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School district eyeing I-728 funds

The South Kitsap School District board of directors will hold a public hearing on the use of Initiative 728 student achievement funds on April 17 at 7 p.m. at Mullenix Ridge Elementary School.

I-728 was approved by voters during the November 2000 general election by a margin of nearly 72 percent.

The initiative provides additional money to help students reach new state learning standards. It also dedicates certain state revenues to a “Student Achievement Fund,” increasing revenue to the fund over time.

The money is gathered from state property taxes, lottery winners and Emergency Reserve Fund spillover.

“Without (I-)728, given the other cuts the state has made during our difficult budgetary cuts of late, we’d have class sizes in grades K through four that were much more similar to their intermediate counterparts,” said Kurt Wagner, assistant superintendent of instructional services.

The funds are restricted and can only be used to either create smaller class sizes, provide extended learning opportunities, provide professional development for educators, provide for early childhood programs or provide improvements and additions to school buildings directly related to class-size reductions and extended learning opportunities implemented with I-728 funds.

Wagner said he doesn’t anticipate the use of the funds changing too much, considering the positive impact the funds are creating in their current use.

“Roughly 75 percent of the funds go directly into staffing designed to reduce class size,” he said, “but because of other cuts, the funding has allowed us to maintain them.”

The other 25 percent is split between the extended learning programs that take place after school and professional development.

“We know that helping teachers consistently use the best instructional techniques is the best way to significantly impact student achievement,” Wagner said.

The school board is soliciting comments from staff, administrators and community members on how to utilize the funds for the 2006-07 school year.

Staff members from Instructional Services will give an overview of how they are supporting student achievement in the district. They will also present information about how the district has used I-728 funds for the current school year.

Annually, each district must provide a public accounting of the new funds and how they were used during the previous year. Copies of the report submitted to OSPI and the Academic Achievement and Accountability Commission. The board has until Aug. 31 to adopt a final plan as part of the district’s budget.

Those unable to attend the public hearing may give their feedback by taking an online survey on the SKSD Web site, www.skitsap.wednet.edu, now through April 28.

For more information call Aimee Warthen, director of SKSD community relations, at (360) 874-7003.

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