Schools face yet another financial crisis

State Legislature slashes another $39.4 million from K-12 education

Local school districts are feeling the pinch after the state Legislature made yet another round of reductions to kindergarten through 12th grade education in an emergency budget cutting session recently.

House Bill 3225 includes $39.4 million in cuts to K-12 education. The funding was originally intended to lower class sizes in kindergarten through fourth-grade.

Locally, it will mean an additional $324,000 cut for Washougal schools, or five teachings positions, and a $336,000 cut to Camas schools, approximately seven positions.

Camas School District Superintendent Mike Nerland said there are no plans to reduce staff this year.

“Because (the money) wasn’t available until after we adopted our budget for 2010-11, it was not committed to specific expenditures,” he said. “We were hoping to use it to ‘soften the blow’ of the cuts that we anticipated would come from the state in the next biennium, so the loss of funding will make budgeting more difficult for the 2011-12 fiscal year.”

Washougal School District Superintendent Teresa Baldwin said the state budget deficit poses a difficult situation for school districts.

“The state is retracting funds that were set forth in the educational budget for reducing class sizes in kindergarten through fourth-grade, funds that were used to retain teachers on contracts in the lower grade levels,” she said. “When these funds are retracted in January 2011, school districts will need to finish out the contract year for those additional teachers using general fund dollars that were not allocated at the beginning of the fiscal year.”

Nerland added that while more cuts were anticipated for the next budget cycle, the state usually doesn’t take back money it had already committed to districts.

“This puts all school districts in a very challenging situation, since funds are already committed and we have existing contractual obligations with staff,” he said.

Both superintendents said it would be unwise to speculate how much their districts are expecting in reductions for the 2011-12 school year.

However, Nerland did say the district needs to, “look down the road,” at the long-term state financial situation.

“We need to make sure we are prepared to provide a quality education now and in the future regardless of the economic climate or the resources we have available to us,” he said.

Budget planning for the 2011-12 begins in January for Washougal, and February for Camas. For more information about the process, browse www.washougal.k12.wa.us or www.camas.wednet.edu.

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