Everett School District’s budget in good shape

  • Sarah Koenig<br>Enterprise writer
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:55am

Last week, the state Legislature wrapped up its session by increasing spending on education and passing several education-related bills on to on Gov. Chris Gregoire for approval. (See related story.)

What those decisions mean for students and teachers varies from district to district. The Everett School District is still figuring that out, said Mary Waggoner, district spokesperson.

What is known is that the district’s budget looks to be in relatively good shape this year.

“We’re not expecting a lot of cuts,” Waggoner said.

In contrast, the Edmonds School District to the south is facing a $4.5 million budget hole and looking at cutting 35-40 teaching positions.

Everett’s financial position this year is partly because the district cut $2.4 million last year and partly because enrollment is increasing slowly, Waggoner said. Other factors play into budget health as well, including changes in state funding.

The legislator’s final budget, which allotted more money for schools, has been praised by some as generous and criticized by others, including the Washington Education Association, as inadequate.

“The legislative session we felt was good news,” Waggoner said.

Though the legislature’s budget would increase education funding, much of it is earmarked for specific purposes – like math and science professional development or all-day kindergarten – and can’t be used to fund core needs like teachers and utilities.

District officials statewide have been saying for years that core education funding from the state hasn’t kept up with rising costs and is inadequate.

“We’re very grateful for (new funding), but sometimes when money is designated for specific causes it doesn’t meet the needs of every community,” Waggoner said.

The district is happy about the increase in Initiative 728 money, she added. The voter-approved funding can be used to reduce class sizes, fund professional development and more.

Next year, the district will get about $7.9 million in I-728 money, up from about $6.5 million last year.

Of that, the district will spend about $4.6 million to reduce class size, about $2.6 million on professional development, about $1 million on extended learning and about $42,000 on early learning assistance.

The early learning assistance, a new category for the district, will help prepare preschool-aged children for school.

As for the bill passed by the legislature and awaiting a signature from Gregoire that would delay the math portion of the WASL as a graduation requirement, Waggoner said the district will push forward with preparing students for the test.

The bill proposes not a delay in the WASL but a delay in the graduation requirement, she said.

“We’re still gonna get kids to standard on the WASL test, still going to continue with the work done before,” she said.

The district must still meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind act, for example, which imposes penalties on schools with low standardized test scores.

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