Teachers seek supplies in wake of Kent School District budget crisis

The Kent School District teachers’ union is hosting a drive this week to collect supplies they say are needed because of budget cuts. But, district officials dispute their claims.

The Kent Education Association is asking the community to donate tissue, copier paper, toilet paper and other basic supplies, according to a media release from the Washington Education Association.

Teachers will collect donations from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11, and Thursday, Oct. 12. Donations will be accepted across from Kent-Meridian High School, 25607 101st Ave. SE; the parking lot of the Covington Library, 27100 164th Ave. SE; the parking lot of the Fairwood Starbucks, 14022 SE Petrovitsky Road, Renton; the Kent Eduction Association office, 10427 SE 244th St.; and the parking lot of Kent Commons, 525 4th Ave. N.

Supplies can also be dropped any time the week of Oct. 16 at the KEA office.

The need for supplies comes after the district ended 2016-17 school year with a nearly $7 million budget shortfall. Supply budgets have been cut in the past year to balance the budget.

Despite the budget cuts, the district still has money to purchase necessary supplies, Kent School District spokesman Chris Loftis said in an email.

“While the kindness and support of our community is greatly appreciated, neither local schools or the Kent School District is soliciting or accepting such donations,” Loftis said. “While we are experiencing budget challenges, we have an ample budget for those types of critical janitorial supplies. They are purchased in large quantities and in packaging that fits permanent dispensers. Unsolicited and non-conforming products would actually offer greater challenge and expense than value.”

But, teachers tell a different story, according to the release: Supply cabinets are secured with padlocks and chains; staff and students are asked to conserve toilet paper, facial tissue and paper towels; and teachers are being forced to return classroom supplies they’ve already purchased.

District administrators and the school board are sending mixed messages about the need for community donations, but teachers are committed to making sure their students have the basic things they need to succeed in school, KEA President Christie Padilla said in the media release.

“As educators, we put our students at the center of everything we do,” Padilla said. “Our school district budget is in a severe crisis, so we’re stepping up to do what needs to be done. We need solutions and action, not blame or obfuscation.”

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