Sen. Claudia Kauffman: Finger pointing won’t resolve Kent teachers’ strike


On the eve of the Kent teachers’ strike, I attended the Kent School Board Meeting. The discussion was charged with emotion. Parents, educators, classified staff and students spoke passionately to School Board members. Every person in that room wanted a resolution to the impending strike, but the board’s response was to tell the audience to contact their state legislators for additional dollars.

It is not that simple, and I believe we need to clarify two issues.

First, we faced one of the toughest budget years in our state’s history. Our basic health-care system saw deep reductions of 43 percent, and our college and university system saw a 17-percent drawback. The Kent School District’s budget was reduced by only 2.5 percent. The amount of state revenue for the Kent School District in the next two years is projected to be $347 million. With the additional federal stimulus funds passing through the state, the total from the state budget for Kent schools comes to $356.2 million. We made education our highest priority and preserved school budgets as much as possible.

Second, while I understand how much the state’s decisions affect the Kent School District’s funding, the School Board has control over its own budget. The district has comprehensive revenue sources. It receives not only state funds but also federal and local funds, grants/contracts and voter approved levies. In addition, the district has a very healthy rainy day fund.

Through the use of our state-level Rainy Day Fund we were able to lessen the cuts to school districts. I have fought and will continue to fight for higher funding to our state’s schools.

The situation we face now in Kent isn’t the result of this year’s or even last year’s budgets. It’s the result of diminishing resources, increasing needs and rightly frustrated educators. Everyone’s focus should be on exploring all possible avenues to resolve grievances, not pointing fingers.

The Kent School District and our teachers need to collaborate to get our children back at their desks and our teachers back in the classrooms. Our children are too precious and their future too important to leave them standing outside the classroom door.

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Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He is a former president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. Contact
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