Letters to the Editor

Federal Way schools face massive cuts

By TONY MOORE

President, Federal Way School Board

These are unprecedented times, and sadly, the students, employees and parents of Federal Way Public Schools have not yet seen the worst of the national and state economic crisis.

Every school district in this state is struggling to adequately fund education. Due to an outdated state funding system, Federal Way schools must struggle more than most. Your school district is already one of the lowest-funded districts in the state, based on per-pupil funding. In the past decade, the district has been forced to accommodate $22 million in state funding cuts combined with unfunded mandatory spending increases.

We now face the daunting task of cutting $3.1 million from our current 2010-2011 operating budget, which was based on previously approved state funding for public education.

And now it appears that FWPS will have to cut an additional $8 million to $14 million for the 2011-2012 year.

This means, yet again, insanely difficult choices about what we can still do and offer. When it comes to deciding how we can continue to ensure all students are served well with even fewer dollars, the district has, in short, become a master of managing the absurd.

With information from internal and external stakeholders, the district will make every effort to minimize the impact of these cuts to student learning. However, cutting $8 million to 14 million from the operating budget will have a profound impact. Every single aspect of our education system, inside and outside of the classroom, will suffer.

Some have said these funding cuts can be taken care of by cutting administrative costs and positions. That is simply not true. Wiping out the entire Federal Way Public Schools administration would not be enough to fill the gap. And remember, Federal Way Public Schools is one of the most cost-efficient school districts in Washington. Our district spends a larger percentage of its budget on the classroom than any other district in the state with more than 10,000 students. Proportionally, we spend less on administration than other districts.

We realize that we are in an unprecedented economic crisis, and must accept a share of the reductions that lead to a balanced state budget. Our request throughout this process has been that legislative decisions to balance the state budget are made in an equitable and responsible manner.

Given the wide philosophical gulf that has opened between legislators, the superintendent will delay his budget recommendation to the Federal Way School Board until the May 10 regular board meeting. In the meantime, we will gather as much information as possible to help us make these difficult decisions.

We feel a professional, moral and personal obligation to discuss these challenges openly. This is the best way we know to prepare our school community for the future ramifications these budget cuts will have on Federal Way students and families.

Included in this process are several ways you can provide feedback to us. A public meeting was held April 19 at Federal Way High School. If you missed that opportunity, you can still offer comments at regular board meetings on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month or at the public hearing on the proposed budget, currently scheduled for June 14. You are also welcome to send written comments to us at budget@fwps.org, or by mail: FWPS Board of Directors, 31405 18th Ave. S., Federal Way, WA 98003.

Budget information is available at www.fwps.org/info/budget, including video of presentations made at board meetings over the past few months.

We are maximizing our efforts and efficiencies to provide the best education possible for our students. But, we need your help. We’re asking Federal Way residents — students, parents, guardians, community members — to contact your state elected officials to ensure that everything possible is done to protect education in our community. The vitality of our community rests squarely on the shoulders of a strong public education system. It is time for citizens to act.

As our elected officials in Olympia grapple with ways to balance budgets in times of declining state and local revenues, we need to remind them to continue to make education their top funding priority.

Tony Moore is president of the Federal Way School Board: tmoore@fwps.org.

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