Teacher layoffs reduced
May 26, 2009
By Chantelle Lusebrink
Issaquah School District officials released a new budget May 20, which will likely enable them to rehire most of the 158 teachers given layoff notices at the beginning of the month.“While significant, the reductions in state revenue — and our resulting reconciled district budget — will be considerably better than our worst-case scenario,” Superintendent Steve Rasmussen wrote in a letter to the community. “We expect to recall most certificated employees who received a RIF (reduction in force) notification.”
Instead of facing a $10.5 million loss in state funding, the district is seeing a $7.3 million loss.
The higher figure was based on information district officials had available in April, when officials calculated the number of possible layoffs because the state budget hadn’t been reconciled yet, said Jacob Kuper, chief of finance and operations for the district.
That number, he added, was a conservative one, because officials couldn’t risk keeping any teachers they couldn’t pay for next year.
Of the 1,097 teachers employed by the district, 195 were below the reduction line. However, 37 teachers had noncontinuing contracts or had opted to resign; 158 were given layoff notices May 1. Of those, 62 teachers have endorsements that are in hard-to-fill areas, like special education, and would likely have been recalled to work. That left 96 teachers in real jeopardy of losing their jobs.
When Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the state budget May 19, Kuper said he was able to use the $7.3 million in lost state funds to finish reconciling the budget. After he calculated new revenue from new students enrolling in the district, and the savings in health and retirement funds, also reduced in the state’s budget, he said the district was left with a $5.4 million gap in its budget.
To close the remaining gap, Kuper said district officials will cut $2.2 million in nonclassroom-related costs and employee hours, like maintenance, custodial and secretarial hours, and will add one child to each classroom in kindergarten through 12th grade, saving another $2.5 million.
The remaining roughly $700,000 will come from the district’s reserve funds. District officials maintain a 3 percent to 5 percent unrestricted reserve fund, as mandated by the school board, for just these types of situations, Niegowski said.
Kuper said when all is said and done, the district should be able to rehire most of their teachers who had received layoff notices.
In the next two weeks, principals will use the new student-to-teacher ratio and student interests to develop classes for next year.
District officials, who said they’re hopeful most of the recall process will be finished by the end of school, said they couldn’t say exactly what teachers would be recalled or where they will be, as those numbers are determined by class schedules and enrollment.
Rasmussen and Kuper cautioned that deeper cuts could be on the horizon if state funding for education continues to fall short of what is necessary and federal stimulus dollars dissipate.
Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this article at www.issaquahpress.com.