The truth about funding in the Snohomish School District

Or How can Students Learn with 37 in a Class?

The Snohomish School District has not lived within its means for the past 6 years. Could it be that we are overpaying our employees and thus jeopardizing the education of our children? For example, was it really necessary to give beginning administrators a $20,000.00 raise? Do you think it is a wise use of our tax dollars to give every administrator $6,000.00 yearly to develop professionally in "Communications, Culture and Connections"? It is time to bring administrative salaries in line with comparable sized districts.

The MANAGEMENT REVIEW conducted by consultants hired by the Snohomish School District and a financial analysis conducted by ESD #189, concluded that compared to districts of similar size throughout the state our teachers and administrators are paid substantially more. By using too much of its revenue on salaries, the district is depriving students of a fair and equitable education.

Last spring voters approved a 14 million-dollar levy over two years because we were told that class sizes would be maintained. We were not told about a 6.7% raise the teachers were going to receive. This raise cost the district in excess of $300,000.00 at a time when our district was in financial distress. All parties involved knew of our financial condition yet disregarded it and approved the raise anyway. Compounding our financial woes was that Coaches and extra-curricular staff also received a 3% raise on top of the $300,000.00. By the school board approving these raises, the district not only was precluded from hiring additional teachers to ease the over-crowding, but had to reduce staff thereby compounding the problem. "While the Titanic sinks, the band plays on".

Once again, voters have been duped and students get the short end of the stick. No matter how many levies are approved, it is obvious that our tax dollars are not going where promised. Apparently, raises for staff do not make a good levy campaign.

How can students learn with 37 in an algebra class? It seems, regardless of what it tells the public, the teachers union actually wants classes to be large. Why else would their current contract require that the district maintain a pool of $350,000.00 each year for extra pay to teachers with a larger class size? The local taxpayer is double-dinged. Not only do we get to pay for the raises we were not told about in the levy (which increased class sizes), we also must pay extra for LARGER CLASSES. Common sense says we should instead use the $350,000+ to hire additional teachers and lower class sizes. Any district that puts STUDENTS FIRST would do this. Why don't we?

This spring, the district is scheduled to negotiate salaries. Therein lies the best and only opportunity to bring salaries in line with our curtailed budget. Apparently, the Snohomish Education Association (SEA) does not want to negotiate because they know that the district does not have extra money due to the 1.5 million dollar deficit from last year. They should come to the table because their increased TRI schedule compounded the district's financial woes. The TRI schedule is additional funds paid for out of a levy, for Time, Responsibilities and Incentives. To put the TRI in perspective, it accounts for over 2 million dollars per year of our levy. Incredulously, teachers are insisting on an additional $425,000.00 raise in their TRI schedule for next year when we are just now beginning to reconcile how we are going to cover last year's debt. This does not include any raises that have been passed down from the current legislature.

If you think it is high time for the school district to become fiscally responsible by cutting the fluff in administrator/teacher contracts and school programs, please call Superintendent Thompson (360-563-7280) and your elected school board director. Now is the time to correct the excesses of the past while employee negotiations are in progress.

Dave Stewart (425-508-4171)