The responsibility for managing the finances of Issaquah School District lies with the superintendent and the School Board, although it is regulated by state law and is under instructions from the Superintendent of Public Instruction. There are guidelines for budgeting, accounting and financial reporting, which all district schools must follow. School districts plan and formulate a budget before the start of the school year. The budget is formed in accordance to the stipulations of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The finance department handles money related functions like budgeting, accounting, payroll and benefits, purchasing, accounts payable and receivable, inventory control and asset management. The school district also includes several individual businesses like transport business, food service business, and a child care business. All these are operated on the lines of business model, to ensure accountability and proper use of public funds. In July 2004, a Policy Governance system was introduced by the school board, requiring routine reports on the status and developments occurring in every aspect of district operation.
The financial monitoring reports are reviewed several times a year, by the school board. The setting of the school budget requires about a year’s time, and its working is always done for the subsequent year. It requires a four-month time for the completing of the preliminary works like receiving directions for budget setting from Superintendent, legislature, and administrators beginning to work on the budget process. Another four-month period is also required for the drafting of the budget and finalizing the budget, respectively.
Apart from gifts and grants received, Issaquah gets less in funding. There are three sources of funding for school districts; namely the federal, state and local taxes. Issaquah gets less funding from all three sources, compared to any other districts. The Issaquah school district ranks 272nd in the revenue per pupil, among the districts in the state. It must be noted here that there are only 296 districts in the state in 2006-07. However many people consider Issaquah as a rich district, unaware of the realities and effects of the lesser funding.
School funding is an important agenda debated in Washington’s State legislative and budget panning sessions. In 2006-07, Issaquah received only about $395,000 in federal Title I funding which is aimed at remedial reading programs for the disadvantaged students. This should be compared with other King County districts which get even millions in this fund. The fact that a significant population of Issaquah is considerably affluent, is attributed as the cause for the low funding. In the 1970s, when education was equalized, some districts like Everett and Northshore paid higher salaries to their teachers.
Today the state pays about $2000 more per year to an Everett teacher, when compared to an Issaquah teacher. In terms of local funding too, Issaquah treads behind several other districts due to gap in levy authority. Issaquah would collect $6. 4 million more each year if it had the levy authority similar to that of Bellevue, or collected $9. 2 million more per year if it had the levy authority of Mercer Island. In Issaquah, the under-funding of special education by the state is estimated to be around $2. 5 million per year, which is adjusted by local levy dollars.
As the local levy dollars cannot be used for supporting other classroom programs, all the students are affected. It is estimated that the under-funding of special education by the Washington State is nearly $200 million per year. On September 30, 2004, about twelve school districts joined together and filed a case against the state for failing to provide the necessary funds for the special education programs. The courts have ruled that Washington State is obliged to fully fund the basic and special education in the district schools.
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