This news article was written for the student newspaper at my high school. Published June 2019
North Thurston Public Schools (NTPS) was previously expected to have drastic budget cuts for the coming 2019-2020 school year. Cuts that were going to hurt the teachers the most. However, with the end of the legislative session, all is in a good place and the district will have about the same budget as last school year.
To provide some background, the money to run the 22 schools in the NTPS district comes from multiple sources. The majority of the money comes from the state legislature’s budget plan for the districts in Washington. “The other source of money is-it’s different, levies and bonds are different, and you can vote on it. People vote on it to raise money to pay for bonds to pay for things like the gym out here,” said Bob Campbell, a history teacher at River Ridge. Local voting, which refers to the Thurston County residents, is what helps persuade the legislators to know that the people care about the education of the students in the area.
The situation of potential budget cuts began when the Washington State Supreme Court planned to change the amount each school district could receive in local levy money. Levies are taxes from people in the local cities. While the potential to pay more taxes scares some people, it can be beneficial to the public education system, which could always use more support. This levy difference was between receiving $1.50 instead of $2.50 per thousand dollars in the budget. “We [the district] were facing a $15 million budget gap at one point.” said Courtney Schrieve, the Executive Director and Public Relations officer at the NTPS district office. The money is allocated for 85% for the staff and 15% for materials and infrastructure. This cut could have drastically changed the function of the district.
Levy cuts have a varying effect on school districts across the state, especially in areas that rely on the extra money to fund programs that are outside of the core curriculum. It’s used more for extracurriculars such as athletics and performing arts. Without the levies, those programs could be the first to go.
Situations like these are also in attempt to level out the inequalities in the state. Washington is not socio-economically equal in every county, and providing or taking away money from one district to another may or may not help the inequalities of the area. Schrieve said. “[K]ids shouldn’t be punished for how much money their school district has based on where they live.” The district is lucky to not have to let go of teachers due to a lack of funding. “Nobody’s is going to lose their job, which was the goal of the superintendent.” Schrieve added.
Since there was potential for a strike in September 2018 before the school year began and before the budget cuts were removed, there could have been a threat of strike if the cuts were actually implemented. The situation had many unanswered questions regarding the safety of the staff’s positions within the district, and they may have had to implement a reduction-in-force on staff that may have been deemed However, there is a good relationship between the district and the unions. Schrieve said, “[W]e’re going to continue to work with our teachers and staff to reach agreements that work best for our kids because, in the end, it’s about students getting the public education that they deserve.”
Luckily, River Ridge will not have any drastic changes in place for next school year. “None of our programs are going to be cut. What we have now, we will have next year.” said Serenity Malloy, the River Ridge principal. Everything will be more or less the same as it was this year, with the exception of a larger population of students and the one-on-one Chromebook program.
River Ridge will also not be losing any more teachers than those that are retiring or resigning. The only teachers that will be leaving are Mr. Campbell, Mrs. Burmester, and Ms. Rogers. Their classes will be redistributed to current teachers with the exception of a new drama teacher to fill Ms. Rogers’ position. Also, the school population will increase for ‘19-’20 school year, but with the redistribution of classes, River Ridge is looking to remain levelled while still offering most of the same classes, and even some new ones. The classes of the teachers that are leaving will be taken on by other teachers since the demand from students still calls for those classes to remain at the school.
The impending budget cuts put a scare in the staff and system of NTPS, but the situation came to a good end, and the district will not be cut of its funds for the new school year.
Decisions like these do not have to be entirely made up by the people in the state positions. Calling the Washington representatives to tell your story and what you want to change is a good first step to giving a personal perspective on state decisions for the better of the state public education.