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Shelley Houle, President of the Camas Education Association (CEA) answered several questions about the upcoming Camas School District (CSD) layoffs.

22 FTE positions are being eliminated. Have all 22 teachers been notified?

As Superintendent Jeff Snell said it looks like most of those layoffs will be taken care of through attrition. Nobody has been contacted about being laid off, which happens on May 15. Human Resources has those details.

How will these layoffs affect the classroom?

It’s still a loss of FTE so I do fear it will impact students when we have less teachers overall. Classroom size could be impacted, but it will still be below what our cap is. It’ll depend on enrollment.

Did the budget committee make enough non-teacher cuts?

I was only there for half of the budget committee meetings. What we discussed is there shouldn’t be cuts in just one place. There was a shared vision that this would be done equally. I had two other members from CEA that were there, Jenelee Hurz (Math TOSA) and Miranda Jarrell (teacher at Dorothy Fox). We weren’t there to represent any special school or class type, we were there to be part of it, to listen and learn and to advocate for our members, and to advocate against impacts that affect children. We weren’t there to save particular jobs, and we had a student-focused approach to it. We spent many hours in with the committee, and I feel like we were well represented.

I’m disappointed that we don’t know the impact to SB5313 (bill that increases school levy lid) yet. I would loved to have pushed the pause button and see the impact of that levy lid. The May 15 date affected our decisions. Maybe some cuts will be reversed when we get more money from the levy lid.

Layoffs
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What happens with the levy lid in 2020? Will that help CSD?

That’s where the SB5313 could increase the capacity to collect what is already approved. I think we’re all waiting to see what that means. I predict there’s the potential to collect $6 million more dollars, but we have to be careful about what we ask our constituents to do. CSD has some hard decisions to make. We hope we can the reverse the cuts to be able to increase FTE in areas where we feel some negative impact from loss of teachers.

CSD is waiting for direction from OSPI.

Is Camas above the prototypical model?

Yes, because we use levy money because we do more than the state funds.

Did CEA ask for too much in raises last year?

No, it’s what our teachers deserved — a professional wage. If we go all the way back to August, we assumed layoffs would happen. This is because we go above and beyond the prototypical model. We want all of our members to stay and earn the wage for the work that they do.

Editor’s Note: This is what CEA Lead Negotiator, Mark Gardner said on September 3, 2018 regarding layoffs: https://youtu.be/Lu4DGMN5rl He didn’t think there would be layoffs but was concerned CSD was above a sustainable teaching staffing level.

Houle continues: The state really pulled a big one by changing the funding model. It really created a challenge for everyone to figure out how to best make it work. We would have loved an increase in special ed funding. You’re not fully funding education if you don’t fully fund special education. Jeff and I had shared Legislative priorities — funding for safety positions like counselors and nurses.

It was interesting going up there. I think progress was made in several of the bills. Delinking 10th graders passing the state tests was a good thing. They didn’t make complete fixes, though. Some needed changes were made like SB5313 with the levy flexibility will help many districts.

The number of 22 layoffs was not surprising to me because we did need to stay close to prototypical.

We’re all in this together. I feel that PSE (classified staff), CAEOP, and CAP (Gary Moller) are all part of this. We have a shared vision in that we wanted our students to be minimally impacted by those decisions.

The lingering effects of the McCleary legislation and subsequent “fix” are leaving school districts across the state with massive budget deficits, and Camas is no exception.

Camas School District leaders have been very public for the past year that the new state funding model would have draconian budget effects, and CSD Superintendent Jeff Snell reports the district is officially grappling with an $8 million shortfall in the upcoming 2019-20 school year.

“An $8 million deficit is the reality,” said Snell. “Layoffs are coming. There has to be a reduction in force, there’s no way around it. We will send notices out on May 15 for certificated staff, and June 1 for classified staff. Sometimes you have to over-inform people that they may not have a job.”

Snell wishes this wasn’t the case, and regrets having to layoff valuable employees.

“This is just the model that we’re in because of the timing of the Legislature,” said Snell.

To deal with the upcoming shortfall, CSD is taking several actions now, which include tightening the belt, and organizing a community-based budget committee.

Tightening the belt measures:
• Reduced non-staff budgets (supplies) by 3%.
• One-year contracts for any new district employee hires.
• Cabinet raises start mid-year.

Critics say more needs to be done before laying off teachers and staff. The budget committee meets regularly to work out considerations which will be presented to Snell at the end of April. Snell will then review those considerations, and make recommendations to the School Board.

Camas School
Camas Superintendent, Jeff Snell, discusses legislative updates.

“They’ve been working hard and report to the School Board about progress,” said Snell.

“These seem like logical steps to take when facing tough budget decisions and are areas that do not impact student learning,” said Shelley Houle, president of the Camas Education Association (CEA).

CEA will be working closely with CSD during the layoff process.

“CEA works closely with management and follows a process that is set in our current bargaining agreement,” said Houle. “Ultimately CSD makes the final decisions, but CEA makes sure the process is followed.”

So, what is that process?

“There is a seniority factor found on page 39 of our contract,” said Houle. “The first step, though, is for the board to adopt a reduced educational program. Then there are steps to make sure that remaining positions will be filled by educators with the proper certifications, endorsements, and/or licenses. This section is quite detailed, but must be decided before looking at seniority. Then at the top is seniority in Washington State, followed by Camas School District, and then years in the profession. Following that is credits earned beyond BA or MA, flexibility of certification, and then lottery.”

During bargaining sessions last summer, lead CEA negotiator Mark Gardner dismissed talks of layoffs, claiming they were district scare tactics aimed at denying teachers the full promise of McCleary.

So, should CEA have settled for the 4 percent raises offered early in the negotiations? Is CSD misinterpreting the law?

“2019-20 was projected to be a dip year when levy changes were being felt the most and districts are planning on how to manage that,” said Houle. “McCleary significantly increased public education funding including money for compensation. The state was not doing its paramount duty. Legislation passed that greatly changed the structure of funding. I wouldn’t call it a misinterpretation. Districts must now restructure and reprioritize based on the new model.”

Camas School
CEA at their general membership meeting in August 2018.

If the new model ends up laying off teachers all over the state how is that helping things?

“I can’t make a hindsight decision on our negotiations,” said Houle. “We bargained on the current conditions for the increased funding that McCleary provided. The state had failed in its paramount duty which included compensation. With a new model comes a shift in how money is spent. We have a teacher shortage in our state and country. With increased compensation comes better recruitment and retainment. But first, budget decisions have to be made. We hate to see any reductions in staff because we value our colleagues and the important work they do every day for students.”

So, knowing the new model would result in layoffs, of which they were very transparent, why did CSD agree to last year’s CEA settlement?

“There were very strong political forces at play, financials in a new model, and we were still trying to understand the impact of the new model,” said Snell. “There was a massive infusion of cash and as those come out you try to come up with solutions that are going to work. And, we felt it was our job to get classes started on time. Teachers needed to be teaching.”

“These are the realities. When you look across the landscape, our raises were consistent with other districts. You have to have a workforce that’s competitive and is compensated fairly. We feel like we have a great staff, but we also have this big conundrum we’re trying to work through. Trying to be very thoughtful about the entire problem. We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve been given. Because the models change, either the Legislature has to do things differently, or we have to make major cuts.”

Camas School
Camas School Board at a recent meeting.

He said the process doesn’t just happen with one decision point.

“It’s an incredibly complex new funding model, and it took several months to really understand it,” said Snell. “I care about our schools and staff and I want the best for everyone there. I try to be as transparent as possible, and that’s why we started the budget committee. You walk this fine line of is that it’s so complex it’s really hard to explain.”

Senator Ann Rivers said the problem with the legislation is that it put all the money out in one lump sum.

“When we agreed to the bill it was meant to release the funds over time, in a more gradual way, but they changed it at the last minute, and all these billions went out at once,” said Rivers. “It was like dragging a doughnut through a fat farm! Everyone wanted a part of it, and suddenly the Washington Education Association (WEA) started talking about 25 percent raises — and it wasn’t true.”

Rivers said once the unions put that out about 25 percent raises, it galvanized their membership, and pushed them to issue strike threats.

“The WEA misled their teachers, the public, and some school districts felt like they were extorted — forced to give teachers raises they knew they couldn’t afford.”

Did Snell feel like he was extorted?

He said no.

“I have a role to try to find balance and see our workforce costs and compare them to what we need to offer,” he said.

And, Snell also discussed the complexities of budgets in this new funding model.

“Budgets in public schools are very challenging because you don’t know what the revenue is from the Legislature,” said Snell. “We can see right now there are all kinds of bills out there that can change things. There are changes but it’s within a similar structure. The challenge has led to confusion and different interpretations and you see negotiations that are really challenging. You have a Legislature that is still wrestling with this.”

Did the McCleary legislation unintentionally create more harm than good?

Eric Engebretson, president of the Washington Association of Educators (WAE) said the Washington Education Association (WEA) played a key role in pushing the Supreme Court decision and in lobbying for the legislation that is causing today’s havoc.

“The legislation had good intent, but it also has a mixed message,” said Engebretson. “It’s not as clear as we would have liked to have seen. It’s tied the districts hands in some ways, it’s tied the union’s hands in some ways … some think it’s pass-through money and others say they can do what they want so we hope that everything gets revisited soon …”

Snell said the teacher’s unions are about taking care of the teachers.

“If you have a union that’s responsible for wages for your group, then you need to change the model for more capacity,” said Snell. “The WEA forced the system to change the model. They created a crisis in the system that then prompts increased funding, that’s what the McCleary decision did, and so it disrupted this system and created a new system. I don’t know if WEA is worried about the system. They care about their teachers. The WEA is in charge right now. I understand there are forces at play with different interests.”

Snell calls it a conundrum.

“Raises caused this problem, but raises also retain amazing staff members,” said Snell. “Here we are. There’s a deficit. We’re trying to make good decisions. Good decisions are always challenging.”

Houle said, “The WEA’s mission is to strengthen public schools. And yes, the legislators need to continue fixing the law and decrease the havoc!”

Camas School
Camas High School 2018 Graduation ceremony.

Can this be resolved before layoffs happen?

Eighty-six percent of the CSD budget is personnel, and with the need to cut $8 million during the next school year, it’s likely dozens of teachers and staff will be laid off — if nothing changes.

“The legislature is listening. They talk about levy, about special education funding, and increasing that to help balance things,” said Snell. “The Governor’s budget has relief for us, but that’s just one component. What are the changes to the model for the 2019 year? We don’t know.”

Houle is spending today in Olympia.

“I am meeting with other WEA political action committee board members for a legislative update and for more training,” said Houle. “I was up there on Presidents’ Day lobbying and will be doing so again later this month. All in all, we want schools to remain a safe place for our students to learn. CEA will continue to lobby for increased special education funding, levy flexibility, and increased funding for safety (counselors, nurses, etc).”

With layoffs looming, was it right for the School Board to give Snell a 5 percent raise?

The school board approached Snell with a 5 percent raise offer, from December on.

“In my mind, it’s 3.1 percent because it started mid-year,” said Snell. “I have a $163,000 base salary. It’s an important job.”

What’s next?

Snell said the district leadership will be working closely with union leadership and talking to them about the process, and trying to be as transparent as possible knowing that it impacts the CSD fund balance. He said it’s essential to start to change the model, and that expenditures need to line up with income.

“What happens next is the committee develops considerations for me, and I will develop a budget and present it the school board,” said Snell. “This will happen at the end of April with the Legislature and we’ll then do our best guess to speculate what the Legislature will do, and then we’ll formally adopt it in August. Before all that, we have contractural obligations and we have notification dates for employees.”

“Non-personnel cuts includes supplies, travel, utilities, gas, buses, contracted services through special education,” said Snell. “There’s a lot there. We would probably look at a percent applied to those things. We need to realize savings to those costs. Look at extracurricular expenses, which are paid through levy and student fees. Do we hold those? In the short term, I don’t want to make decisions that remove programs. Our desire is to maintain programming. In year two or three if you see the revenue is not coming then you might have to reduce programming. Regarding buses, we try to keep on depreciation cycle because we get funds from the state.”

Camas, WA — Following last year’s historically significant and what many call flawed school funding legislation, known as “McCleary,” which led to teacher’s union strikes, months of intense labor negotiations, and projected budget deficits, school districts are navigating their way through it now — and are dealing with unique financial realties.

Vancouver Schools last week reported an $11.4 million budget deficit and they are taking measures to deal with it. Camas is dealing with the similar issues, but on a smaller scale — $3.2 million. Districts across the state are in the same boat.

“The way McCleary is written, it leads to a lot of local interpretation, and it’s creating chaos in school districts all over the state,” said Camas School District (CSD) Superintendent, Jeff Snell, last August, at the height of labor negotiations. “We’ve been warning residents it will create budget deficits in Camas, which will result in cuts.”

At the time, Camas Education association (CEA) lead negotiator, Mark Gardner, a Hayes Freedom teacher, said Snell’s statement was a “scare tactic.” Gardner didn’t believe a deficit would materialize, and said Camas hires more staff than the state mandates.

Senator Ann Rivers said the law was designed to create equity over time, but what happened at the end of the session is that it took out the steady ramp-up in funding.

”All of the structure and guidelines that we put in were removed,” said Rivers. “So when that happened it became a big pot of money and all contracts were opened up. That’s where the strikes came from. I hope not to offend any of you, but this big pot of money was like dragging a doughnut through a fat farm. People dove in and they wanted it, and then you had the union reporting a 25 percent increase in pay, which was not truthful. Then other teachers saw that, and they wanted it. It was all based on mis-information. There was never a 25 percent increase, but that became the standard, so all of the structure that would have involved a steady ramp up was removed.”

Gardner’s perceived “scare tactic” is now reality, as CSD Budget Director, Jasen McEathron, stares down a $3.2 million deficit in 2019.

“I think we all have a good idea of what’s on the horizon,” said McEathron. “Cuts are coming. Next year, we’ll dip into reserves.”

McEathron has been warning the CSD School Board for months, and Snell has been warning the public since last Spring of McCleary’s impact.

“The CSD board established a budget in August based on best information we had at that time,” said McEathron. “Subsequent to passing that budget different labor contracts were settled. We’re analyzing that now, and looking into what kind of budget extension will be required.”

He continued: “Looking ahead to next year and beyond under the current funding formula we see the need for adjustments. That’s why we’re having the superintendent budget committee, which includes our labor groups, PTA, PTO, school board, co-chairs Mary Tipton and Mike True (CPA), Boosters, CEF, three members of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), and three community members.”

In total, 25 people are meeting every other Tuesday beginning January 15 at 5:30 pm at JDZ Conference Room B. These meetings are expected to last four months, and they are open to the public. Tuesday’s meeting was more about background and “how we got here,” said McEathron.

Their objective is to create a set of considerations for Snell on how to best manage the budget deficit, and look to the future.

“It’s designed to bring a diverse set of stake holders to gain a better understanding of district finances,” said McEathron.

Doreen McKercher, CSD’s Communciations Director said: “We want create ownership and have these committee members be there for three years. We identified groups and then invited them.”

Adding to the mix is the current labor negotiations with the Camas Association of Educational Office Professionals (CAEOP), which is in their second mediation, and represents 34 staff members.

CSD didn’t get into CAEOP negotiations until after teacher’s negotiations were completed. Following that will be contract negotiations with the Public School Employees (PSE) union, which is for all Classified staff: bus drivers, custodians, maintenance, para-educators.

“In the February or March timeframe we will do a budget extension,” said McEathron. “We will have to dip into reserves, and the amount hasn’t been determined. Legislatively, we do have priorities for the region, which is through ESD112, and we will be advocating for changes to the funding model, and one of them will be special ed funding. We have seen in the Governor’s proposed budget they are suggesting changes to levy limits and increasing those. Both take a nuanced approach to that. We want clarity around regionalization, from our perspective it doesn’t make sense that we need it, but then don’t need it in two years. So, we have some funding factors, with state funding going up at an inflationary factor of 2 percent, but then it’s offset.”

Town Hall

From left: Representative-elect Larry Hoff, Senator Ann River, and Representative Brandon Vick. Local education leaders plan to address funding concerns with elected officials.

Some districts in the state qualified for enhanced funding to compensate for the experienced staff that they had. Camas, which has a veteran teaching staff, didn’t receive that enhanced funding. They will seek additional funding there.

Gardner said he expects Shelly Houle, CEA president, to work closely with Snell to lobby local legislators to address holes in the legislation.

At the end of the CEA teachers contract ratification meeting last September, Gardner said: “One of her goals [Houle’s] is to march shoulder-to-shoulder with Dr. Snell to let legislators know exactly what their inaction or pantomime action has done to districts throughout the state, that’s one of her goals …”

On the Washougal side, their Washington Association of Educators leader, Eric Engbretson, said “the McCleary legislation was originally funded by the WEA and some of the state unions to get that decision passed to fully fund education to fulfill the constitutional mandate by the Supreme Court … but with that they had good intent, but what came out was not a mixed message, but not as clear as we would have liked to have seen, and I think it’s tied the district’s hands in some ways, it’s tied the union’s hands in some ways, so that could have been part of the issue for some of the tensions, but we fully believe this is pass-through money, other districts are saying ‘no, no, no we can use it how we want’ so we hope that this gets revisited soon so we don’t have to do this again.”

Going back to Camas, there’s also been a lot of talk about attrition, said McKercher.

“It seems unlikely we’ll have to manage budget deficits through attrition alone, so the budget committee will come up with considerations to the Superintendent,” she said.  “Logistically, the Superintendent is charged with providing a budget to the school board for their approval. The committee makes the considerations. The School Board will be present at the budget committee meetings.”

The budget committee will look at attrition, but they’ll also have to see where they can cut three to five percent, and they’ll have to find answers to several questions:

  1. What are the tough decisions for the long-term?
  2. How do we continue to serve a growing community?
  3. How do we be innovative while meeting the expectations of the community that have grown over time?
  4. Where will we be in 20 years?
  5. What are the infrastructure requirements to support a growing population?
  6. What are the required funding amounts to open new buildings in the future? Camas doesn’t get funding from the state to open new buildings. A lot of research goes into specifications for those new school buildings.
  7. How many more schools will be needed to serve a growing population?

“We’ll have a budget extension of the current year, and then for next year they will need to set staffing in April for next year,” said McEathron. “Middle of May is the deadline for CEA.”

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Camas, WA — At Monday’s Camas School Board Meeting, Jason McEathron, Director of Business Services for the Camas School District (CSD), addressed the $3.2 million budget deficit the district faces in this current school year, and his plans to form a budget committee to resolve the issue.

“The anticipated budget deficit is $3,212,141 by end of this school year,” said McEathron. “Expenditures are also trending above our initial budget. Labor costs are higher than expected at $4.9 million.”

He said the fiscal issues are primarily a result of the new funding model mandated by the State Legislature — issues that CSD has been open about for months.

Other contributing factors are headcount (which is 2.7 percent higher than budgeted) and Running Start (which is 25.5 percent higher than budgeted).

CSD warned in August that a 3.1 percent teacher pay raise would create deficits, and likely cause layoffs in 2-3 years. Teachers received 9.3 – 12.6 percent pay increases in their negotiated settlement, which last for two years.

At the time, Camas Education Association (CEA) negotiator, Mark Gardner, called it “a scare tactic by the District.” CSD Superintendent Dr. Jeff Snell defended the numbers and has been meeting with schools and the public for months alerting them of the projected deficit. The new funding model cuts the CDS levying capacity by 50 percent, which will result in a nearly $5 million loss within 12 months.

McEathron said expenditures currently outpace revenues, but this is typical during start-up of a new school year. A full end-year report is due by the end of this week.

“We are looking for other areas to sharpen the pencil to adjust the budget,” said McEathron. “We will work to shrink the deficit down. We can’t dip into fund balance because that’s not sustainable.”

To address the deficit, McEathron is creating a public budget committee.

“So, we really want to have a budget committee that involves stakeholders,” said McEathron. “Let’s shed the light on this and let’s work together as a community. We will do this together.”

He said other similar districts across the state are dealing with these same issues. The state is currently $600-900 million short of fully funding education statewide, and that will hit in the 2019-20 school year.

The district will be on the front end of dealing with the state budget, and will work with OPSI, the Governor’s office, and the Legislature, which McEathron said is dealing with a McCleary hangover.

State Representative Brandon Vick, LD-18, responded to the issue in a private interview at the Camas Youth Advisory Council Candidate (CYAC) Candidate Forum.

“The Legislature feels we’ve done our job by fully funding education as mandated by the Supreme Court,” said Vick. “There isn’t much appetite right now to address this. I voted against the bigger McCleary law because I knew it would cause this problem, but I did vote for the fix, which we passed earlier this year.”

About 30 minutes later, Vick publicly said the following at the forum:

“We dealt with McCleary. I voted against the first law. McCleary is a big bill. Does McCleary get the job done? The answer is yes. This was a very good piece of legislation. I think what we did made a lot of sense. We funded McCleary to those salary numbers that were recommended.”

Candidates at the forum were asked about McCleary, and several citizens responded afterward that they wished the candidates for the State offices would have had more to say about the issues the legislation is causing.

McEathron expects to have the CSD budget committee started in November.

 

Deficit

CSD is forming a special Budget Committee to address a $3.2 million deficit.

Camas, WA — At their latest meeting on Monday, the Camas School Board heard from administrators and teachers who discussed major issues, including a bus driver shortage, a comprehensive math study, and budget cuts.

In their Board Communications session, board member Tracey Malone, who also serves on the board of the Cascadia Tech Academy, reports that Cascadia still isn’t getting funds from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and that the academy leaders are very frustrated. She said certain portions of the academy need renovation. Cascadia provides technical learning experiences for students from all Clark County-area high schools.

Superintendent’s Report

Camas School District (CSD) Superintendent, Dr. Jeff Snell, said they are awaiting their first bargaining session with the local principal’s union. When those sessions are completed, CSD will be able to report a more exact annual budget, and report more details on four-year forecasting.

Snell reported that he spoke with State Rep. Paul Harris, who said he’s very concerned about the small school districts — and that they are nervous about financial sustainability past one year under the new state school funding model.

“There’s a lot of angst out there,” said Snell. “Harris said there is more legislative work to do.”

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Snell added: “We have major challenges with recruiting and maintaining bus drivers. It’s becoming a safety issue, and we need to do something about it. Our pay is lower and our bus driver contracts are tied to that. We need to align pay with Evergreen and Vancouver. It’s affecting transportation to athletic events in other districts, and we have mechanics driving now. It’s a fun place to be (as a bus driver), but these are unique hours. It’s a big complex problem that doesn’t have easy answers.”

Snell said he continues to attend staff meetings to reinforce the message about budget impacts from McCleary.

Math Track Study Update

Dr. Charlene Williams kicked off a conversation about a Math Track Study, in which she hopes will gain support and momentum.

Williams explained the purpose:“Camas School District’s Problem of Practice and Theory of Action are aimed squarely at building the conditions and capacities to ensure that each student is seen and served. Ultimately, our goal is equity, and we will know we have met that goal when the factors that predict any student’s success or opportunity are no longer correlated with any group identity.”

Board

Dr. Charlene Williams explains the study’s timeline.

Dean Strawn addressed tracking and acceleration.

“Tracking places students into different levels of the same course, with the levels identified by tags such as honors, advanced, regular, or remedial.”

Acceleration provides opportunities for students with exceptional mathematical promise, and educators want to ensure that opportunities are available to every prepared student and that no critical concepts are rushed or skipped, Stawn said.

As new common core curriculum enters secondary schools, they are launching this study in our community to address concerns from teachers, families and students about our current math tracking system — and specifically they are addressing a perpetual cycle of math anxiety.

Cycle of Math Anxiety

Lack of confidence > Math anxiety > Avoid math > Poor performance is the cycle that educators see — and it’s one they’re trying to break.

“We have seen the benefits of tracking a small percentage of students who meet or exceed the acceleration expectations,” said Stawn.

CSD teacher, Jenna Lee Harrison, said she learned a lot from math issues affecting San Francisco Unified School District.

“We learned a lot from San Francisco, and we can glean a lot of things from them,”Harrison said. “What is the current research? Marginalized groups fall into lower math tracks. We need a rich math environment for every one of our students.”

The CSD Board agreed to proceed with the study, which will last through the school year.

Monthly Enrollment/Budget Update

Jasen McEathron discussed enrollment and said a revised budget is in progress.

He said the new CSD enrollment headcount is 7,243, which is 2.3 percent higher overall than budgeted, and that the largest growth this year is in 5th and 6th grades. Kindergarten enrollment is the smallest at 458. First and tenth grades were the only grades below budget.

“We have to continue to be diligent in looking at the demographics in the community,” said McEathron. “We need to take a closer look at the number of kids who have left and those who we’ve accepted on boundary exceptions. Special ed is tracking below budget.”

Budget Outlook

  • McEathron addressed the following during his presentation:
  • CSD is expecting a budget extension will be necessary for 2018-19 to accommodate the additional cost of the CEA contract (teachers union).
  • The revenues from enrollment growth, cost avoidance measures, and fund balance will be used to cover the additional cost in 2018-19.
  • Immediate measures to curtail expenditures include 1) non-personnel cuts of 2%; 2) all new hired positions are temporary/one-year that are historically hard to fill.
  • More significant changes will be necessary for 2019-20.

Board

Math Study

Camas, WA — At the eleventh hour, negotiations between Camas School District (CSD) negotiators and the Camas Education Association (CEA) ended in a tentative agreement — to avert a strike — that will be voted on by union members Monday, September 3, at Camas High School.

“We’re very excited, said Camas School District Superintendent, Jeff Snell. “We are grateful we could find common ground and move forward.”

During our interview with CEA President Shelley Houle, she said: “Just in time for Labor Day, CEA and CSD achieved a Tentative Two-Year Agreement that brings total individual educator compensation in year one ranging at entry from $50,727 to a maximum of $97,529 for educators with 16 or more years of experience as well as a Master’s Degree plus ninety college credits. The salary range in 2019-20 is from $52,868 to $100,110 with 15 or more years of experience and a Masters plus ninety college credits.”

Please see our in-depth YouTube interview with Houle: Interview with Shelley Houle

The CEA will be meeting for a private association meeting to review and ratify the full Tentative Agreement on Monday (Labor Day), September 3rd at 5 pm.

Snell can’t speak to the details until the CEA ratifies the agreement, but said he’s very pleased they arrived at a settlement before the new school season begins on Tuesday.

“We came to an agreement around the parameters that CEA wanted,” said Snell. “We know it’s going to be hard in the future. It’s going to be hard because of the new state model. We really tried to mirror those demands fairly. I feel good about it. The details will come out tomorrow. Camas bucked the trend in Clark County.”

He said each district is very unique.

“We are just fortunate we came to an agreement on both sides,” Snell said. “We hope other districts will get it done, as well. What happens is they ratify and the School Board will approve the next contract at their next board meeting. Districts around the state are starting to move a little more, which will create a lot of energy.”

Details of the settlement will be revealed Monday evening.

Analyzing the Math and the Effects of the McCleary Law

Over the last several weeks, Camas Education Association (CEA) union representatives, with assistance from the Washington Education Association (WEA), have met face-to-face with Camas School District (CSD) representatives to negotiate and bargain for new teacher contracts.

At stake is $7.1 million, which is CSD’s share of the $2 billion that is being appropriated from the State of Washington to “amply fund” teacher salaries across 295 school districts in the state. The $2 billion is new money that is being generated from the McCleary law that was passed late in the Washington State 2017 Legislative session. The law is funded by the largest property tax in state history.

That law, according to CEA union lead, Mark Gardner, was passed after the Washington State Supreme Court mandated the State Legislature “amply fund” teacher salaries, citing the state Constitution. The Legislature took years to draft a law to satisfy the court’s judgment (which required a legislative “fix” in 2018) and was done at the end of an unusually long, and often times, bitter, legislative session.

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The CEA is seeking from CSD $5.9 million of those funds — to be used for pay increases for certificated staff, which comprises teachers, counselors, occupational therapists, physical therapists, librarians, choir and band teachers. Principals are not included in these bargaining and salary negotiations.

Union negotiators are asking for 11-12% raises for 432 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE’s) based on 2017-18 staffing, and at this time, CSD is offering a pay increase of 4%. There’s a discrepancy in the FTE , as CSD says this year’s budget plans for 452 FTE’s. CSD staffs more FTEs than allocated by the state through local funding sources. This creates a discrepancy in the total cost of proposed compensation packages.

There are several factors contributing to the current discussions, which include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Discrepancies with Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) total compensation cost.
  • Near and long-term effects of CSD’s levying capacity, which has been cut by 50 percent.
  • Complexities and confusion of the McCleary legislation.

Lacamas Magazine spent considerable time getting the union’s perspective on the matter, which was presented in a YouTube video on August 10. We also spent time on August 10 learning about the CSD perspective on these negotiations, and inquired about pay increase complaints from union members.

According to CSD, Camas teachers have been getting increases since the 2014-15 school year, as well as Time Responsibility Incentive (TRI) increases that are consistently above state average. TRI is compensation for additional responsibilities provided by certificated staff, such as end year closeout and new year preparation time.

Over that period, according to state-audited figures from CSD, starting teachers received annual increases of 3.5%, 4.5% and 7.3%. Average teachers received annual increases of 5.1%, 5.6% and 7.3%, and Top teachers received annual increases of 4.8%, 4.5%, and 7.3%. Overall increases during that three-year period are between 16% and 19%.

“We have the best teachers and a high retention rate,” said CSD Communications Director, Doreen McKercher. “We greatly appreciate them, and want to compensate them as well as we possibly can.”

During their August 9 bargaining session, CSD agreed to increase the raise from 3.1% to 4%.

How Are Teachers Funded?

According to CSD, this is one of the biggest changes in the new funding model. Previously, the state would fund the number of teachers allocated based on student population. If districts decided to go beyond the state allocation, that would require a local levy, which is what Camas does. The amount of money received used to be based on the experience of the teaching staff, and if a district had a larger percentage of experienced teachers they would receive funding through a factor called staff mix. Camas has a veteran staff mix, said McKercher, so CSD has greatly benefited from the previous system. In the new model, the state provides an average teacher salary amount for the state plus any regionalization for each district — and now staff mix has been eliminated. Districts with more veteran teaching staffs receive less proportional funding than they did previously. If compensation is greater than state funding per FTE then additional revenue will be needed in the future to avoid cuts.

McCleary

This charts shows state funding per FTE.

Both parties had a sixth bargaining session on August 11, in which CEA president Shelley Houle said the following (via Facebook post):

“Today we met with our district’s bargaining team to each propose an offer. Although we feel a significant gap still exists, positive steps were taken to find more common ground. We added three more bargaining dates that will take place after August 21st in anticipation that we can dig into the minutia of what a salary schedule would look like for Camas educators.”

“But, our work is far from done and there is no guarantee that the needed common ground will be found. We still must plan for the worst and continue to organize. All actions and events will proceed as planned. We appreciate your support and commitment to seeing this through.”

Specifics of Saturday’s bargaining session have not been made public.

“The status of the negotiations are ongoing, which is a good sign,” said CSD Superintendent, Jeff Snell. “Any time conversation is taking place, there are opportunities to learn more about other perspectives and hopefully find common ground. The change in the way we fund schools has put both our unions and district in a very challenging situation. There’s a lot to work through and figure out. Decisions obviously have implications for this year and the future as well, so we all want to be thoughtful about them.”

Snell also addressed community frustration, and asks for patience in the process. The complexities and effects of the McCleary fix are adversely affecting 270 of the 295 districts across the state. Only 25 districts have settled — and they are generally in smaller, less populated areas.

“I understand there is a lot of frustration about the process this year,” said Snell. “I’m frustrated too. I’m not frustrated with our staff. They deserve to be compensated well and the union’s job is to try to negotiate the best contract possible. I’m frustrated because we’ve advocated side-by-side for so long to increase the funding our students deserve in this state. Now we’ve been given a new system that is creating chaos. The new system is dividing districts instead of bringing them together. It would be easy to blame one side or another, but that’s too simple. That charge would be warranted if this was just happening in Camas, but it is not. I have had the privilege of collaborating with so many amazingly talented teachers, secretaries, custodians, administrators, board members, all of the diverse roles it takes to run a school district, from all over the state. A common theme amongst each of them is their commitment to students and to each other. It’s a gift to serve in public education and to do it well requires all of us working together and supporting each other. My hope is this challenge brings out the best in each of us and we come out of it even stronger.”

 

McCleary

Camas School Superintendent Jeff Snell speaks at the 2017 Camas High School Graduation Ceremony.

 

FTE Count

The union’s proposal is based on a 432 person FTE head count, which is different from the CSD’s 452 person FTE count. That’s a difference of 20 positions, reflecting a financial discrepancy of approximately $2 million, and is a major reason CSD can’t reach the 11% pay increase demand.

“CSD has passed flawlessly state financial audits for the past nine years, so our numbers are reliable,” said McKercher. “We’ve addressed this discrepancy with the union during the August 2 bargaining session.”

The district included this additional $7 million state allocation into their 2018-19 operating budget, which totals $94.43 million. Eighty-one percent of the district budget comes from state funds, while federal and local funds provide the remaining 19 percent to meet operating expenses.

 

McCleary

Mark Gardner is one of the CEA bargaining negotiators.

Levy Capacity Diminished by 50%

Because the McCleary law used property taxes to fund the Supreme Court mandate, it changes the way all school districts use levies to fund gaps in operating expenses. The result: CSD’s ability to levy has been reduced by 50% — from $3 for every $1,000 of assessed property value to $1.50.

“Because of McCleary, we are already losing $4.9 million in levy capacity in the next school year,” said McKercher. “They should have let us ride out our levy. McCleary takes away levies that people already voted for. We’re currently in the first year of a four-year levy.”

The McCleary law essentially negated the votes of Camas voters.

“We’ll have to go back out for a levy at only $1.50 instead of $3 in about a year,” said McKercher.

The CEA says “While local levy collection will decrease, it will be more than offset by the increase in state allocation.”

CSD disagrees.

“The district will be exhausting ALL state funding in 2018/2019 and using local levy revenues to continue to employ positions beyond what the state funds. The new legislation is reducing our local levy revenues by 50% in the calendar year 2019, which we use to fund positions and pay beyond the state allocation, 100% of extra-curricular activities, and subsidize underfunded areas of Special Education, Student Transportation, and Food Services.”

The district will be using local levy dollars to fund additional positions and pay of approximately $6.3 million districtwide and an estimated $2.2 million to cover the underfunded Special Education programs.

McKercher said that losing 50% of levy capacity is a blow to the district, and is a major repercussion of the McCleary fix. Levies started to become necessary as state funding didn’t keep pace with running a school system. Levies essentially filled in the gaps.

The other issue is that levy money only flows in twice a year, and if homeowners are behind on their property tax payments, that could affect operating revenue.

“All districts have to contend with this,” said McKercher. “We’re in this mess because of a badly written law. This is a state-wide effort, and WEA is focusing on changing the law, but it’s coming at the expense of our relationships.”

The McCleary “Fix”: Bad Legislation

According to Bill Keim, former Executive Director of the Washington Association of School Administrators, the McCleary legislation has fundamental flaws:
• Local levy reduction aren’t equal across the board, and cuts local levy authority by a statewide average of $947 per student.
• Creates a new approach to the Local Effort Assistance (LEA), which aims to help areas with lower property values. He says the new system creates the “haves” who can secure a total of $2,500 per student in local funding and the “have-nots” who can only secure $1,500. This approach is blatantly inequitable.
• A net negative effect on levy and LEA. He says: “The district that fared best with these changes is estimated to gain over $3,800 per student, while the district that did worst will lose over $9,500 per student. Those lost dollars will be hard enough for the districts to accommodate, but these are also the most flexible funds districts receive. Their loss will make it much harder for the districts to accommodate local priorities or to smooth out the anomalies in other state funding allocations.”
• He says: “58 school districts will receive more money than needed to provide their 2017-18 workforce with a 19% increase, and 237 districts won’t receive enough. On one end of that equation, the biggest winner will receive $7,175 more than it needs, and at the other end, the biggest loser receives $15,394 per certificated instructional staff (CIS) less than needed. The legislative message in the face of this problem seems to be just make it work.”
• A major challenge to account for local funds, and clarification on limitations of enrichment funds. He says: “That clarification is very important because, for the first time, school districts must account separately for their use of local funds, the State Auditor will audit that accounting, and there are sanctions for the inappropriate use of those funds. To date, no one in any position of authority has offered a definitive interpretation, much less released WAC rules that generally guide school districts with the implementation of new laws. Given the landmark nature of these laws, the absence of that guidance is very troubling and will require 295 districts leaders to make their own interpretation about this part of the legislation.”
• While some districts like Lake Washington fared well under this law, he says most will not. Keim says: “While that will likely be portrayed as administrative tightfistedness, the reality is that most school districts will have much less new funding to put on the table. That highlights the fact that in the post-McCleary era, student zip codes will still determine the quality of education they receive. And the sad reality is that in many communities, that disparity may be even greater than before.”

McKercher said the impact of McCleary as it currently stands, will force CSD to lay off staff and/or eliminate programming in two to three years.

The other outstanding issue is that legislators in 2018 passed a budget that lowers property taxes by $400 million over the next two years — which is designed to give property owners some relief after the sticker shock of getting tax bills following the McCleary legislation in 2017. While property taxes, which are a primary source of school funding, are reduced, so are the levies. That puts more squeeze on all school districts.

The Effects of a Strike

The CEA is currently organizing a strike vote, which is planned for August 27. According to Gardner, it’s not something they want to do.

“We are planning our curriculum and operating as if everything will be normal on September 4,” Gardner said.

A strike has many repercussions:

1) The state won’t waive walkout days — and will enforce the state mandate that students attend for 180 days.
2) If a strike goes past September 15, CSD employees who do not work will lose their benefits for that month.
3) If a strike goes past September 15, CSD employees who do not work will not get paid.
4) Family schedules will be adversely affected.

McKercher said the district is committed to compensating CSD employees as much as possible, and that she’s worried about how the effects of a strike will affect long-standing relationships in the community.

There are still several bargaining sessions on the August calendar, and we will continue to report news as it becomes available.

This coming Tuesday, February 12, Camas citizens are voting on a four-year school replacement Maintenance and Operations funding levy, which is designed to address state funding gaps.

The levy has multiple components – 1) Maintenance and Operation (M&O), which will allow the Camas School District to meet staff funding obligations; and 2) Technology, which covers the tangible and intangible, such as phone systems, laptops, 911 system, software licenses, etc.

The proposed M&O levy would collect $11.45 million, $11.8 million, $12.2 million, and $12.75 million each year over the next four years. And the proposed Technology levy would collect approximately $1.3 million each year over the next four years.

“We’re planning ahead to allow for growth as enrollment has had a 3-5 percent annual increase,” said Doreen McKercher, of the Camas School District. “We are having to cover things that used to be covered by the state, but now these things are on the local tax payer.”

McKercher said the largest items covered by the M&O are transportation (buses), special education, utilities (huge expense), and technology staff, which is an unfunded state mandate.

 

Helen Baller graduates Tony Lattanzi and Jefferson Jackson.
The state-of-the-art technology at Helen Baller is funding by the current
Technology Levy that was passed several years ago.
The levy proposes more money per assessed property value than previous levies, however, the actual total combined rates for all school taxes will be less than voters currently pay.
Taxpayers currently pay $.38 per $1,000 of assessed value for technology; $3.27 per $1,000 of assessed value on M&O; and $4.35 per $1,000 of assessed value on bonds. The current rates amount to $8.00 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The proposed rate in for 2014 is $7.32 per $1,000 of assessed value. And go forward at $7.44 for 2015, $7.55 for 2016, and $7.61 for 2017.
The proposed M&O levy is based on these factors:
  • A change in the way the state calculates its levy formula
  • Continued growth in enrollment, which increases operational costs
  • Rising fuel, utilities and insurance costs
  • Start-up costs for the new Woodburn Elementary School, which opens in Fall 2013.
  • Increase in the number of students participating in extracurricular programs and sports.

 

Current levies expire at the end of 2013, and Washington has decreased funding in key areas at the local level.
“This is not a new tax,” said McKercher. “We’re simply replacing expiring levies so we can maintain the high standards we have here in Camas.”
McKercher said students benefit with smaller class sizes, more textbooks, improved student safety, quality grounds, funding for extracurricular activities, and numerous other programs.
Common questions:
  • If the assessed values increase, can the district college more? No.
  • If the district increases in assessed value over the next four years, will your cost per $1,00 increase. No.
  • Can the levy amount be increased without a vote? No.

Ballots were mailed on January 24 and citizens are asked to vote on or by February 12.