(L-R) Nancy Katims, Arjun Kathuria, Nicholas Jenkins

(L-R) Nancy Katims, Arjun Kathuria, Nicholas Jenkins

Budget cuts weigh on Edmonds School Board candidates

Voters will decide which two of the three candidates advance to the November ballot.

EDMONDS — Two candidates are challenging incumbent Nancy Katims for Position 5 on the Edmonds School Board: Arjun Kathuria and Nicholas Jenkins.

The Aug. 1 primary will eliminate one candidate ahead of the November election. This is the sole primary race for the Edmonds School Board. The winner will get a four-year term. Board members are paid up to $4,800 per year.

Edmonds School District is facing a $15 million deficit for the 2023-24 school year.

Some music and art classes, 32 teaching jobs and other staff positions are on the chopping block.

Improving funding was top of mind for Katims, Kathuria and Jenkins.

Nancy Katims

Nancy Katims

Nancy Katims

Katims, the board president, wants to advocate for better approaches to school funding from state lawmakers.

The district relies on state funding for 71% of its budget.

The district’s funding shortfalls are partially due to Washington’s “prototypical model,” the formula determining how state money is divided across school districts, Katims said.

This formula is based on old data, she said.

Katims secured $210,000 in funding from the Edmonds City Council to increase staff in the district’s three smallest schools.

Before joining the board, Katims spent 17 years working in the district as a program director. She has a doctorate in educational psychology.

With another term, Katims hopes to improve the high school graduation rate.

Katims is interested in making grading more consistent across middle and high school classrooms and offering students more support so they don’t fail classes.

Over the past four years, Katims has learned about funding, facilities, transportation and legal issues. This experience will be helpful in a second term, she said.

Arjun Kathuria

Arjun Kathuria

Arjun Kathuria

Kathuria, a program manager at Amazon who recently became a U.S. citizen, is concerned about potential cuts to extracurricular programs and student mental health services.

“It could be a slippery slope,” he said. “As a citizen, it’s my duty to do something if I see something wrong.”

Kathuria does not have experience in education. He has a master’s degree in business and a background in accounting.

The school board has done a great job, Kathuria said, but there’s room for “a different perspective.”

Kathuria was 18 when he moved from India to the United States.

In India, parents were expected to be involved with their children’s education, Kathuria said.

“Our curriculum was very tightly monitored,” Kathuria said. “Parents were treated as partners.”

Kathuria wants students to learn about LGBTQ+ issues. But parents should be kept in the loop, he said.

“It’s not just education to the children,” he said. “It should also be considered as education for the parents.”

Kathuria also wants more diversity on the Edmonds School Board.

Last school year, about 54% of pupils in the district were students of color, according to state data. That diversity isn’t reflected in the school board, Kathuria said.

Kathuria hopes to fund education with money in the city budget.

“There’s a lot of other types of projects that happened in Edmonds recently,” he said. “Building up the islands on Highway 99, for instance. That money, I believe, could be better spent on education.”

Washington’s state Constitution requires the state to provide “basic education” to K-12 students, allowing districts to use operations levies to fill in funding gaps. School districts are not permitted to use money from city budgets.

Nicholas Jenkins

Nicholas Jenkins

Nicholas Jenkins

Jenkins wants to increase the percentage of the state budget allocated to education.

School funding makes up about half of the state’s general fund budget.

In his statement on the voters’ pamphlet, Jenkins wrote he didn’t think more taxes were needed to fund schools.

Jenkins is also concerned about student performance in English and math.

Less than 40% of students met state math standards and 50.9% of students met English language arts standards, according to the district-wide report card.

Student performance has worsened since he was in school decades ago, Jenkins said.

“I was relatively conversant in Latin, French and German by the time I left primary school,” Jenkins said in an interview.

Jenkins wants to improve education by paying teachers higher salaries.

“You have to attract talented teachers,” Jenkins said. “I don’t believe our salary is competitive.”

Edmonds teachers make between $70,021 and $126,044, according to the district’s salary schedule. Edmonds had the highest base pay in the state during the 2021-22 school year.

Jenkins also thinks a “child’s health care and sexuality are solely matters of private and parental concern and irrelevant in an academic setting,” according to his voter pamphlet statement.

Jenkins does not have previous experience in education. He works as a civil litigator with Bullivant Houser Bailey.

“I’m not a classic candidate,” Jenkins said.

Surya Hendry: 425-339-3104; surya.hendry@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @suryahendryy.

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