Message from the Superintendent

February 2, 2015

Dear Colleagues:

The purpose of this month’s letter is to outline the 2015-16 district budget development process and encourage you to participate.  A heartfelt thanks to those of you who, along with parents and others from our community, are actively engaged in our monthly Strategic Direction work groups.  We have over 120 people coming to these meetings; they have reviewed the work we are doing to have the success we have achieved, and they are talking about what next steps are necessary to see each student realize this same success going forward.  In addition to our usual process, the Strategic Direction work groups will be key voices of influence, insight, advice, and prioritization for fiscal investments in our district and as related to next year’s budget..

Currently, our 2015 State Legislature is in session. A big issue they must deal with is a contempt ruling that our State Supreme Court issued in September.  The State has not complied with the Court order regarding K-12 public school funding, and the State must act in this 2015 legislative session to adopt a budget that makes significant and measurable progress in order to purge the contempt or the Court will impose serious sanctions.  As you can imagine, the legislators’ responses range from those taking it quite seriously and earnestly working to make this happen this session, to those lawmakers who are willfully defiant of the Court and disregard the needs of K-12 schools, and still some who would be supportive of additional school funding but only with policy “strings” attached.  In the midst of these different perspectives is the overall theme of how to pay for these promises the state made in the actual trial with HB 2261 many years ago, and as ordered by the Court.

I mention this state legislative process because it is a relevant and related dimension of our budget development.  We anticipate additional state funding for next year, but how much and in what form?  What policy strings will be attached?  Will we get funding for a COLA that keeps us whole for all employees, or will we have to take funds from other district areas in order to support the COLA for those staff not funded by the state?  The latter is what happened to us the last time the state provided a COLA.   Will the state add resources for all day kindergarten and lower class size in early grades and if so, how? In one scenario it would free up local funds to help us address other needs, in another scenario it could cost us more than the state funding allocated for this purpose.  Also, might there simply be additional state funding to help pay for the litany of unfunded or underfunded mandates we already have that detract from rather than support our basic mission?  If we get funds without policy strings attached, what are the staffing, services, or programs that are the most important for us to advance “Each Student Learning, Every Day!” as consistent with and driven by our Strategic Direction work?

Needless to say, we monitor very closely the legislative process from now until when it ends.  In addition, we have a number of local district meetings with the Board, input from the Strategic Direction work groups, work with our P-12 administrators, and four very important public input sessions for the budget that are all important steps in the process. At these meetings open to anyone we will give an update on everything we know as of the date of that meeting, we will outline some of the key themes that are coming out of our Strategic Direction work groups, and we will ask those who participate to give us their best thinking as to where we should consider making investments.  Here are the dates, times, and locations:

March 25 – 4:00 pm, Meadowdale High Theater
April 1 – 7:00 pm, Lynnwood High Theater
April 15 – 4:00 pm, Mountlake Terrace High Theater
April 22 – 7:00 pm, Edmonds Woodway High Theater

We are reasonably confident we will see additional funding for K-12 schools for next year.  We cannot be certain as to how much or the extent to which there will or won’t be legislative policy strings attached that direct where the funds are to be spent and to what degree.  While there will be additional state funding, the funds will not be ample enough to address all of the areas that we will want to enhance for next year.  Part of our process will be to match state funding with work we want to leverage and implement, and to prioritize any truly discretionary funds to the areas that will have the greatest positive impact to student learning.  Thus, a critical aspect of this work will be to be strategic in the investments we make going forward.  Ultimately, the 2015-16 district budget will not be complete until our thoughtful Board of Directors finally approves it in August.

Thank you again for the great service you are providing students, parents, staff, and our community in our schools and district.  We are always mindful of how precious public funds are for schools and we work as smart and as hard as we can to make sure we are using these resources wisely to advance student learning consistent with our Strategic Direction.  Students deserve this and our public who provides these funds expects the same.  I hope to see you at any one of the four public budget input sessions.
 
Sincerely,
 
Nick
 
Last Modified on February 2, 2015