Can you spare a dime?

Washington voters passed I-728 in November 2000 to address serious budgeting shortfalls in the state’s public education system. The initiative mandates the state gives a specific allotment per student to each school district to compliment funds used for “basic education.”

The North Kitsap School District, like many others in Washington, are currently considering how, exactly, that money should be spent.

As with all money from the state that’s parried down to local agencies, there are strings attached — the I-728 funds can only be used for one of six purposes:

• Reduction of class sizes for kindergarten through fourth grade;

• Selected class size reductions in fifth through 12th grades;

• Extended learning opportunities for kindergarten through 12th grades;

• Professional development for educators;

• Early learning assistance for pre-kindergarten students; and

• To supplement facilities improvements directly related to class size reductions or extended learning.

Here’s the problem — every time the state allots “extra funds” to the state’s schools, there are mandates as to how it must be used.

But that’s only the half of it.

The real issue is that the state’s definition of “basic education” is embarrassingly archaic. The state’s funding formula — which decides how much money each district gets for each student and what the money should be used for — was created about 30 years ago, when books, paper, pencils and those weird-looking green chalkboards were the primary teaching tools.

With the advent of the rapidly changing technology — and the public demand that schools keep up with the times — school districts are forced to build new facilities and/or retrofit current facilities to accommodate new technology.

That costs money.

For that matter, so does the new technology.

The cost of education is rising, forcing school districts to beg the taxpayers for more bonds, levies … whatever is necessary to give their children the tools they need to be competitive in an ever-changing workforce.

It’s a vicious cycle — tiresome to taxpayers and time-consuming for educators.

Funding shortfalls also force educators to use money from their own sparse checking accounts to buy supplies for their classrooms. How blatantly unfair is that?

It’s time for the state legislature to step up and do what’s responsible and right by the state’s children.

The state should either stop putting stipulations on the “extra” cash schools receive or recalculate the funding formula to incorporate a more well-rounded education.

It’s time to do the right thing for our children.