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Why Are Private Dollars Needed to Fund Public Schools?

The funds that BSF raises from the community are critical to sustaining quality in our public schools. With many changes to Washington State public school funding over the past year, here is a short primer on how our schools are funded and why there is still an urgent need for private community investment in our Bainbridge Island School District schools (BISD) through BSF.

Washington State Funding for Education is Inadequate.

Local levies fund salaries for teachers, nurses, counselors and custodians not covered by the state’s basic-education formula. Local levies fund special education programs and other critical operations for our schools. For example, the state formula funds .5 school nurses for BISD’s 7 schools. With students with daily medical needs in every school, BISD employs 8 nurses. Local levy dollars pay for that. 

What is the McCleary Fix?

Changes to the way schools are funded was implemented by the state legislature in 2018, following the state Supreme Court ruling that Washington had not been meeting its paramount duty to fully fund basic education for decades.

While the new legislation resulted in an increase in state funding, the ability for districts to fund education locally through levies was dramatically reduced, resulting in significant financial challenges for many school districts, including BISD.

The new legislation also left big gaps in funding for special education, school counselors, nurses, and other critical services, causing significant inequities among school districts (even neighboring school districts) across the state.

• BISD was one of the first districts to reach an agreement with our certified and classified unions. We are thrilled to be one of the local public school districts to offer a substantial raise to our educators. Much of the new state money going toward salaries is critical for attracting and retaining high-quality educators and support staff. However, the property-tax shift leaves BISD without funding for other critical needs.

•The new funding still fails to cover the basic staffing needs. 190 staff are still not funded through basic education, yet are essential in the day-to-day operations of running an effective school. These positions include counselors, nurses, para educators, school office staff, athletic coaches, principals, custodians, and teachers.

Local support is critical.

BISD is frequently compared to a short list of districts throughout Washington that have strong student outcomes. However, our per-pupil funding for education is very different from these other high-performing districts. We are truly grateful for the community’s recent support of our capital bond and levy campaigns, but the parcel taxes funded by these elections are for much needed support of our aging school buildings, and do not fund general education. Support of BSF remains vital to continue the programs our parents expect – and our students need to succeed. Both BSF and local funding initiatives like the bonds and levies are critical to sustaining the quality of our public schools.