However…today we side with school districts in a specific area…the unfunded costs of mandates in several areas.
The Washington State legislature, in its zeal to satisfy the State Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling, decided that school districts needed to do two (2) things:
- Change Kindergarten from a choice of 1/2 or full day to Full Day
- Decrease the size of classes in the K-3 grades
On the surface those may seem innocuous. However, like most things, the devil’s in the detail and local school districts are left holding the bag. Let us explain…
Full Day K – If a school district had 1/2 day K with say 200 students with 20 kids per class they needed 5 class rooms. Because it was half day then one class room housed 20 in the morning and 20 in the afternoon so one room could house 40 children. With the State requirement to go to full day one room can now only house 20 students. That means that the five (5) rooms now becomes 10 rooms. If any given school has extra class rooms then it may not be an issue. However, if room is tight the school(s) and district need to come up with space. This could lead to increased class sizes in grades 4-6 to make room for more kindergartners. It also means that the number of Kindergarten teachers needs to double. If the state cover the cost of the extra teachers that helps but leaves the school(s)/district in a space lurch. Oh wait…cafeteria’s weren’t needed for K’s and how they are. Where is the funding for these extra costs and changes? It’s left to local tax payers. So, the requirement for change isn’t fully funded.
Smaller K-3 class sizes – The State says make the class sizes smaller. To do that a given school/district may need more classroom space. They will also need more teachers and resources. What if the school/district don’t have space? Buy portables?
All the extra space needed has a maintenance cost. The need for more janitorial help. More teachers.
When the State tells the schools to do something but doesn’t fund the costs is that prudent and appropriate? The School Boards and Superintendents are put in an impossible position. They can’t legally say no but they can’t easily raise money.
If you think this situation needs attention please reach out to your local House and Senate reps and ask them for details about your local school district. Contact your Board and Superintendent and ask the for details about your district’s situation. Demand that the Legislature fund that which they demand and not pass the buck to the locals.