School Board Messages

  • December 2023 School Board I Beacon Article

    School Board Meets with State Legislatures

    Did you know that state agencies set the expectations for public schools? (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Board of Education, Legislature). We receive finite financial resources to meet those expectations. About two thirds of the school district’s revenue comes from the state, about eight percent from the federal government and the rest from local funding such as levies. You can learn more about school district funding on the district’s Business Services website.

    Did you know that Washington is the only state in our union whose constitution reads, “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex?” Because of the relationship between the governing state agencies and funding for public schools, it’s important to share our challenges with those entities so they can make informed decisions. As decisions are made by these entities, those of us who are responsible for enacting them want to make sure they consider the impact on school districts.

    The Mukilteo School Board recently had an opportunity to sit down with five legislators to discuss the challenges facing our district as well as most other districts in Washington state. In past years, school district representatives would all visit Olympia on one designated day per year and try to explain their concerns in 15-minute sessions. As you can imagine, that “speed dating” style of advocacy wasn’t very effective in telling our story and left little time for questions or authentic dialogue.  

    For the past several years, Mukilteo School District has invited legislators to join us for a deeper dive. It made it easier for them to attend and gave us a chance to describe more fully our district, our initiatives to achieve academic success for our students and the challenges we face to accomplish that essential mission. Director Kyle Kennedy currently serves as the school board’s Legislative Representative. I asked him about communicating school district needs with representatives and he shared, “While it's great the Washington State School Directors’ Association organizes a Day-On-The-Hill where all school districts meet with their representatives on a scheduled day, I see greater value the past few years where district leadership met with our legislators before their session starts, within a school building, to share facts regarding our district and explain our realities. This has been an effective way to explain our concerns and build relationships.”

    This year, we were very grateful to have Sen. John Lovick, Sen. June Robinson, Rep. Strom Peterson, Rep. Mary Fosse and Rep. Brandy Donaghy join us Nov. 27, at Sno-Isle TECH Skills Center to listen to our comprehensive presentation and consider our requests.

    We narrowed our requests to five top priorities:

    1. Fund the full cost of special education - Build upon progress made in the 2023 session and fully fund mandatory and legally protected special education services. Mukilteo School District spent $12.3 million from local levy funds in 2022-23 for costs associated with mandatory special services.
    2. Provide ample, equitable and stable resources for staffing - Improve staffing levels in the Prototypical School Funding Model to ensure districts have adequate state funds to appropriately staff schools for current complex needs.
    3. Help all students maintain accessible transportation - Update the funding model to reflect the real cost of staff and equipment to provide transportation for students in basic education and for those in specialized programs, foster care and experiencing homelessness. Mukilteo School District experienced a transportation funding shortfall of $750k for the 2022-23 school year.
    4. Ensure access to safe and healthy schools – Provide free meals for all students, support a simple majority vote for school bonds to make construction funds more available, and update the school construction formula to reflect true market costs.
    5. Fully fund mandatory initiatives enacted by the Legislature - Ensure future legislation does not impose an undue burden on districts by enacting requirements without associated funding.

    The presentation illustrated examples of how the lack of the above items impacts students and staff in our district. We are not alone. Many, if not most, school districts face these same challenges. You can read the full Legislative Priorities we provided to the legislators on the school board website.

    One of the highlights of the evening was watching our student representatives engage with the legislators. They had a role in facilitating the meeting and had an opportunity to ask the legislators questions near the end of the event. One student asked the legislators to share something from their educational experience. It was interesting and wonderful to hear each one of them speak about the value of a teacher, class or learning environment that helped them succeed by encouraging them, inspiring them, or giving them the skills needed to be successful in life. That summed up public education and our district’s goals perfectly!

    Many thanks to our legislators and the hard choices they must make. We are so appreciative of their time, attention, and their willingness to advocate on behalf of the students in Mukilteo School District and beyond! I am sometimes asked how community members can share their thoughts with their representatives. If you are motivated to contact your area’s representative about public education or other topics, you can find their contact information and district service areas on the Washington State Legislature website.