Kent Schools warn of ‘perfect storm’ wrecking school budgets

Mar 20, 2023, 1:26 PM | Updated: 3:41 pm

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(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Kent School District is warning parents that the district’s finances will be at risk in the next couple of years, with reports that they are joining a growing list of districts in the region looking to tighten their budget.

The district said they currently have enough funds due to Congressional money provided during the pandemic, but that money runs out in 2024.

Bellevue School Board voted in favor of closing two schools

The funds have been used to make up for lost funds due to declining enrollment since 2018. The district points to declining enrollment, inflation, and a lack of what it describes as “full funding” from the state. The State’s education budget is projected to drop from 51% to 43% of the overall state budget.

Presentations have been given at Kent School Board work sessions and meetings regarding the district’s financial outlook for the next several years.

Kent isn’t the first school district to project financial trouble on the horizon — Everett, Bellevue, and Seattle Public Schools have all reported budget shortfalls and announced plans like job cuts or school consolidation.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal has called the current budget situation for Washington school districts a “perfect storm.”

SPS is currently facing a budgetary shortfall of $131 million as student enrollment has continued to drop since the 2019-2020 school year. The Seattle Public Schools Board (SPS) released information from their budgeting meeting at the end of January in which they detailed a plan to cut costs by shutting down some schools.

The Bellevue School Board voted on a final decision last week on how to move forward with their plans to consolidate two elementary schools in the district to save money. The district also approved additional operational cuts to offset the $31 million dollar shortfall. Transition planning will now begin in preparation for fall 2023.

The district says it’s already planning on actions it can take starting next year – including layoffs, staff reallocation, or leaving vacant positions unfilled.

Sam Campbell contributed to this report

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Kent Schools warn of ‘perfect storm’ wrecking school budgets