More money in school coffers, but Legislature left a surprise

The Federal Way School Board heard more good news from Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Sally McLean during the board’s July 23 meeting, with McLean saying that the district received approximately $4.4 million in additional funding for the upcoming school year.

“There were two fairly significant revenue streams that we weren’t counting because often they were 'strings attached' money,” McLean said. “We’re getting $2.6 million to reduce class size in high poverty schools in kindergarten and first grade classrooms only…The other piece of funding, that is also additionally strings attached, that we’re very unclear about how we’ll be able to spend that, is for (the) conditional learning assistance program (LAP), which totals almost $1.8 million.”

McLean mentioned that for the class reduction money, there are no strings attached in this first year, which the district has “flexibility to address some other outstanding one-time needs.”

For the LAP money, McLean said the district is still looking for some guidance from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) on how the district can use that money, but that it also affords the district the chance to “do some long-term planning with those funds.”

“It’s good news. The superintendent’s recommendation to you as presented and as adopted, we’ll be able to support next year,” she said. “And we have a couple more opportunities now to figure out how to better support our students.”

Even with the unexpected largesse from Olympia, McLean did note that state legislators had managed to sneak a bill by during the last hectic days and hours of the second special session earlier this summer.

“In addition to making a down payment on the McCleary decision, (there) is a 43-page policy bill related to K-12 instruction, and that impacts school districts in a variety of ways,” she said. “(It covers everything from) ways to support students, to the numbers of instructional minutes in a school year. So that bill has a lot of cost implications.”

McLean said that Federal Way Public Schools Superintendent Rob Neu and his leadership team would be meeting in early August to begin to digest this new bill and what it means for the district.

“I would say this 43-page bill is a new unfunded mandate,” McLean concluded.


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