By Nancy Truitt Pierce
It is time for this community to decide if we want to provide adequate funding for our local schools. Ballots are due by February 11 on two Monroe School District levies for operations and technology.
You may have heard about the legislature providing additional funding for education this year, and may be wondering if the levies are still necessary?
The answer is a resounding YES. Here is why:
We are in the business of serving the educational needs of this community’s children and their families. To do a quality job, we still need the community’s support. In January 2012, the Supreme Court of the State of Washington ruled that this state had failed in its paramount constitutional duty to fully fund basic education. This McCleary Decision mandates full state funding by 2018.
Since 2012, the legislature has started to change funding and is now almost back to the funding levels of 2009, the year the lawsuit was introduced. The legislature increased funding for education this year and, as a result, we are projecting to receive $3 million more in state funding. It seems like a lot of money unless you remember how far below adequate funding we have been. In a written order to the legislature on Jan. 9, 2014, the Supreme Court said the increased level of funding “falls well short of the needs.”
But we are glad to get the increase and are using these funds to fund full-day kindergarten at our most at-risk school; restore a counselor at the elementary level; expand specialized programs for families (highly capable classes, Montessori and dual language programs) and provide new textbooks in math, science and language arts.
Even with this increase, there are still big gaps to fill after multiple years of state cuts and there is no guarantee that additional dollars will be provided anytime soon. Plus, the debate in Olympia includes suggestions of changing how much schools can collect with local levies. Since it is hard to predict what the state will do, our request is based on what we believe is needed to improve learning for students.
The Monroe School District has been recognized for being well managed, too. The State Auditor looked at all 295 school districts in Washington and found that the Monroe School District is putting a larger percentage of their budget into teaching vs. administration than all the other school districts in our category.
Last year, the Monroe Chamber of Commerce gave us their Business Excellence Award after more than 30 local business leaders nominated the school district for this honor.
The Learning Levy is about 21 percent of our operating budget and the Technology Levy is necessary to help our kids compete in a global world. We hope the state will find a way to fully fund basic education, as the Supreme Court has ordered, but we are a long way from there, yet. We still need your support. Please vote YES!
Nancy Truitt Pierce is a member of the Monroe School District Board of Directors