Editorial: Help close final gap on school budget shortfall

Only $17.85. Right now, if every island resident contributed that much to the Save Our Schools campaign, school funding and programs would be restored to current levels.

San Juan Island residents are nearing a remarkable goal: Raising $600,000 to erase a school district budget shortfall and restore all school programs to their current levels.

Without full funding, what happens? Say “goodbye” to golf, boys soccer, boys tennis, track, volleyball and wrestling. Say “goodbye” to certain custodial, learning support and secretarial positions.

The budget shortfall is blamed on three factors: One, declining enrollment. Two, the spending down of the district’s fund balance. Three, a shortfall in state funding for state voter-mandated salary increases for teachers.

As of Friday, the school district, the San Juan Public Schools Foundation and the San Juan Community Foundation had raised $175,000 in donations as well as $300,000 in matching funds — called “challenge grants,” because the donors challenged the community to match the donations. In other words, the donors are matching other community giving dollar for dollar; to get the $300,000, we have to raise $300,000. But that also means every dollar you donate is doubled.

We believe we can reach the goal: After all, we raised $18.5 million to buy Turtleback Mountain.

To make a contribution, call the San Juan Island Public Schools Foundation “SOS Hotline,” 370-7925; or use the “Donate Now” secure link on the foundation Web site, www.sjpsf.org.

Meanwhile, the school district is collaborating with members of the San Juan Island Public Schools Foundation and the San Juan Island Community Foundation to develop a community task force to determine funding needs over the next four to five years, and to begin to identify a long-term school funding solution.

A special board meeting is scheduled for Friday, 10:30 a.m. We encourage islanders to participate if they can; you’ll also be able to read early coverage of the meeting on SanJuanJournal.com and a more detailed report in the following edition of The Journal. Representatives from the Washington Association of School Administrators and the Washington State School Directors Association will talk about initiatives under way in the Legislature regarding basic education funding.