Opinion

MI schools funding crisis: Teachers at risk | Island Forum

For the past two years, our public education system has been under the attack of state and federal budget cuts, jeopardizing the quality of education that the Mercer Island community has worked so hard to build.

Through a combined, communitywide effort, the businesses, organizations, residents and school district have banned together to support the Mercer Island Schools Foundation in raising funds to offset the state’s deep budget cuts, maintaining exceptional educational programs for our kids.

The bad news is that the budget gap keeps getting larger, launching the most important and aggressive Bridge the Gap Campaign our community has ever undertaken. This year, the current prediction, based on the governor’s budget, shows the Mercer Island School District losing up to 20 teachers. That means larger class sizes and a step backwards for our community’s schools. The real losers: our kids, and ultimately, our community as a whole.

Unfortunately, we’re not starting from a position of strength in Washington. To put things in perspective, our state ranks 45th in the nation for educational funding per student and 46th in class size. Much of what we regard in our community as basic education isn’t even funded by our state — things like the sixth and seventh period at our high school, help for struggling learners, technology, most of our teacher training, and the full costs of special education, to name a few.

To offset this potentially drastic number of laid-off teachers, the Bridge the Gap Campaign goal is to raise $1,200,000 from our community. It’s a big number for sure; but ultimately a critical investment in the future of our award-winning schools and our city. We Islanders have always placed a premium on educational excellence, charting a course for our youth that will enable them to thrive in the cognitive, digital and global world while sustaining their passion and inspiration for learning.

In order to meet the challenges facing our collective vision for exceptional, it will take the combined support of all of Mercer Island’s residents, parents, businesses and organizations. For families with children in schools, the suggested donation is $500 per child. For businesses that benefit from the Mercer Island families’ support, there are multiple donation targets based on the size of the organization. For the residents who no longer have school-aged children, we’re asking for whatever donation amount you deem appropriate to maintain the lifestyle and health of the Island community. Every dollar counts!

Please join us at the Breakfast of Champions on Tuesday, April 28, from 7 to 8:30 a.m. at Mercer Island High School. You will be joined by many of our community’s business, organization and government leaders, all coming together to support our schools. Reservations are required; please call (206) 275-2550. If you can’t make it to the breakfast, or want to learn more, please visit http://mercerislandschoolsfoundation.org.

Mercer Island schools have so many assets working in their favor — motivated students, talented and committed teachers, involved parents, an inspiring 2020 Vision, and a community that continues to work together to support it all. Let’s build on these assets and work together to create a brighter future for our students.

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