by Fiona Higgins – Opinion Editor
It has only been about a week since school started, and already the mess that the administration has gotten us in is plain to see. Class sizes have increased, teachers are short on materials, and cut corners are everywhere.
These are only a few signs that have occurred from the Kent School District’s budget freeze and budget cut.
In the Kent School District 2016-2017 fiscal year, which ended on the first day of school, the district accrued a 6.9 billion dollar shortfall. According to the Seattle Times, KSD’s new budget “is roughly $452 million and includes a reduction in staff positions and operating costs totaling about $4 million.” In addition, there are currently 55 job openings in the district. Due to a hiring freeze, they will not be filled. Individual schools are reallocating their funds, and many of them are directing them away from the arts programs and more towards STEM and sports programs, leaving them with even less of a budget than before. The difference between the district’s Fine Arts fund has dropped from about 82,500 dollars to roughly 32,000 dollars, according to the budget report published on the Kent School District’s website. The effects are immediately clear in several places; Mill Creek Middle School, for example, ahd their budget for their orchestra class cut by 40%.
Though this sudden budget issue is a shock to many parents and students, the administration was not surprised. Christie Padilla, the Kent Education Association President, said “It was our position that if you do not change your spending trajectory, you will end up in the red… They continued their spending trajectory, so here we are, in the red.”
The Kent School District administration got us into this unfortunate mess, and there does not seem to be a lot we can do now to get us out of it. Currently, district leaders have approved two loans; one for $10 million and one for $15 million. Both loans have moved from the capital-project fund to its general fund, which lets the districts use the money however they want. Regrettably, it was not enough, and the fiscal year still ended with a negative fund balance, much to everyone’s dismay.
The question is, what was our administration thinking when this catastrophe ended up happening? Clearly, as Christie Padilla pointed out, this was a predicted outcome of the district’s spending habits. As well as this, now that we are in this mess, what are they going to do about it? The admin in charge of managing the budget has not been fired, and it has become a little hard to watch the whole cabinet sitting in their white castle while we are being squeezed into classes to fit all of us around the lack of teachers. How are students supposed to focus in an environment like this? Class sizes have been gradually increasing over the years, and no one has ever thought it was a good idea. It is hard to tell what the thought process was. But now that we are here, the only thing we can do is to raise our voices as one and make sure this does not happen again.