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'Day on the Hill' offers public school leaders chance to push for support in Olympia

The day was created to provide public school leaders the opportunity to meet with their local state legislators and discuss concerns.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Hundreds of Washington school superintendents, school board members and public school supporters are expected in Olympia for “Day on the Hill.”

The day was created to provide public school leaders the opportunity to meet with their local state legislators and discuss concerns.

More than 60 student school board representatives met with legislators Monday.

"The reason we're here is to get our voices heard," said Mt. Si High School senior Madhumitha Gandhi.

She said increasing funding for special education and transportation were her top concerns for schools.

Gandhi said making the trip to Olympia to meet with legislators face-to-face is worth the effort.

"They really can put a name to a face," said Gandhi, "If you share your personal story about special education, for example, they now have that in their memory."

Also among those headed to the state capitol was Mercer Island Schools Superintendent Dr. Fred Rundle.

Rundle told KING 5 he and several other MISD administrators, board members and supporters attended Day on the Hill to lobby for funding and overall support.

MISD recently scrapped talks of potentially closing one of its four elementary schools due to declining enrollment and a budget shortfall. The discussions did not move forward to any planning stages.

While a school closure is not imminent for the 2023-24 school year – Rundle said the same cannot be said for the following year.

“We have about 35 community members, as well as district staff who will be meeting this spring with our consultant, and everything will be on the table in terms of long-range planning,” Rundle said.

MISD leadership met with two different demographers a couple of weeks ago to get a better outlook on the district’s future enrollment trends.

Rundle said both used different models - but both demographers reported a continued enrollment drop for the next five to seven years with some models projecting it could level off with a slight uptick.

MISD is not the only district dealing with declining enrollment and funding concerns.

Along with several Western Washington school districts – the MISD said it is keeping a close watch on what will happen to their neighbors to the east of Lake Washington – the Bellevue School District.

At the beginning of the month – the BSD released a proposal to close three elementary schools and send those students to several other schools in the district. The plan still needs approval from the school board before plans for the 2023-24 school year are final.

Public hearings for the consolidation plan will be held on Monday and Tuesday. The board will not be voting on the plan during either of these evenings.

In KING 5’s recent reporting on public school enrollment issues and funding concerns – Gov. Jay Inslee’s office has reaffirmed the state’s commitment to K-12 funding – citing increases in “per student funding” in the last two school years with more planned in the upcoming budget.

“At the state level, we need some significant help as well,” Rundle said. “We're out spending on special education by $3 million and so, what we're receiving from state and federal revenue is still not enough."

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