Which is more unpredictable: weather or this legislative session?

 

A Message from Superintendent Greg Baker

 

Dear Families and Community,

I hope your family’s new year is off to a great start!

The state’s legislative session began earlier this week.  You may have heard in the news some of the anticipated wrangling over the education budget. Legislators will attempt to figure out how to respond to the state’s Supreme Court order to fully fund K-12 education and end the reliance on local levy funding. That’s likely to create a lively legislative session that is a lot like our weather these days – unpredictable and turbulent.

Thankfully, The Bellingham Promise and our ongoing Priorities for Progress provide a clear road map for Bellingham Public Schools.

Our biggest budget expense for next school year will be staffing, including any state-mandated cost-of-living adjustments and contractual obligations. A second major investment is hiring more high school teachers and preparing for our new high school schedule that significantly expands course opportunities for students. We also want to maintain our class size ratios; there is always a desire and advocacy from both staff and parents to keep class size low by hiring more staff as a priority. Finally, we have made tremendous progress in recent years to update curriculum; enhance programs, including special education, highly capable, English language learners, and visual/performing arts; add counseling and emotional/behavioral support to elementary schools; begin to close some opportunity gaps for students and relieve financial stress on kids and families through Project Free Education; and so much more. And, there is still much to do in all of these areas and beyond.

Because of all of this, and given the unpredictability of the legislative session which determines most of our budget for next school year, we will be taking a conservative approach in our budget planning for next year. That said, our Budget Development Process involves taking all of our known commitments combined with requests (far above what we are currently funding or budget reduction proposals) coming from principals and district leaders, recommendations from our committees, tasks and groups, informational budget meetings and our staffing work group to build a draft budget. (See page 6 for the decision-making process chart.) Once we have draft budget highlights to share later this year, we’ll gather feedback from staff, families and our community before preparing a final budget.

The purpose of my email today is to remind you about our budget development process and that state and national politics present many unknowns for school districts. We remain optimistic and hopeful because, when it comes to our kids’ futures, it’s the only way to be!

 

Thank you,

Greg Baker