With the election over, school leaders on North Whidbey are looking to meet and talk with their new legislators.
The Oak Harbor School Board in early December will meet with local state representatives representing Whidbey Island to advocate several issues that could improve school district finances.
The school board will meet with newly elected state Sen. Barbara Bailey 4-5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 4. Then board members will meet with newly elected state Rep. Dave Hayes 11 a.m. to noon Friday Dec. 7. Prior to the meeting Hayes will tour Oak Harbor High School. The school board will meet with state Rep. Norma Smith, who is the 10th District’s senior legislator, 4-5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14. All meetings take place at the Administrative Service Center and are open to the public.
Superintendent Rick Schulte said the legislator meetings are important to share the district’s view on priority issues.
It looks like the crux of the upcoming meetings will be advocating compliance with the McCleary decision, which was a recent state Supreme Court case that found Washington state hasn’t fully funded education. The state has a 2018 deadline to fully fund schools.
“This is by far and away the most important topic we’re supporting,” school board member Peter Hunt said during a Monday evening board meeting.
In addition, the board members hope to push for the continuation of the Local Effort Assistance, which is money given out to school districts that have low levies. Schulte mentioned that the dollars has been targeted for elimination by the governor’s office over the past three budget cycles. The Oak Harbor School District receives $800,000 in Local Effort Assistance.
School officials will also mention the state needs to provide a better staffing model for districts. As an example, Schulte noted that the state allocates only the equivalent of a 0.8 full time school nurse while the school district currently employees three.
Other topics that could come up include unfunded mandates, health benefits, improved funding for transportation and improved funding for special education.
Schulte said staff members will also have an opportunity to address the board and legislators during the upcoming meetings.