Northwest NEWS

October 18, 1999

Editorial

Initiative will affect schools

   The Northshore School Board has been asked why we recently passed a board resolution in opposition to Initiative 695. The board would like to take this opportunity to explain why.

   It is within the board's authority to take such action when we feel there will be detrimental impacts on our students and their educational programs and services. We believe this is the case with Initiative 695.

   Promoters of the initiative claim that Washington state schools won't be harmed if 695 is approved in November. However, it will reduce the state's operating budget by up to $1 billion dollars. Since roughly 47% of that budget is directed toward education, it is difficult to imagine how reductions of that magnitude could be made and not affect our state's children.

   For example, this year, Northshore School District will receive about $4,031 in state basic education funding for each full-time equivalent student. In order to provide the level of education programming our children deserve and our community has come to expect, we subsidize the state funding by about $1,073 per student. Fewer dollars from the state would mean dramatically reduced program offerings.

   We fear that drastically slashing the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax will create chaos in future legislative sessions. While our state's constitution mandates that funding education is the state's primary duty, the scramble to replace $1 billion will inevitable pit worthy programs--social services, transportation, higher education, and public education--one against the other.

   Any hope of devoting more resources to reducing the number of students in classrooms will be lost, staff salaries will stagnate, and the momentum behind the state's education reform effort will lag because money will be difficult to come by. Moreover, we fear that vital programs that currently support children and their families so that kids can come to school ready to learn will be losers in the fierce competition for remaining state dollars.

   We are also concerned that we might lose important partnership programs that exist with other agencies. Two examples:

   Our district receives money to help pay for an intervention specialist who works with high-risk students. We have already seen an improvement in attendance and grades and a decrease in the amount of violent behavior because of Safe Net.

   Another aspect of I-695 deeply troubles us. The initiative mandates that every time we seek an increase in school-related fees, i.e. ASB cards, school lunches, Camp Casey, drivers' education, etc., we must submit it to a vote of the people. If it passes, then by law, we must come to you, the voters, when our costs for these programs increase. Our February 1998 election cost the district $61,605--money that should go to classrooms and students.

   These are the reasons that this board has taken a unanimous position against I-695. The risk to education is just too great, both in the short-term and in the long-run.

Kirby Larson, Board Member, Northshore School Board