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Federal Way school district sees positives for its upcoming budget

Federal Way Public Schools - Courtesy Federal Way Public Schools
Federal Way Public Schools
— image credit: Courtesy Federal Way Public Schools

Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) are once again cultivating a somewhat positive outlook as the district prepares its upcoming budget, which is scheduled to be first presented by Superintendent Rob Neu on May 13.

Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Sally McClean shared a brief report on budget possibilities during the FWPS board meeting on March 11, saying that while still not the best of all worlds, the funding situation from Olympia is improving after five years of stagnation.

“We get to make choices about what to add this year, instead of choices about how to subtract,” she said. “I hope I remember how to add.”

The Washington state Legislature approved its mid-biennium budget the same week that McLean gave her update, and some of those projections held true, McLean wrote in an email with The Mirror.

“K-1 high poverty will be funded at a class size of 20.3, as presented in each of the budget proposals,” McLean wrote. “This funding goes beyond the typical revenue allocation, and requires that building by building, we achieve an average class size of 20.3.”

This presents a unique and probably challenging opportunity for FWPS, as McLean touched on in her March 11 presentation.

“Currently, we have 20 of our 23 elementary schools that qualify as high poverty,” she said. “What is unusual about this funding stream … typically our funding formulas are allocation formulas. They take all the factors …and voila, that’s how much money you have to work with to figure out how to use in your instructional programming. What’s happening with this class size money is … there will be a compliance measurement attached to that. If you think about some of the challenges of max funding, if you think about some of our small elementary schools, with two kindergarten classes and two first grade classes … Well, when you have 20 in one class and 21 in another, you’re average is going to be 20.5, so you’re not going to achieve max funding because you can’t get to 20.3.”

“Quite frankly our schools are neighborhood schools and students don’t come nicely bundled in increments of 20.3,” she added.

Another increase in funding that the Legislature approved is in MSOC (materials, supplies, and operating costs) funding. That increase will be a boon for FWPS, McLean wrote.

“OSPI estimates an increase of $2.2 million to provide opportunities for strategic investments in curriculum and instructional materials, technology and building maintenance,” she noted in her email.

McLean also noted that there was some negative news out of Olympia after the Legislature adjourned, writing that there was no state allocation for a cost-of-living-adjustment for K-12 employees. What McLean titled the “Supplemental Capital Budget,” which would have provided $700 million to “create space to reduce K-1 class size and accommodate full day kindergarten” failed to pass. This is important because one of the long-term goals for schools set by the Legislature is to reduce K-3 class size down to 17 students per every teacher.

“To give you some idea of the magnitude of the need for us to take our current K-3 population size to 17 in our high poverty schools, we need 109 classrooms,” she said. “That is probably equivalent to five new elementary schools, and would probably mean we need $150 million (to build those schools). I don’t know where we’re going to get $150 million when we’re only one district out of 295 in the state.”

One other time bomb that districts will now have to deal with is the state’s non-adherence to its No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver. Arguments between various factions prevented the state from being able to act on this, and will result in districts reverting to NCLB requirements, which will have some “financial sanctions,” according to McLean.

Neu is set to present his first budget recommendation on May 13, and will hold two public hearings on June 10 and June 24, with adoption by the board scheduled for June 24. For more information, visit www.fwps.org.

 

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