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Sunnyside School Board decides on uses for I-728 monies

The Sunnyside School Board decided this past Tuesday night on how to spend the money it receives from the state as part of Initiative 728.

I-728 was overwhelmingly supported by state voters, passing with a 72 percent approval rate in November 2000. The purpose of the money is to provide additional funding to help students reach new academic standards.

Sunnyside School District Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole pointed out Tuesday night that districts more often than not have to use I-728 money to supplement other areas that the state has reduced funding in.

Every school district in the state is required to annually hold a public meeting to receive comments on what to do with I-728 funds.

There are strict uses for I-728 dollars. The monies may be used to reduce class sizes in grades kindergarten through fourth. Money may also be used to make selected class size reductions in grades five through 12. The state funding may also be used to provide extended learning opportunities for students.

Sunnyside School District Executive Director of Business Dave Plesha said I-728 monies may also be used to provide professional development for educators and make improvements or additions to school facilities that assist in reducing class size and extending learning opportunities.

The money for funding voter-approved I-728 comes from state property tax and any excess funds from the state's emergency reserve. Next school year will also be the final year funding comes from state lottery sales.

When the state started allocating I-728 funds to school districts during the 2001-02 school year, Sunnyside received $194 per student. Next school year, the district will receive $254 per student. Plesha said that is far less than the projected $450 per student districts were expected to receive from the state next year. He also said the district could receive even less money depending on state funding situations.

Plesha presented the board with an outline of how he wants to use the $1.3 million the district is expected to receive in I-728 funding next year. Plesha has set aside $672,783 to assist in the reduction of class sizes at all grades throughout the district. He has also increased the amount of funds each building principal receives for professional development from $87,000 to $100,000. Plesha has also set aside $404,277 to assist in professional development for district staff during inservice days. Another $40,000 has been allocated for extended learning opportunities, such as after-school programs. Plesha said there is another $152,000 sitting in a pool that can be used for indirect costs, such as extended day opportunities and field trips. Plesha said additional monies could go to these programs if there is any unused funds left from other areas.

Sandra Linde provided the lone public comment Tuesday night. She said she wanted to see the district use the I-728 funds to reduce class sizes even further. She also wanted more funds for teacher development.

The Sunnyside directors approved Plesha's plan of spending.

School board member Bill Smith expressed some concern about the $152,000 the district has reserved for indirect costs, such as field trips. The issue Smith had was he didn't like seeing that much money allocated for programs such as field trips. Smith said he sees the value in field trips and other learning enhancement programs outside the classroom. But, Smith said he feels students aren't spending enough time in the classroom. Smith said he wants to discuss the issue even more this summer, but added the $152,000 should go into other areas like reducing class size.

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