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 clusebrink@isspress.com. Reporter Christopher Huber contributed to this story. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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4 Responses to “Teacher layoffs imminent here”

  1. IssyMom on April 14th, 2009 1:00 pm

    In a perfect world, the district would cut the least effective teachers instead of those with the least amount of years employed. Some of our best teachers have been there fewer than 3 years and they should stay because the kids learn from them. Can’t say that about all the veteran teachers, sadly.

  2. Dan Sarlitto on April 14th, 2009 3:26 pm

    Visibility into a more granular school budget would help taxpayers better understand how each tax dollar is spent; administrator/staff salaries should be broken out from teacher saleries, facility costs from discretionary spending, etc. Then map that “dollar” to performance and now we have the basis for intelligent budgeting in good or bad times. But seniority-driven pay scales that ignore performance, the inability to weed-out mediocrity, and reward excellence, and ineffective yet burdensome licensure systems are hundred year-old problems with a system rooted in an “industrial” model. Unfortunately, tough times tend to result in cutting options for change and growth, exactly what we need, as opposed to cutting fat.

  3. Robsmomm on April 19th, 2009 1:27 pm

    Having been thru 2 layoffs (non-educational) and being a 1 year newbie at one and a senior employee at the other I have been at both ends of the cutting board.
    Of course neither were good for my family. Layoffs never are, financially.
    However, to cut based on seniority alone is ABSOLUTELY the wrong way to go.
    In tough times is when the children need the BEST teachers the most. Everything around the children could be crumbling, even in their households with stress of job security, and to have the daily stability, creativity, and solid base in school is much more needed than to have those hanging around who have been there the longest. Teachers’ performance is key in our children’s lives. When it comes down to cutting employees, teachers need to be looked at as a whole educational unit…not just who makes more and costs more money or who came on board last and should go first. Those who are most effective should stay…no matter their tenure!

  4. Washington State education news | educationvoters.org on June 3rd, 2009 1:07 pm

    […] impact of state budget cuts: Teacher layoffs imminent here (Issaquah) Share and […]

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