Opinion

BOB BRIDGE: Score a home run for Renton schools

We in Washington have a public school funding CRISIS right now!!

Many people are not familiar with how public school funding works in Washington. Many think property tax pays for the majority of the public education bill. That’s not accurate.

Fact is approximately 50 percent of public school funding comes from state sales tax and B & O tax revenues. Property tax makes up approximately 25 percent to 30 percent of public school funding. Finally, gifts from foundations and grants make up the balance.

The current education funding crisis is a result of the economic slowdown in Washington state. Obviously, during a recession, state residents cut personal spending and sales tax revenues decline. Since 50 percent of public school funding comes from state sales-tax receipts, state funds available to schools also fall.

For example: Before the recent economic slowdown, Bob Bridge Toyota was collecting and sending to the state $8.4 million in tax receipts per year. In the current recession, Bob Bridge Toyota is now collecting $6.3 million per year, a decline of $2.1 million per year.

Bob Bridge Toyota is just one medium-sized company in Washington. But yet with a $2.1 million annual sales tax collection decline, public schools will receive approximately $1 million less per year just from just one company alone. The result is the superintendent has no choice but to cut budgets. The superintendent’s first priority is to protect teachers and provide a safe environment for children. So the most severe cuts come largely from existing educational programs that are working wonderfully. For example, three years ago the superintendent and her staff identified a second-grade class in which only 24 percent of students were reading at the second-grade level. They identified a corrective program, applied for and received a three-year federal grant and the program was implemented. Result: Today 88 percent of the second graders in this class are now reading at the second-grade level. Home run!! Sadly, the three-year grant expires this year and the federal government is not renewing the grant. Therefore, without some new source of funding, this program will evaporate next school year and the kids suffer. This is only one of 15 important programs that will expire if another source of funding is not found.

One solution is businesses that remain profitable through a recession contribute money to the school district to maintain existing successful programs. Otherwise successful programs get eliminated and education results fall.

A new and exciting way to make tax-deductible contribution to the school district is now available.

Recently, the Friends of Renton Schools was established within the Renton Community Foundation. The Friends of Renton Schools will be a wonderful organization for business to directly support the Renton School District.

Bob Bridge is owner of Bob Bridge Toyota in Renton and the major donor chairman of the Friends of Renton Schools.

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