund the education of all students through grade 12.
The first budget session of the Washington legislature since the ruling is drawing to a close next week, meaning that soon the school district will know how much additional funding it will receive from the state.
Monroe School District Superintendent Ken Hoover said that it is virtually certain that the district can expect at least some extra dollars.
“All of the versions of the budget do provide additional funding,” he said.
The lawsuit found that the state needed to do better in four areas, including transportation; materials, supplies and operating costs; all-day kindergarten and smaller class sizes.
Some of the proposed budgets touch on all four areas. Others add funding for only some.
Any of the proposals would be good for local schools, said Hoover.
The possibility of new funding gave community groups volunteering to help the district set its budget priorities a rather more pleasant task that those in years past.
“We asked them to tell us what things we should invest in as we go forward,” said district spokesperson Rosemary O’Neil.
The first group of citizens and staff members met at the end of February and they made a list of suggestions.
The next group met earlier this month, and they reviewed those suggestions and offered their top three areas of advice on priorities.
“There was conversation about afterschool activities and ways to get kids home afterwards,” said Hoover. “There were people who talked about summer school for kids who needed extra time and help, and there was conversation around technology; making sure kids had experiences that would help them get prepared for careers.”
“They also talked about adding more electives at the middle school level, maybe offering foreign language a little earlier,” said O’Neil. “And there were conversations about greater communication with the community, improving websites and newsletters and those types of things.”
But the highest priority that emerged was improving the schools’ facilities and technology.
The roof on Chain Lake Elementary will soon need to be replaced. And there are computer labs than are more than 11 years old, with computers that are quite out-of-date.
It will all depend on how much extra the state is able to give.
Typically the state provides about 70 percent of the school district’s roughly $64 million budget. The rest is made up by local levies and grants.
The district will present a draft budget at the end of July and finalize the budget in August.