San Juan Island School District may sue Legislature to fully fund public schools

Superintendent Michael Soltman announced today that the San Juan Island School Board will consider joining a lawsuit to compel the Legislature to fully fund public schools.

At its regularly scheduled board meeting Wednesday, 6 p.m., in the high school library, the board will hear a presentation from Jerry Painter, former general counsel of the Washington Education Association, who now represents the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools.

NEWS is a coalition of more than 50 community organizations, school districts, education associations and teachers and parents. Information is available on the NEWS Web site, Click here.

The NEWS lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in March 2009. The lawsuit asks the courts to order the State of Washington to “live up to its paramount constitutional duty to make ample provision for the education of all Washington children.” At the meeting, the board will discuss possible action to join the lawsuit.

“The district is committed to a full range of actions to address the continuing funding shortfall for public education,” Soltman said in a press release.

The San Juan Island School District discovered in spring that it would have a $600,000 budget shortfall for 2008-09; it blamed the shortfall on a decrease in enrollment, as well as a shortfall in state funding for statewide voter-mandated cost-of-living increases for teachers.

Currently under way is a financial task force charged with developing a five-year fiscal projection and program plan that takes into consideration projected enrollment, state funding and local levy resources.

“Our district must anticipate the future and develop program and facility plans to live within our means,” Soltman said in the press release. “Of course, our desire is to sustain the quality programs and services we enjoy, however, we must build a realistic plan for what we can afford and sustain in the future.”

It is anticipated that the Financial Task Force will make a first report in October.

Legislative advocacy is also a top priority and is being coordinated by Deb Nolan, president of Friday Harbor High School PTA. Nolan is attending state and local meetings to develop effective strategies for communicating the full funding message to our Legislature.

“We simply must demand that our legislators step up to the plate and fund our schools,” Nolan said. “Our community stepped forward last spring to ‘save our schools’, now it’s time for the legislature to provide the funding we need to sustain a quality education program for our kids.”

To join the legislative advocacy effort, contact Nolan at