Spokane Public Schools will go into the new year with a $534 million budget that will support smaller class sizes, equity initiatives and measures to help students and teachers through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The budget was passed unanimously with little comment near the end of a 3 ½-hour school board meeting Wednesday night. It allocates about three-quarters of its resources to teacher and staff salaries.
About 14.5% goes toward support activities such as food service, transportation, insurance, information systems, printing, facilities operations and utilities.
The remaining 10% is used for administration, both at the individual building level and central office.
According to district documents, the budget is developed based on a list of priorities for 2021-22 and reflects some of the tenets of the equity resolution that led to passage of an equity policy earlier Wednesday night.
They include the protection of basic needs for educating the whole child, equitable distribution of resources, closing the opportunity gap among certain groups, anti-racism and social emotional learning programs and services.
Immediate impacts include the return of librarians who lost their jobs during budget cuts in 2019, and maintaining essential support services, including learning recovery for students affected by the pandemic.
It also promises to lower average class sizes and restore the elementary school day model that was shortened in 2019.
“There’s an awful lot of work that goes into this budget,” said Cindy Coleman, the district’s chief financial officer.
Most of the revenue, about $370 million, comes from the state of Washington and is based on enrollment. The district projects a total enrollment this year of 30,157, which includes a large influx of kindergartners, about 2,731, after many were held out last year because of worries over COVID-19.
Another $52.6 million is from property taxes. Federal aid amounts to $43 million – plus $46.3 million from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSER.
Financed through the CARES Act, ESSER funds are intended to mitigate the hardships imposed by the pandemic.
About one-third of the ESSER funds, or $15.9 million is earmarked for what Superintendent Adam Swinyard has called “historically low” class sizes this year. Targeted averages are 18.3 students at kindergarten through third grade, 22.1 students in grades 4 through 6 and 25.3 at the secondary level.
About $8 million will go to student technology, while $6 million is allocated to equity staffing at schools located in low-income neighborhoods.
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