Teacher layoffs imminent here
April 13, 2009
By Chantelle Lusebrink
Although the state’s budget has yet to be reconciled, Issaquah School District officials are battening down the hatches and preparing for significant cuts, including teacher layoffs.
District officials, like Jacob Kuper, chief of finance and operations, are working to reconcile the district’s budget in the midst of a nearly $9 billion state deficit.
“We are working as hard as we can, but $1 million swings aren’t little swings in funding,” he said. “In this process, we are trying to balance holistically the needs of our students.”
Significant cuts to education are proposed in the Senate and House budgets.
Nearly $877 million was slashed from public schools in the Senate budget released March 30. The House budget was easier on public schools, slashing $625 million when it was released March 31.
The cuts come from reductions in levy equalization dollars, payments that support districts with small property-tax bases to rely on; cuts to Initiative 728 funds, which reduce class sizes in schools; and suspension of Initiative 732, requiring annual increases for teachers tied to inflation costs.
The impact to the school district is about $6 million, Kuper said.
Not a surprise
The district is still in good financial shape, said Sara Niegowski, the district’s director of communications.
In recent years, district officials have made a variety of cost-saving energy cuts or reductions in consumption. The district has the lowest administrative overhead costs of districts in King County.
“A lot of districts are doing what Issaquah did years ago,” Niegowski said.
Losses are imminent
Although it’s hard to move forward without a reconciled state budget, district officials know that direct funding cuts to I-728 will lead to teacher layoffs.
“Eighty-six percent of our budget funds salaries. We’re at the bone and there’s nothing left,” Niegowski said. “We are very cognizant that people will lose their jobs, but as a system, we have to ensure our classrooms next year have those things that they will need to continue the level of educational service we provide.”
If district officials need to cut $1.46 million in I-728 money, as the governor’s budget indicated, they could lay off up to 80 certificated staff members.
A reduction in force line must be determined by April 22 as stipulated in the contractual agreement between the district and the teachers’ union, Kuper said. More commonly known as a RIF line, it designates how many teachers could lose their jobs. Younger teachers are at greater risk, because seniority plays a part in a teacher’s contract.
As the budget continues to be reconciled and enrollment numbers increase by fall, several teachers who receive lay-off notices could be called back to work, especially those with specialties, like special education, Kuper said.
How you can help
As district officials continue to craft the budget through spring and summer, they’re asking for the community’s best ideas about how to conserve money for educational programs. People are encouraged to share their ideas by sending e-mails or attending board meetings.
Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Reporter Christopher Huber contributed to this story. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.