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Washington state Superintendent Chris Reykdal announced a capital gains tax in his 2019-21 budget Tuesday, which addresses the funding gyrations and looming budget deficits in many districts across the state as a result of the new public school funding model.

Capital

Washington State Superintendent Chris Reykdal.

His proposal includes additional funding for students with special needs, nurses and dual language programs, which have historically been unfunded by the state, requiring local districts to implement levies.

“Our students deserve an education system that does not allow opportunity gaps to persist,” Reykdal said in a statement. “That can only happen if our system provides equitable opportunities and individual learning pathways for each student.”

Reykdal’s budget proposal is funded by an 8 percent long-term capital gains tax that would raise $1 billion annually. His goal is to reduce the state property tax by 35 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. This would affect approximately 53,000 households. Single filers who earn $25,000 from capital gains annually or couples who make more than $50,000 will be taxed.

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Would it affect sales of residences? No, said Reykdal.

The objective is to reduce the burden on homeowners so school districts can increase levies as they’ve done in the past.

The state legislature, in their response to the McCleary Supreme Court decision, capped the amount of levy money schools could collect to whichever was less: $2,500 per student or $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value. This decision reduced Camas School District levy capacity by 50 percent, and is a chief cause of projected CSD deficits. Districts all over the state are dealing with similar issues, which Reykdal readily admits.

“Without critical changes, the reduction in levies will leave some districts in a very tough financial situation,” Reykdal said in a statement.

The rest of the capital gains tax would go towards these public school funding areas:

  • $150 million for special education
  • $46 million for mentoring and professional learning
  • $45 million for career and technical education
  • $38 million for institutional education
  • $38 million for counselors
  • $20 million for dual credit programs
  • $14 million for dual language programs
  • $13 million for nurses
  • $13 million for mental health and school safety
  • $10 million for expanded learning opportunities
  • $9 million for family and community coordinators

Reykdal’s plans has critics from both Republicans and Democrats.

“The capital gains tax is basically an income tax,” said Clark County Assessor, Peter Van Nortwick. “If we have one Fisher Investments will be gone. You let a new tax in and it expands. The State brings enough in sales and other taxes.”

Retiring State Representative Liz Pike thinks it’s a terrible idea that tries to fix bad legislation with more bad legislation.

”School districts should not have given raises they had no way to pay for,” said Pike. “It was financially irresponsible. I’ve said all along the WEA orchestrated these strikes with Democrat operatives in order to justify a new state income tax. The Capital Gains Tax proposed by OSPI Reykdal is a back door to a new state income tax.”

The capital gains tax was floated by Governor Inslee two years ago, and most recently by House Democrats in this last budget cycle.

“I’m opposed to any new tax structure,” said candidate Larry Hoff, a Republican who is running for the 18th Legislative District, Position 2 seat. “McCleary needs to be fully implemented prior to suggesting that major changes are necessary.”

Hoff’s opponent is also against the capital gains tax.

“I’m disappointed in his proposal,” said Kathy Gillespie, a Democrat who is running for the open 18th, Position 2 Legislative District seat. “It ignores the huge property tax increase passed in 2017 and also ignores the levy swipe contained in that deal. After a summer of strikes and sky-high property tax bills to boot, I don’t think taxpayers will have an appetite for another ‘fix’. The idea has been around for a while. It’s not new, and it’s still a bad idea.”

 

 

 

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 — The Camas School Board held its regularly scheduled meeting Monday night, where they listened to the Superintendent’s Report, discussed capital projects, dealt with normal business issues, and honored the Odyssey Middle School Tech team for their ingenuity, among other agenda items.

Camas School District (CSD) Superintendent Jeff Snell honored the tech team at Odyssey Middle School for creating a fire alarm system that allowed them to start school on time. They dealt with a system that failed, and worked hard to configure their own fire alarm system that met city code.

“They worked hard to get our occupancy permit just in the knick of time,” said Snell.

Their work was extensive, and the Camas Fire Marshall approved their efforts just before school started.

School

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During the public comments time, Camas Education Association (CEA) President Shelley Houle spoke on behalf of her union.

“I speak to you today on behalf of the CEA, which is grateful we came to an agreement,” said Houle. “We had 391 members vote 100 percent for the agreement, which is the most that have ever showed up. We believe the McCleary promise has been fulfilled. Thank you for your part in that.”

Ken O’Day, a parent of child at Odyssey Middle School, publicly expressed his concern about what the McCleary legislation, and the recent teacher’s agreement are going to do the CSD budget, which projects budget deficits in 2-3 years. He feels the recent agreement is going to put CSD into a bad financial situation.

The board unanimously approved the updated Grass Valley Elementary School Handbook, which changed its dismissal procedure.

School

The Mill Town Pride Award

Superintendent Report

Snell reported that CSD is still in negotiations with CAEOP, CAP — the principals and classified unions.

“It’s challenging with the new funding model,” said Snell. “The reason it was so complicated is the complexity of the new law. In the short term we are OK, but without changes, we are facing uncertain times ahead. We talked about the challenge of having to work together. There will be adjustments. We will continue to plan, but when we look out 3-5 years, the math doesn’t add up.”

He continued.

“We’re at the whim and mercy of the legislature, and we need to be thoughtful of our planning, and look for efficiencies, and we need to advocate with the legislature. We are fortunate we worked it out. There are conditions that make it challenging for each district. We just need to keep thinking about where we’re at, and where we’re going. We need to hold our legislators accountable for the legislation they create. More to come on that. It’s a challenge.”

Policy Review Committee

Snell said he’s been part of the Policy Review Committee, and will work toward moving those items to adoption, which is a two-step process. Snell is a WASA legislative representative, and they presented their proposed legislative agenda, which includes levies, what to do with the new funding model, along with staff mixes, and fully funding special education. He asked the board to review the contents of that proposal.

The annual State of the Community will be next Tuesday, and Snell, along with Camas Mayor, Scott Higgins, will present a state of both the city and the school district to the general public.

The Jack, Will and Rob (JWR) Center has undergone program changes that are resulting in a successful after school program that financially sustains itself. Over the summer, JWR had 148 camps, which included seven brand-new camps, such as robotics and cooking, along with sports, math, and reading programs. More than 2,600 kids participated from the Clark County area.

Capital Programs

Heidi Rosenberg reported on expenditures from CSD capital programs, which include the new schools: Lacamas Lake and Discovery High School.

“We’re doing well and spending the money like we’re supposed to,” Rosenberg said.

Discovery High School is not totally completed, but it is operating.

“The learning stair at Discovery is constantly being used for something,” she said. “It’s like Christmas — something new happens every hour. It was a team effort to get it opened on time.”

She also reported that the Garver Theater Modernization will begin in 2020, which will make the theater usable again.

Steve Marshall’s team discussed what their doing to keep the district’s 14 buildings safe and operational. He reported that it requires 31 custodians, and that they completed water lead testing.

School

Heidi Rosenberg addresses capital program projects at CSD.

 

Camas, WA — Camas School District (CSD) bucked the current Clark County teachers strike trend and started classes on schedule earlier this week. Negotiations between CSD and the Camas Education Association (CEA) started in May and ended on Sunday, September 2 — just ahead of the deadline that would have triggered a strike in Milltown.

Both sides agreed to a two-year deal that costs CSD $37 million in year 1, and approximately $38 million in year 2. The new deal gives teachers a 9.3% – 12.6% pay raise in year 1, which tapers off in year 2. Most breathed a sigh of relief, but this is really the beginning of the story about the impacts of the 2017 McCleary law, and how districts around the state are dealing with looming budget deficits — if nothing changes in two years.

During those negotiations, CSD alerted the public regarding the realities of future district budget deficits.

At their CSD School Board budget review session on August 13, budget forecasts revealed a 3.8% layoff projection, which was based on a pay raise of 3.1%. This is the reality of the new McCleary model. So, what does a 9.3-12% pay increase to do the budget? Our math also shows that CSD is going to have a $9 million budget deficit in 2-3 years. Here is a link to the budget forecast message at the August 13 School Board meeting, which predicts a 3.8% layoff in 2020-21:

August 13 School Board Meeting

We spent considerable time with Camas Schools Superintendent, Jeff Snell, and CEA Lead negotiator, Mark Gardner, about looming deficits. Politicians, political candidates, and others also offered their perspective on the new realities of McCleary — if left unchanged.

Kathy Gillespie, a political candidate for the 18th Legislative District, Position 2, recently said regarding the McCleary levy swipe/levy cap: “After decades of allowing schools to use voter-approved local special levies to pay for basic education expenses (violating the state constitution), including teacher salaries, the state swiped that money into the state budget, lowered the rate districts are allowed to ask for in future levy requests and restricted use of the money to state-approved expenses. This means many, many districts have lost capacity to fund current programs citizens expect. In fact, the loss is estimated to be 40% statewide and totals $1.13 billion in 2019-20.”

OSPI spokesman, Nathan Olson, says Washington will see a net decrease in funding in 2019 overall. The state solved the McCleary problem by reducing local districts’ reliance on local levies. But for many districts, it means the same or less cash, added Gillespie.

Added to the chaos is that each district has its own set of issues, and OSPI says certain districts will have it worse than others. Those districts, according to OSPI, typically have one of four qualities: 1) they already pay salaries near the state average, 2) they pay more for certificated staff than they were given by the state, 3) they didn’t get a pay bump for having experienced teachers, and 4) they’re losing 50 percent or more of their local levy capacity next year.”

Doreen McKercher, CSD Communications Director, says that Camas fits into those areas.

Gillespie continued: “Make no mistake, this chaos is a direct result of the inequities baked into the Legislative solutions passed in 2017-2018. The 2019 Legislature must uncover and systematically attempt to address shortcomings as the first order of business. Local communities must articulate their expectations to elected boards and representatives and remain engaged to advocate long after these local contracts are signed and school is back in session. I want citizens to be fully aware that decisions now to award salary increases over and above what can be sustained will potentially result in cuts as early as Spring 2019. I support our public schools and I am committed more than ever to being part of the new cadre of state legislators who will create sound policy that delivers the results we expect instead of creating the crisis we have now.”

State Representative Liz Pike, who voted against the McCleary bill, said “this is why I voted against it, because I knew it put too much stress on property owners with the biggest tax hike in state history, and that it would hurt school districts.”

Teachers

Camas Superintendent, Jeff Snell, at Prune Hill on the first day of school.

So, we asked Snell directly.

Did this new two-year deal with the teachers put us in financial jeopardy?

“Having an agreement with CEA is a very positive step,” said Snell. “This change in the funding model from the state has really created a whole new system for us to operate in. The old system really helped us, and now that’s been capped by the state. The total cost for the new contract, including benefits, is probably 12-13% over two years, which is aligned to the increased funding we received from the state. The challenge is down the road. When your organization is primarily staffing, costs will grow each year. When you look at the new funding model three or four years out, the revenue does not match up to expenses. That could be a challenge in the future if things don’t change.”

“It’s challenging for us in public schools because we always operate at the discretion or whim of the Legislature, and we operate in these two-year windows. We try to put all the resources to the students, but we also try to be thoughtful and think about the future. We have great facilities and resources, and we’ve also saved to open up new schools. For the next two years, we have to tighten our belts and look at efficiencies while protecting the programs we provide for students. We also know we have to retain and attract the best teachers, so we have to find that balance. This is why it took so long to get an agreement. I’m hopeful the state will make some necessary adjustments to the new model.”

Is this a gamble?

“There are always risks when you take on more costs for your employees,” Snell said. “You don’t go into a deal without having a plan for it, but we do need to find efficiencies and we do need to make sure the state understands the challenges of the new model.”

What are the risks?

“It’s challenging, I agree with you. We have to figure that out, which is why we pushed for a two-year deal. We need time to figure out the new system, and we need time to advocate. We’re a growing community and when we have increased student population that increases state revenue. There are a lot of factors in there. I love this school district, this is my home, and I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize that. It’s very real to me. I’m happy we’re able to come to an agreement. I know CEA understands the parameters we’re working with. CEA knows that if nothing happens from the state, we need to work side-by-side to figure this out. We have to do that with student interests first.”

Is there a $9 million CSD budget deficit looming?

“We could be entering a deficit scenario several years down the road, but we have a planned fund balance spend down, opportunities for growth in enrollment, tools such as hiring freezes, and working with our legislature to make adjustments to the new funding model and mitigate its impact,” said Snell. “It will be really important for our Legislature to look at the long-term plan for how this new funding model can be sustainable not just in Camas, but across our state. If nothing changes in two years, and you look at the way we’re funded in the district, something would have to change with that, because we can’t sustain that over time. We would have to make some cuts.”

“What’s important for our citizens to know is that we’ve used the former funding system to develop a staffing model that exceeded what the state has provided and has delivered to Camas,” said Snell. “For example, in Camas, 1.5 nurses isn’t enough for an entire district, so we’ve used local support through our levy to fund those needs. So, what this deal does is it gives us a window of time to better understand the new funding model and advocate for necessary changes. It’s important for the state to consider the staffing they provide local districts in the new model and recognize it takes more staff to get the job done. We don’t want to limit the local community. We have a four-year levy that was approved by our voters here, and the Legislature changed that. We were counting on more money from the local community, and that’s being taken away.”

Strike

There are many pieces of the puzzle to figure out how to get through the next two years.

How does CSD straighten this out?

“McCleary has been happening for seven years and many people have worked hard to advocate to where we’re at now, and changing a funding model is hard and it’s complicated,” said Snell. “I believe some of the ramifications of the new law weren’t intended, and as the Legislature comes back into session, it’s critical for me to share the impact that it’s having on our local community, and I could use your help in sharing that. To be honest, sometimes legislators get tired of hearing from me. They want to hear from their constituents. When you look at what we have here in Camas we want to be able to hold onto that. We want to keep innovating. We need to have sustainable funding.”

For his part, Gardner doesn’t think there are any budget problems.

“Camas is getting $11 million more than in previous years,” said Gardner. “State money will fill in the gaps.”

He told union members: “If anyone questions sustainability, just tell them Camas is getting $11 million more than last year.”

We asked Gardner if this deal puts the district in financial peril. He said, “No, it doesn’t — we would never want to do that.”

He said he coudn’t guarantee that, but added there needs to be advocacy to changes things in the Legislature, and that the union should work side-by-side with CSD administration.

“We have a wonderful school board that has done a great job of developing and sustaining a great school district,” said Snell. “We will find our way through this transition and continue to provide outstanding learning experiences for our students.”

Follow-up articles on looming budget issues are forthcoming, including how to advocate for special education funding, and state staffing ratios. Each article will analyze each issue, and propose solutions.

McCleary

Several CEA members avoided a strike.

Camas, WA — During Labor Day’s Camas Education Association (CEA) ratification meeting at Camas High School, 391 teachers voted 100% to approve their union’s tentative agreement.

The tentative agreement, which was reached Sunday evening, avoided a teachers strike and helped Camas buck the Clark County strike trend.

But, what’s in it? How long does it last? And, how does it affect the overall Camas School District (CSD) budget over the next two to four years? How does the McCleary law affect the CSD budget?

We spent considerable time with CEA lead negotiator, Mark Gardner, and CSD Superintendent, Jeff Snell to analyze the two-year deal, which is the first of its kind (for Camas) under the new McCleary public school funding model.

 

So, what’s in it?

  • Pay increases of 9.3 (minimum) to 12.6 percent for some at the top end. There has been a total overhaul of the salary schedule, which is based on experience and continued education credits.
  • Compensation structure changes: Changes TRI base, adds three voluntary inservice days, and a Personal Development (PD) flat stipend.
  • Creates longevity mentor stipend.

For year 1, teachers at the low end of the salary scale get a 9.3% increase, and those on the high end receive a 12.6% increase. In year 2, there is another 4.6% increase for the low end, and 2.6% for the high end. The total cost to taxpayers is approximately $37 million in year 1, and approximately $38 million in year 2.

Under the new model, CSD is eliminating most of the TRI pay and building that into the base salary. But the important points are total compensation.

Starting Teachers

The new deal will pay starting teachers, with a Bachelor’s degree, a total compensation package of $50,727 in year 1. So how does that break down?

Year 1 base salary: $47,431 + 3.3% TRI or $1,565 + 3 voluntary inservice days + Personal Development (PD) Stipend = $50,727, which is an overall increase of 9.28% over last year. Year 2 brings their total compensation to $52,868.

Experienced Teachers

Experienced teachers (16+ years), with a Master’s Degree fare better, and will receive a total compensation package of $97,528 in year 1.

Year 1 base salary: $89,339 + 3.3% TRI or $2,950 + 3 Voluntary inservice days + PD flat stipend = $97,529, which is a 12.6% increase over last year. Year 2 brings their total compensation to $100,110.

Teachers

The teachers left the CEA ratification meeting very happy.

The new deal also creates a longevity mentor stipend, which was a concept the district brought to the table. That’s how the negotiators were able to get to the six-figure salary offer for teachers at the high end. Gardner believed that CSD couldn’t get to six figures, as he insists the district is “over-staffed,” meaning they exceed the state standards for full-time employees.

“They are very common throughout the state, but Camas has never had it,” said Gardner, of the longevity mentor stipend. “Historically, teachers at 16+ years of service remain stagnant in their pay, so this is a way to reward them for their service. The longevity stipend offsets that. The district is shuffling some of that pool of money and rewarding those veteran teachers so we can retain and attract experienced teachers.”

Snell said that it was clear that a competitive top end salary was a priority for CEA and they had to be creative in finding a way to get there. The longevity mentor stipend is a different way to provide compensation that is not applied to the entire salary schedule. “We have an outstanding, veteran staff,” said Snell. “This was a way that the district and CEA were able to come together and figure out a way to honor the service they provide.”

“We did a top end stipend for longevity, which was a creative way to get there,” Snell said. “It gives us capacity in the future. Longevity mentor stipend is a separate funding source that got us to mirror other districts. We have veteran staff so it costs us more to apply to the whole schedule. We looked at the top end and figured out a way to honor them. It means that if you’re at the top end, it allows us to get to six figures.”

Veteran teacher Andrea McCarty is thrilled. We spoke with her right after the ratification vote.

”I’m so happy with this, but I’m still digesting the details,” said McCarty, a veteran Camas teacher. “It’s nice to know we’re appreciated.”

Teachers

Camas Superintendent, Jeff Snell, at Prune Hill on the first day of school.

 

Budget issues

The new McCleary funding model also brings with it serious CSD budget issues.

At their CSD School Board budget review session on August 13, budget forecasts revealed a 3.8% layoff projection, which was based on a pay raise of 3.1%. This is the reality of the new McCleary model. So, what does a 9.3-12% pay increase to do the budget?

Snell says the new two-year agreement gives the district time to come up with solutions, however, he adds “we have a tough road ahead under the new funding model.”

We’ve done a thorough analysis that shows major budget deficits in two to three years — if nothing changes. The data analysis has been backed by multiple third-party reviews. The next article focuses on public education funding in the new McCleary era, the size of those projected deficits, and will examine the very real challenges that CSD needs to resolve in the next two to three years.

Stay tuned.

For now, Snell is happy schools are in session, and he looks forward to resolving the challenges that are coming.

Camas, WA — Employees at Fisher Investments recently gathered supplies to assist 58 local students, and with help from the Camas-Washougal Rotary Club, they’ve been delivered and are being dispersed as needed.

“Fifty-eight backpacks were donated by Fisher Investment employees,” said Rotarian Kathy Bussman, who worked with Kalle Fletcher to organize the donations. “The supplies list is provided by school superintendents — pencils, paper, notebooks, glue, scissors, rulers, basic supplies.”

CW Rotary coordinated with both the Camas and Washougal school districts, gathered the supplies, and filled the backpacks. Fisher Investments provided giant boxes around their campus that were generously filled by their employees.

“Last year, they called us and asked how they could participate,” said Bussman. “That was the first year, and they called us again this year. We’re grateful for their support.”

Rotary delivered them to the administration offices, and the district will distribute them out to the schools.

“It was an honor for us and our employees to have the opportunity to partner with Rotary on this worthwhile initiative to provide school supplies to kids,” said John Dillard, spokesman for Fisher Investments. “This is our second year participating in the program, and this year we donated dozens of backpacks and several hundred school supplies.”

Backpacks

The Fletcher girls delivers backpacks and supplies to local school districts. The supplies were provided by Fisher Investments.

 

“We are eager to partner with community members and local businesses that are interested in providing supports to students and families,” said Dr. Mary Templeton, Superintendent of Washougal School District. “The backpacks are a great support to families that can’t provide a set of school supplies for their children, and are appreciated.  We also have collection boxes at schools for patrons who are interested in making more general donations of any school supplies, too.”

“The distribution process is a little different at each school.  In our schools that have a Family Resource Center, the FRC staff person will assist with identifying families that might need or have asked for support.  At Washougal High School, the Panther Den would be the place where students would be provided with these resources. School staff at all sites work to identify families that might need these kinds of supports so that social workers, counselors, and FRC staff people can reach out to offer them.  Staff will also make announcements and have posters or fliers in the office that let students and families know that these resources are available.”
Backpacks

Organizing supplies donated by Fisher Investments.

 

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.

Labor Day weekend is upon us and that usually means it’s time for the kids to go back to school. But if you’ve been paying attention you might have heard that many local SW Washington school district teachers are on strike and school may not start at its scheduled time. What’s going on? Why are there all these strikes? As the parent of a Camas middle-schooler I had the same questions and have recently done a little research on the issue. So read on if you want some more information.

The issue goes back to the McCleary lawsuit against the State of Washington which charged that the state failed to adequately fund basic education in violation of a Constitutional mandate. The problem arose over the years with many districts increasingly relying on local levies to increase funding for education, resulting in inequality across districts. The state Supreme Court sided with the plaintiffs and ruled that basic education must be fully funded by state money, not local money. The legislature’s fix to the problem was to provide an additional $2 billion in funding for basic education distributed across the state’s 295 school districts and to place a cap on local levies, which can now only be used for enhancement and not basic education (eg, teacher salaries).

A few school districts that did not have levies and had low levels of local property tax funding for schools have received large increases in funding under the McCleary legislation. As a result teachers in a few of these underfunded districts have already negotiated large salary increases, in some cases up to 20%. However, many other districts don’t fare as well under the new McCleary funding model. Particularly hard hit are districts that have historically relied on larger local levy funds.

The local Camas community highly values education and through its strong support for local levies the Camas School District (CSD) has been able to develop a great school system. In fact, the schools are what have brought many people and businesses to Camas. The most recent levies were four-year levies passed in 2017 to support maintenance/operations and technology and these provide a number of benefits to students. Levy funds of about $17 million make up about 20% of CSD’s overall annual budget. http://www.camas.wednet.edu/about-csd/budget-funding/levies/

Unfortunately, the impact of the McCleary legislation will substantially reduce CSD’s levy funds. CSD will receive a nominal increase in funding from the state starting in 2018-19, which levels off and there will be an overall decrease in funding for the 2019-20 school year as levy funding continues to decline (see table). Adding to the chaos is that the state provided little guidance to local districts, essentially leaving them on their own to figure out how to handle the drastically changed funding system.

School

The state teacher’s union (Washington Education Association) saw the lack of state guidance and the new statewide funding plan as an opportunity to attempt to negotiate large salary increases on behalf of their members. The WEA held up as examples of what was possible districts that were able to provide 20+% salary increases due to the large windfall those districts received under McCleary. The local teacher’s union, led by Mark Gardner, appears to be pushing for double-digit salary increases, but has not publicly provided information about their requested increase. During the negotiations the district initially offered a 3.1% increase, raised it to 4%, and finally offered teachers a 5.7% increase in 2018-19 followed by another 2.3% increase in 2019-20. The teacher’s union rejected all of these offers and voted to strike. The district then requested mediation and here we are with less than a week before school starts wondering if the kids will be going back to school.

Camas has wonderful school teachers and even though they are among the highest paid in the state I would gladly do my part to help pay them more (we voted for the bond and levies and do what we can to help our school), but unfortunately the issue is not as simple as the slogan “support the teachers.” There are difficult funding and budgetary realities that we must contend with, especially in light of the future major loss of levy funding. The district administrators are mandated by law to sustainably fund the schools and, unfortunately for Camas, the McCleary legislation has not been kind to our district. Large double-digit salary increases could potentially bankrupt the district or require future teacher layoffs or staff cuts as well as cuts to other services, including: special education, library, health, and extracurricular activities; all things that help make our district great.

Everyone in the Camas school district is dedicated to helping our kids learn and it’s disheartening to see this come down to a strike and the acrimony it is creating in our district. I support the teachers, but I also support our dedicated administrators who I believe truly have our district’s interests at heart as they try to responsibly manage our district’s limited funds. Hopefully they can reach a suitable agreement and all the kids can return to school and continue learning. In the meantime, please call your local state legislator, tell them about the problem they have created in our school district, and ask them to fix the McCleary mess they have created.

By Ken O’Day, a Camas parent

Camas, WA — The Camas School District (CSD) has issued a formal response to the Camas Education Association’s (CEA) vote to strike beginning on the first day of school, September 4, pending a salary agreement. With the help of a mediator, negotiations between CSD and CEA will continue this week.

According to CSD administration, updates about the labor negotiations progress will be emailed to families, posted on district social media (Facebook and Twitter), and included on the CSD Labor Relations webpage (http://bit.ly/CamasLabor). Answers to many questions may be found on the Questions & Answers webpage (http://bit.ly/CamasQA).

Official CSD Strike Statement

While our district offered teachers the option to continue working under the current contract, CEA has stated that unless an amended agreement is reached, teachers will not return to the classroom. What this means for you and your student during a work stoppage is:

  • If an agreement is not reached 24 hours before the start of school on September 4, we will notify you that school will not open as scheduled.
  • Each day after that, we will continue to give you updates until an agreement is reached and school is scheduled to reopen (at least a 24-hour notice will be given before we reopen school).
  • All scheduled events and activities (such as open houses, class schedule pick-up, orientations, etc.) scheduled before September 3 will still happen.

During the work stoppage, school buildings will be staffed with essential, non-striking personnel but will not be open to students, families, or the general public. The district administrative offices will be open.

Since athletic coaches are covered under a separate contract, high school and middle school athletics will continue with scheduled practices and games/matches/meets as much as possible.

There will be no district childcare.

Students will still be required to complete the state-mandated requirement of attending school for 180 days. Any days missed at the beginning of the year will be made up – much like snow days. A new calendar will be provided after school resumes.

Questions and Answers

We asked Doreen McKercher, CSD Communications Director, several questions:

What does the district do when the CEA announces a strike? What’s your process?

We have a strike plan in place that covers things like communications, logistics, and planning for next steps. We’ll be communicating with families.

Is this strike even legal? Citing RCW 41.56.120: “Right to strike not granted. Nothing contained in this chapter shall permit or grant any public employee the right to strike or refuse to perform his or her official duties.” The Attorney General’s Office said: “In Washington, state and local public employees do not have a legally protected right to strike. No such right existed at common law, and none has been granted by statute.” What is CSD’s opinion on this?

In Washington, strikes by public employees, including teachers, are illegal. This is recognized in decisions made by the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) and Washington courts. Despite clarity in the law, there are no real repercussions for breaking this law.

How long does a strike have to go on until it starts affecting this year’s school schedule? We understand it’s like using up snow days.

Yes, the plan is to use inclement weather makeup days initially. Should the strike last for an extended period of time, we’d look at scheduled breaks and possibly Saturdays.

If a strike goes past 15 days, then classified staff won’t get paid, but will the teachers also not get paid?

It is my understanding that if the strike continues past the 15th of September, none of the 9- and 10-month staff will be paid, but I still need confirmation on that. We want to make sure we’re following the rules, so we don’t have a definitive answer on that.

Will back to school nights even happen?

Yes, all in-service training, meetings, and the back-to-school events occurring this week will continue as planned.

This information about the Student Wellness Series is provided by the Camas School District.

The public is invited to attend THE STUDENT WELLNESS SERIES: TEENS & THEIR SCREENS – MARCH 26.

Please join us for a free parent education night with Yshai Boussi of Portland Family Counseling talk about how electronics are affecting student brains. He has become the areas’s go-to counselor on navigating the challenges of teens and devices.

The event – which is geared toward an adult audience – is coming up Monday, March 26, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm, at Hayes Freedom High School. We welcome parents and guardians of students of every age to join us for this valuable information. There is no admission fee.

 

Up Next:

On Tuesday, April 10, from 6:30-8:00 pm in the CHS Theatre, Licensed Professional Counselor Howard Hiton will be speaking on “Competition and High Expectations: Supporting Your Children to be Independent and Resilient.”

We thank Camas Educational Foundation for the grant that helped make these opportunities possible in conjunction with the newly founded Student Wellness Program of Camas School District. Stay tuned for even more events!

*PLEASE SHARE WITH FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS – ALL ARE WELCOME*

Contact jennifer.mcmillan@camas.wednet.edu with questions or for more information.

For more on the Student Wellness Program, see Camas-Washougal Post-Record’s March 3 article here: http://www.camaspostrecord.com/news/2018/mar/01/camas-schools-prioritize-wellness/