Bond election update, seeking input on budget plans for 2022-23

A Message from Superintendent Greg Baker

Dear staff, students, families and community,

Thank you again for supporting our bond in the special election last week. Results were officially certified today, and I’m excited to share that our bond has officially passed. Please keep reading for additional context about district funding, budget planning for 2022-23 and how to share feedback.

Bonds, levies and Project Free Education

We are appreciative of our community’s support of our children, schools and district. As you may know, our state does not fully fund PreK-12 public education and therefore districts statewide rely on local levies and bonds as key funding sources for their schools. We run bonds to cover expenses related to the improvement and replacement of our schools and facilities, and we run levies to support programs, enrichment, staff, curriculum and other costs related to teaching and learning. We often say “bonds are for buildings and levies are for learning.”

Outside of levies and bonds, we have worked hard to reduce and eliminate other fees and costs to students and families. In the past, families were asked almost weekly to pay for things happening at our schools. We, as a district, have taken significant steps to reduce financial barriers and fees through Project Free Education, which is now over a decade strong and has allowed us to offer more opportunities to our students without asking them and their families to continuously pay for specific services.

Over the years, we made full-day kindergarten free before the state did; eliminated school supplies, course fees, numerous field trip costs including Mountain School; provided string experiences for all fifth graders; reduced or eliminated costs for athletic events and AP testing. I believe we remain the only district in the state that offers drivers education during the school day at no cost to families. These add up to thousands of dollars in savings for families. As always, feel free to reach out to me or your principal if you have questions about education funding.

Budget planning for 2022-23, how to share your feedback

Speaking of budget, the state legislative session is in full swing, and we are closely watching the action in Olympia to see what implications there are for PreK-12 education. During the last few years with the pandemic, schools have received federal funding, but those funds are one-time only. We are hoping the legislature supports schools with additional funding for Special Education, health services and ensuring districts can get through the enrollment variability we have faced during the pandemic.

We are continuing to focus on reducing class sizes; refining our elementary and middle school schedules and course offerings; and enhancing our support to students around physical and mental health. Our biggest expense for each school year is staffing, including any cost-of-living adjustments and contractual obligations.

As we build our budget for 2022-23, an important part of our process is input from our community. As you think about your school, department, or child’s school, where would you invest more resources if you could? Said another way, if we receive additional funding from the state, where would you like to see that money go?

Please fill out this form to share your input by 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25.

We will share draft budget highlights later this spring as we prepare our final budget for the 2022-23 school year.

Thank you in advance for your input and support,

Greg Baker