Issaquah schools could lose $2.2 million under governor’s proposed budget plan

December 6, 2011

“We will be looking at a trimmed-down operation,” said Jake Kuper, the Issaquah School District’s chief of finance and operations.

He said district officials largely had managed to keep financial cuts from directly impacting classrooms. But Kuper also said he doesn’t know if that will be possible if Olympia slashes local funding even further.

Kuper was talking about how funding cuts proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire might affect the Issaquah schools. In making the cuts, Gregoire said she needed to close a looming $2 billion budget shortfall. To mitigate any spending reductions, Gregoire already has asked legislators to place a three-year, half-cent sales tax increase before voters in March. State lawmakers are in the midst of a special session to deal with budget questions.

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Union calls for action on school crowding

September 13, 2011

After passing their latest district spending plan, Issaquah school officials quickly stated that despite funding cuts and the overall economic downturn, local class sizes had remained the same.

“We were able to retain our class sizes from the prior year’s budget cycle,” said Jake Kuper, Issaquah School District chief of finance and operations.

That may be true, according to Phyllis Runyon, president of the Issaquah Education Association, the local teachers union.

But Runyon also said teachers still are struggling with oversized classes throughout the district. She added there are at least a few overloaded classes in every building and also talked about class size problems at specific schools and in specific grade levels.

For example, there are about 36 science and language arts-social studies classes overloaded at Beaver Middle Lake Middle School, Runyon said. She also talked about crowded conditions in secondary music classes.

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Issaquah School Board adopts $287.7 million budget

September 13, 2011

On the last day allowed by state law, the Issaquah School Board on Aug. 31 passed its 2011-2012 budget.

The overall plan includes expenditures of $287.7 million, including general fund spending of $161.5 million, according to district Chief of Finance and Operations Jake Kuper.

As with most governmental budgets, the general fund pays for the day-to-day operations of the district and includes items like class materials and salaries.

Outside of the general fund, the overall budget includes $1.5 million for the purchase of new buses, $68.2 million for capital improvements, $49.5 million for debt service and a $7 million allocation for spending by student groups.

During the recent board discussion, board member Chad Magendanz warned that Olympia legislators still could have some surprises in store for the district. Magendanz said he has seen hints that a special session of the Legislature could occur with adjustments to the state budget at the top of the agenda.

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Teachers challenge supermajority rule

August 9, 2011

As part of the Washington Education Association, unionized Issaquah school teachers are parties to the suit filed late last month challenging the requirement that a positive vote by a supermajority of state legislators is needed to approve future tax increases.

Imposed by voters in November as part of Initiative 1053, the rule resulted from one of the latest initiatives launched by well-known political activist Tim Eyman. The supermajority requirement applies to both houses of the state legislature.

“The state of Washington is not following through on their paramount duty to fully fund education,” said Phyllis Runyon, president of the Issaquah Education Association, the local teachers union. “The state has not fully funded education for years, but with the current economic situation, the funding situation has worsened.”

The state already has some of the largest class sizes in the nation along with some of the lowest per-pupil funding, Runyon added.

“Eyman’s initiative that calls for a two-thirds majority to pass legislation to raise taxes makes the situation far worse,” Runyon continued. “Without new revenue, the state will undoubtedly continue to cut education.”

Opponents specifically argue the rule violates the state constitution, unlawfully impairing the ability of lawmakers to fund public schools.

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Issaquah School District could lay off up to 51 teachers

May 3, 2011

If the worst were to happen, Issaquah School District’s budget would take quite a hit for the next school year.

Although the Legislature has yet to finalize its biennial budget, the district is required, through its contract with the Issaquah Education Association teachers’ union, to alert teachers about impending layoffs by the last school board meeting in April.

At the board meeting April 28, Jacob Kuper, finance and operations chief for the district, presented a worst-case-scenario, predicting the district would lose $2.7 million — a cut that would lead to the layoffs of 51 teachers, two maintenance-and-operations personnel, six custodians, 1.3 bus drivers, 1.15 educational assistants and 1.3 teachers on special assignment.

Of the 51 teachers, 15 plan to leave through normal attrition, meaning 36 teachers will receive layoff notices. There are 1,078 teachers is the district.

“One of the challenges that you face in an educational system is that 85 percent of our costs are salaries,” Associate Superintendent Ron Thiele said.

During the past two fiscal years, the district has received a $12 million reduction in state funding, money that was used to pay for classroom teachers and other school employees. The Legislature has reduced programs funding teachers, including suspension of Initiative 728, which pays for more teachers and professional development, and the elimination of the kindergarten-through-fourth-grade class-size reduction.

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Issaquah School District could lose up to 51 teachers

April 28, 2011

NEW — 12:05 a.m. April 28, 2011

If the worst were to happen, Issaquah School District’s budget would take quite a hit for the next school year.

Although the Legislature has yet to finalize its biennial budget, the district is required, through its contract with the Issaquah Education Association teachers’ union, to alert teachers about impending layoffs by the last school board meeting in April.

At the board meeting Wednesday night, Jacob Kuper, finance and operations chief for the district, presented a worst-case-scenario, predicting the district would lose $2.7 million — a cut that would lead to the layoffs of 51 teachers, two maintenance-and-operations personnel, six custodians, 1.3 bus drivers, 1.15 educational assistants and 1.3 teachers on special assignment.

Of the 51 teachers, 15 plan to leave through normal attrition, meaning that 36 teachers will receive layoff notices.

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School district could lose more than $3 million from governor’s cuts

December 21, 2010

The Issaquah School District is slated to lose $3.17 million in the proposed budget Gov. Chris Gregoire released Dec. 15.

The 2011-13 proposed budget aims to address a $4.6 billion shortfall.

“This is on top more than $10 million in cuts from the last two budget cycles and a $1-million mid-year cut to our current budget from Saturday’s special session,” Issaquah Superintendent Steve Rasmussen said in a statement. “If I have said we were down to the bone before now, this starts cutting into the marrow of classroom operations.” Read more

Teachers’ union leader takes many memories with her into retirement

July 6, 2010

Neva Luke, who is retiring as Issaquah Education Association president, sits in her office with a picture of her and husband Pat Ciairelli, and a framed Rosie the Riveter World War II poster. By Greg Farrar

Neva Luke, 60, cleared the treasure trove of memories from her office at the Issaquah Education Association in the days leading up to her retirement from the Issaquah School District.

Photos of her travels to Versailles with her husband, Pat Ciairelli, the framed placard of Rosie the Riveter saying “We can do it!” and a card from her sister of Gilda Radner’s “Saturday Night Live” character Roseanne Roseannadanna, whining that “It’s always something,” — all are mementos of a life dedicated to helping children and advancing public education.

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Phyllis Runyon named new IEA president

July 6, 2010

Phyllis Runyon

Taking up the helm at the Issaquah Education Association is Phyllis Runyon, a speech and language pathologist with the Issaquah School District.

In coming years, Runyon will guide the teachers’ association through many challenges that will face them locally as education is reformed at the state and national levels, said former President Neva Luke, who retired June 30.

Runyon answered a few questions by e-mail about her new position.

What do you feel the association’s mission is?

Our mission is to work with the district to provide the best working conditions possible for educators, so they can focus on their job of providing an excellent education for the students of Issaquah.

Why is a strong association important?

Our community expects well-educated students. To provide this, we must attract and retain the highest quality of educators possible. The association is made up of about 1,000 members, and when they are able to do their jobs well, the whole community benefits.

How do you feel the association has changed in the last 10 years?

The focus of the association has broadened. Our jobs have always been political, but that has extended into education reform, ESEA (No Child Left Behind), and any number of political forces that affect our members — not to mention the economic woes that our state faces that affect our schools. Issaquah alone has experienced more than $10 million in cuts over the last two years.

What do you feel is the most challenging thing the association will face in the coming year? How do you plan to tackle it?

Educators have become the scapegoat for anything wrong with education in this country. I believe this is fallout from the effort to dismantle public education. The irony of this political attitude is that educators are the heart and soul of public education. They make it work. I want to remind those who want to change to a corporate model that our students are not a single product. They are individuals with individual needs and goals. We can’t help them reach their goals when we have to compete for funding and focus on test results rather than how to prepare our students to be responsible, productive citizens.

District officials, teachers rest easy with new contract approved

June 15, 2010

The Issaquah School Board unanimously approved a four-year teachers’ contract at its meeting June 9.

Teachers and district officials reached a tentative agreement June 1. The contract was approved by the Issaquah Education Association membership June 8.

There are several policy and language revisions to the contract this year, but there are no raises in teachers’ cost-of-living adjustments or to their direct salary next year, Director of Communications Sara Niegowski wrote in an e-mail.

However, all certificated employees, like teachers, therapists and nurses, have access to more money from the Professional Growth Incentive Fund and there are larger stipends available for employees who take on leadership roles.

Changes to the contract include:

  • Language changes including higher-level technology training for teachers.
  • All teachers by the third year of the contract must have an up-to-date online presence, like a website.
  • School calendars must be established three years in advance.
  • Additional well-defined individual, professional growth goals. Includes teachers and supervisors collaborating to create them and at least one goal tied to school, district or state learning goals.
  • Increases from $11,000 to $15,000 for elementary instructional leadership roles.
  • Stipend increases for therapists, pathologists and nurses who assume leadership roles to $3,000.
  • The Professional Growth Incentive Fund grows from $1,500 to $1,750.
  • The teacher’s current contract expires Aug. 31. The new contract expires Aug. 31, 2014.

In addition, district officials agreed to continue to fund the two professional improvement days the state has cut to keep all employees salary steady.

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