By Marcy Stamper
Methow Valley teachers will get their full salaries and the school district will have a larger cushion for emergencies, thanks to a little extra money from the state this year. The Methow Valley School District is getting an additional $380,000 in state funds, which will go toward literacy programs, basic expenses such as utilities and insurance, and restore $37,000 cut from teachers’ salaries two years ago. When the state cut 1.9 percent from all districts two years ago, teachers in the Methow opted to take a pay cut to avoid layoffs, according to Dwight Remick, business manager for the district.
In the budget passed in June, the state Legislature committed to paying for all-day kindergarten for districts with a greater financial need, but the Methow – with about half the student body receiving free or reduced lunch – does not qualify this year, said Methow Valley School District Superintendent Tom Venable.
The Methow Valley school board directors committed six years ago to pay for full-day kindergarten, which costs the district an additional $31,000, said Venable. Venable said he hoped that the Methow would receive the kindergarten funds next year, which would free up money for other programs.
The Legislature has allocated $47,000 to the Methow for literacy and math support for kindergarten through fourth grade, and the district will also be able to hire an additional sixth-grade teacher to keep class sizes low, said Remick.
“I’m pleased that we are not having further reductions, but there are still many more needs we can’t fill,” said Venable.
Goal: free education
Venable has been talking with people in the district to understand needs and concerns and, while the process is ongoing, he has identified three emerging themes: increasing staffing and resources for the Independent Learning Center, providing a counselor for students at all grade levels, and ensuring a free and equitable education for all students.
“Equity is one of the big themes that have come up with the board,” said board chair Dana Stromberger, who said the topic had been a focus at one of their July meetings. “How can we provide a full and adequate free public education to all the kids?”
Venable said they have begun to look into the true cost of educating each child, with an ultimate goal of eliminating fees for courses, supplies and extracurricular activities to ensure all barriers are removed.
District financial staff will attempt to quantify what it costs to educate each child, including school supplies, course and materials fees, fees for athletics and other extracurricular activities, and the cost of field trips, said Venable. “The more we can build into the budget the ability to realize the true cost of education, the more we’re able to support our parents and community,” he said.
Stromberger said the board agrees that the topic is very important but that they cannot say there will be no course or extracurricular fees next year. “It’s a noble ideal and we hope to be able to do it in the future,” she said. “It’s an ongoing process about how to allocate resources.”