On Tuesday, April 29, more than 500 community members and staff who are committed to the continued success of our students will gather at the annual Mercer Island Schools Foundation Breakfast of Champions. Each year, the money raised through this breakfast and the Bridge-the-Gap campaign raises enough money to fund nearly 20 teaching positions at all of our schools.
During my seven years as superintendent, this spring campaign has raised nearly $5 million for our schools. What a show of support by a community who believes in its public schools. On Feb. 11, you demonstrated confidence in us by overwhelmingly approving both a bond and levy proposition. Our gratitude for your support is immense. Without your support, we could not fulfill our vision for students to thrive in this complex thinking, global and digital world and to sustain their passion and inspiration for learning.
Your continued support of the district through the Schools Foundation allows us to leverage our operating budget to enrich the educational programs offered to our students and to our staff. For example, your dollars in funding teachers will enable us to provide the needed professional development necessary to bring best practices to every student.
In 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that Washington state is not amply funding basic education under the state Constitution. The legislature was widely credited with making a $1 billion down payment on a $4 billion promise, but a review of that state funding demonstrates that the “down payment” was really closer to $151 million. As a result, the burden of funding our schools has rested on the shoulders of this community.
Even with the generous support of the Schools Foundation and our PTAs, we are currently spending about $10,125 for the education of each student every year.
How does that compare to the rest of the country?
Washington is 30th in spending per student and ranks 47th on class size – 47th. Massachusetts and Connecticut spend about $15,000 per student each year while New York spends nearly $20,000.
So instead of thinking about “bridging the gap” in state funding, consider that your support is about “building a bridge’” to a world-class education. That’s why your support through the Schools Foundation is so important. Without that local financial support, our students remain too dependent on a state that has been put on notice for inadequately funding our schools.
Please join me, community leaders and the families of Mercer Island at the Schools Foundation Breakfast of Champions on Tuesday morning.
Dr. Gary Plano
Superintendent, Mercer Island School District