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Originally published Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 9:00 PM

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Seattle School Board OKs general-fund budget

The Seattle Public Schools budget will go up about 8 percent for the 2013-14 school year with increases in funding from the state as well as local education levies.

Seattle Times education reporter

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With boosts in state and local funding for the upcoming school year, the Seattle School Board on Wednesday unanimously passed a $639 million general-fund budget that will allow the district to offer free all-day kindergarten in eight more schools, hire more teachers to keep up with enrollment growth and, in general, keep up with increasing costs.

This is the first time in five years that the district’s per-student funding from the state has increased, district administrators say.

In all, the district plans to add about 240 to 250 jobs, about half of which will be teaching positions. It also will add 14 new vice principals, primarily in elementary schools that will have more than 400 students for the first time, and 70 to 80 instructional assistants. Special-education staff will go up some, too, to help solve problems identified by the state.

The district also expects to have enough money to change its math textbooks for elementary schools, expand its international program to two more schools, and help prepare teachers to use a new set of learning standards known as the Common Core.

But several board members stressed that the increase in state dollars, while welcome, only stabilizes the budget, and doesn’t include enough money to launch many new academic initiatives.

The district’s funding from the federal government will drop by about $7 million, but with more money from the state, plus help from local-district and city-education levies, overall revenues for the 2013-14 school year will increase by about $46 million.

The district estimates that it will grow by 1,600 more students this fall, which by itself will bring an additional $10 million in state dollars.

The federal reduction is largely tied to the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, plus declines in the amount of money the district will receive under programs such as Title I, which are tied to the district’s level of poverty.

Joe Pap erman, Seattle Public Schools’ budget manager, said the poverty rate of Seattle’s students has declined compared to other districts across the nation.

The district’s rainy-day fund will be kept at 3.25 percent of its nongrant budget of $558.4 million, a little over the minimum 3 percent required by School Board policy. Central administration costs will again go down.

In schools where the state isn’t funding a full day of kindergarten, the price parents will pay if they want more than a half-day will go up to about $3,100 a year as planned. That’s the last of three years of increases, Paperman said, and it isn’t expected to continue to rise.

State funding increased this year when lawmakers, under pressure from the state Supreme Court to significantly raise education funding by 2018, added about $1 billion to the statewide education budget for the next two years.

Lawmakers paid for much of that increase by once again suspending a voter-approved initiative that otherwise would have given teachers automatic cost-of-living increases.

Seattle administrators say the extra state money won’t restore all the district has lost since 2009-10, but helped the district avoid cutting costs in some areas.

Seattle is among the more than 400 organizations that successfully sued the state, saying it was falling far short of its constitutional duty to fully fund a basic education for all students.

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or lshaw@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @LShawST

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