by Megan Monahan – Staff Writer
The Kent Education Association, the union that represents educators in the Kent School District, recently approved a two-year contract August 29, two days before the school year began.
The contract includes the two-hour early release Wednesdays and a 2.3 percent cost-of-living increase that was approved by the state Legislature for the current 2017-2018 school year. The 2.3 percent cost-of-living increase helped with the grocery and gas price inflammation amongst other things. Due to the current budget crisis, additional pay was given by the district.
The contract is not the only significant change that will be happening in this school year. There are 55 unfulfilled teaching positions throughout the Kent School District that will not be filled throughout the year. Christie Padilla, KEA President, said, “the district is choosing not to fulfill teacher positions as a cost saving method. They’re hoping by raising class sizes and not hiring as many teachers this year that they’ll be able to save the money that they borrowed from the capital bond project.” Padilla emphasizes that, “It really feels like the teachers are taking the brunt of the budget deficit unfortunately.”
In addition to the 55-unfulfilled teaching position there are three administration positions at the district office that will not be fulfilled. The union feels the hiring ratio between administration and teachers is disproportionate. Padilla said, “Well, it is in our opinion that is does not equate. That the district chose to make cuts that would impact our students the most and did not make cuts where it would impact students the least.
The 2016-2017 school year was not the first year that the district ended in debt, and it isn’t the first-time teachers are speaking up about it. “Teachers met with Dr. Watts and the chief financial officer with the district almost monthly,” said Padilla, “and we showed them that their ending fund balance, which is the district savings account was being depleted and that they were overspending.” Even though the union forecasted the budget deficit, the district believed that their forecasting’s were accurate and didn’t listen to them, inflating the budget deficit we have now.