School district could lose more than $3 million from governor’s cuts

December 21, 2010

By Laura Geggel

The Issaquah School District is slated to lose $3.17 million in the proposed budget Gov. Chris Gregoire released Dec. 15.

The 2011-13 proposed budget aims to address a $4.6 billion shortfall.

“This is on top more than $10 million in cuts from the last two budget cycles and a $1-million mid-year cut to our current budget from Saturday’s special session,” Issaquah Superintendent Steve Rasmussen said in a statement. “If I have said we were down to the bone before now, this starts cutting into the marrow of classroom operations.”

The $3.17 million affects the 2011-12 school year budget. State legislators cut $1 million from the Issaquah district’s 2010-11 school year budget during a special session Dec. 11.

Gregoire’s budget reduces or eliminates funding in seven key areas for Washington’s public K-12 education, including:

  • Eliminating $216 million for kindergarten through fourth-grade class-size reduction.
  • Suspending $860.2 million from Initiative 728, a measure to reduce class size and provide professional development for teachers.
  • Suspending $253.3 million from Initiative 732, which grants cost-of-living increases to teachers.
  • Suspending $57 million in planned increases for all-day kindergarten.
  • Suspending $99.5 million in annual bonuses for National Board-certified teachers.
  • Suspending $56.3 million for annual step increases for teachers.
  • Eliminating $18.6 million for the gifted-student program.

The proposed budget also increases employer contributions for pension plans and lowers a calculation factor for collecting local maintenance-and-operations levies, district spokeswoman Sara Niegowski said.

Superintendent of the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn called the proposed budget the worst he had seen in the 30 years he had worked in education.

“But this budget isn’t all about numbers, it’s about kids,” he said in a statement. “And once again, our kids got cut.”

The state Legislature will begin its work on Gregoire’s budget in January. Under state law, the governor takes the initial step for the budget. Then, both houses of the Legislature hammer out proposals. The end result is typically a blend of the proposals.

Olympia politicians talk shop

Before Gregoire released her biennial budget, a group of educators and educational advocates met with three Issaquah representatives to talk shop about the upcoming legislative session.

At a legislative forum Dec. 13, district administrators, Issaquah School Board members, several PTSA legislative representatives, Issaquah Education Association leaders, classified employees and advocates for Stand for Children — about 20 people in all — met with Reps. Glenn Anderson, Ross Hunter and Marcie Maxwell.

The three politicians answered questions from the crowd at school board member Suzanne Weaver’s house in Sammamish.

School board member Chad Magendanz asked if the Legislature was poised to redefine and shrink basic education, which the state’s constitution mandates is the government’s “paramount duty” to fund.

“The sooner we find out bad news, the better,” he said.

Anderson said it was unlikely, especially since there were so many new legislators serving in the house, but that he couldn’t say.

Hunter said he did not predict cuts in basic education, and added, “we are not going to shorten the school year,” from 180 days as a cost-saving measure.

Gregoire’s K-12 educational cuts, though plentiful, do not affect the state’s definition of basic education, he said.

Maxwell said she hoped the state Legislature would expand its definition of basic education in the future.

The three also discussed the antiquated formula for the state’s levy equalization monies, which the Issaquah district does not receive. District Chief of Finance and Operations Jacob Kuper asked that the three leave Issaquah’s levy base intact, and Anderson said “there’s nothing on the Republican side about dinking with it.”

Hunter advised political lobbyists to make sure they were contacting him about the bigger picture, not about a cog in the larger system. For instance, he advised the gifted education groups to join together with basic education advocates, which he said would help him understand the two in tandem.

Though the legislative session starts Jan. 10, the three representatives said they were waiting, just like everybody else, to see what would happen.

“Nobody knows how this is going to turn out, except that there is going to be a lot less for a lot of people,” Anderson said.

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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