I spend quite a bit of time in Olympia as the Director of Public Affairs for the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families.
My time in Olympia allows me some insight on the inner workings of our state legislature.
Here on Vashon, we treasure our rich educational community, the programs our students receive, and the quality of teachers they learn from. What we, as parents and community members, expect out of our public school system is in no way, shape, or form, properly funded by what the State of Washington provides. This financial gap is severe and very real.
Having highly qualified exceptional staff is central to fulfilling our Vashon Promise, as described in our strategic plan. Investing in our staff is one of the most critical decisions we make when ensuring we meet all students’ needs.
For example, the state of Washington funding model provides a district of our enrollment size with FTE dollars for 3.7 counselors and social workers combined. To the contrary, we invest in a total of five counseling and social services staff.
Additionally, if we went by just what the state provides, the entire district would have a single part-time nurse on staff. To best serve our Vashon students and families, we staff two nurses and a third nursing services support staff. Special education services, which we are required by the state to provide, cost over $700,000 of what the state funds.
These are just a few of the many funding gaps that are distributed throughout the entire system, from custodians and office staff to teachers and instructional support.
Local levy dollars help fill those gaps to provide the school supports that parents want and know our children need. I am grateful we live in a community that supports its school districts at the voting box. Many school districts across the state are not as fortunate.
However, local levy dollars are a fixed amount each year. When the state’s broken model for funding is directly tied to school enrollment, and enrollment numbers drop or remain flat, which is happening on Vashon just as it is elsewhere across the state, it means that our district program, as it stands right now, cannot be financially sustainable.
Reductions in force are painful. They impact people in very real ways. As a board, we do not take the process lightly and hope that most of our reductions can be absorbed through attrition and retirements.
The community elected us as board members to provide oversight for one of the largest and most impactful institutions on our island. In the coming weeks, as we tackle the budget shortfall at the district, we will continue to work for a solution that honors our Vashon Promise and provides all students and families with the educational system they deserve.
Allison Krutsinger is vice-president of Vashon Island School District’s board of directors.