Camas, WA — About 125 local Project-Based Learning (PBL) students walked out of their classrooms today to protest staffing cuts at both Discovery High and Odyssey Middle Schools, which may total 20 percent of their respective staffs.
The students have expressed their concerns throughout the week, first by speaking up at Monday’s Camas School Board meeting, rallying, and participating in today’s walkout. They initially gathered in front of the Discovery High School, then marched down the school’s long driveway to have their signs visible to passersby.
Camas School District (CSD) is grappling with a $7.4 million deficit, and today CSD Superintendent, Dr. John Anzalone, released a statement to parents on how these cuts will be made to balance the budget.
To balance the $7.4 million deficit, CSD will draw down $1.8 million from reserves, layoff 10 district wide employees ($1.9 million), let go of eight school-wide support staff that are non-classroom ($1.9 million), and layoff 29 classroom teachers ( eight elementary, nine middle school, and 12 high school) totaling $2.6 million. Anazlone said their priority was to do as little disruption to classroom experiences as possible.
CSD explained why this situation has happened. In their statement, they said the following:
The shift in public education funding prompted by the McCleary Decision in 2018 has been quite a journey for our state and public school system. Five years later, expenses continue to outpace revenues, and our district anticipates a $7.4M shortfall.
Four key factors are at play: declining regionalization funding, the prototypical school funding model (McCleary), a dramatic enrollment drop, and the sunset of COVID Relief Funding:
1. Regionalization factors were put in place to adjust funding based on the cost of living in different communities. Factors for a handful of districts began declining in 2020-21 at a rate of 1% per year. It is unclear why this is the case. Camas is the only district in the ESD 112 region that experienced this reduction. The annual decreases are counter-intuitive, given that the cost per employee continues to rise and the cost of living in Camas continues to increase.
2. In the state’s prototypical school funding model, funding for staff relies on an experience factor average, not actual experience. Because most of our teachers have many years of experience and are, therefore, near the top of the pay scale, Camas fared better in the previous funding model, which funded districts based on their teaching staff’s actual years of experience and education level.
3. From March 2020 to February 2023, our student enrollment dropped from 7,262 to 6,973 (FTE*), primarily due to COVID, while our staffing levels have remained relatively unchanged.
4. COVID Relief Funds, including Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER), food service, and enrollment and transportation stabilization, total $10.8M to date. These funds, which are nearly expended, provided temporary relief and will not be reinstated going forward.