Teachers across Washington will be trying to show that “cuts hurt kids” on Monday, Nov. 28, the first day of the special Legislative session.
The Washington Education Association, and its local union groups, are urging teachers to send a message to legislators and the public that schools can’t take any more cuts. The state Legislature will be tackling the growing state deficit during the special session; proposed cuts from Gov. Chris Gregoire include reducing education spending in some of the few areas available (salaries, funding for property-poor districts, bonuses for National Board Certification and funding to reduce class sizes at lower grades are just a few examples.)
According to page on the Washington Education Association Web site, teachers are being urged to wear red in a show of support for education, as well as write letters and plan events. There will be a rally in Olympia at noon the same day. According to the list of local groups, the Ferndale and Bellingham teacher unions are urging employees to wear red, rather than miss school and travel to Olympia.
Should the school year be shortened in order to save money? That’s something state legislators may be considering when the special legislative session starts later this month.
According to a story in The Everett Herald, superintendents from around the state are urging the state Legislature to shorten the school year by a week in order to help absorb expected budget reductions.
Shortening the 180-day school year would mean districts aren’t paying employees for as many days or keeping buildings open, theoretically saving a decent chunk of change. But shortening the school year also means students are losing-out on instructional days, something that people argue isn’t the best idea when so much hinges on student success on tests.
The Liv Finne, director of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center, states in a blog post today that superintendents should be asking employees to take pay reductions rather than shorten the school year. She argues that shortening the school year is more detrimental to students than reducing salaries would be.
The state Legislature required state employees, including school employees, to have salary reductions this year, ranging from 1.9 to 3 percent. School districts were left to bargain with individual employee unions to implement the pay cuts, with outcomes ranging from districts covering the reduction to employees taking the total hit.
Some districts already have students attending school fewer days than that; to do that, districts must get waivers from the state. Most of the time those waivers are granted so that districts can have a couple staff professional development days.
And this isn’t the first time the state Legislature has considered the idea. And Washington wouldn’t be alone; Oregon school districts had employees take furlough days last school year, shortening the school year.
So, what should school districts and the Legislature do? Is shortening the school year the best way to absorb expected budget cuts for 2012-13 and beyond, possibly allowing districts to not cut programs, but providing kids with less instructional time? Or, are staff and salary cuts the best way to handle the deficit, knowing that cutting teachers increases class sizes and cutting administrators can impact the behind-the-scenes operations of the district.
In either case, shortening the school year or reducing salaries, impacts the amount of money school district employees receive. And in either case, district officials would likely have to renegotiate contracts with employee union groups.
For the most part, the easiest ways to make reductions have already happened. So, what should schools, teachers, students, administrators, legislators and families do?
The Meridian School Board is considering raising the amount of money property owners will pay in taxes starting in 2013, but probably not as high as they could.
During a school board meeting Wednesday, Oct. 26, Superintendent Tim Yeomans outlined his thoughts on what the board should do in regards to the districts’ upcoming replacement maintenance and operations levy.
With concerns about the state reducing education funding again for next school year, Yeomans recommended the board ask voters to approve a levy that is at least $90o,000 higher for 2013 than the current one, raising taxes by an estimated 90 cents per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value. But he didn’t suggest raising the amount to the levy lid, the maximum amount the districts could ask voters to approve.
Picking a dollar amount for items that districts want voters to approve can be tricky, especially for levies. If you set the amount too low, then budget cuts might still be necessary despite the revenue. Set the amount too high and voters may veto the funding, leaving the district with a large revenue hole to fill.
“I hate to say this, but we’re kind of betting the farm on this,” said board president Brian Evans. “If the levy doesn’t pass at all, we’re out of business.”
When setting levy amounts, school districts have a limit of what they can ask for. It’s a complicated formula to figure it out, but essentially it’s a percentage of the district’s operating budget. Prior to 2011, most districts could ask for an amount that equaled up to 24 percent of their operating budget. Some districts, including Bellingham and Blaine, are allowed to ask for a higher percentage; prior to 2011, Bellingham could ask for up to 26.35 percent and Blaine could ask for up to 28.51 percent.
The state Legislature increased the amount districts could ask for during 2011 and beyond, in an effort to offset state level budget cuts. Districts had their percentages increase by 4 percentage points, bringing most districts to 28 percent, Bellingham to 30.35 percent and Blaine to 32.51 percent.
For 2011, the Meridian School District had a levy authority of about $3.87 million. But the district asked for, and voters approved, a levy that collected about $2.7 million, which is about 70.7 percent of the levy authority. For 2012, the district could have asked for up to $4 million, but the approved amount is $2.84 million, or about 70.1 percent of the levy authority.
With Yeomans’ recommendation, the amounts would be about $300,000 below the district’s levy lid. Yeomans’ proposal also calls for increasing the levy amount by about $100,000 each year (which is common).
Most districts in Whatcom County are setting levy requests that are equal to their lid. Districts can also collect less than what voters approve if it appears the revenue isn’t necessary.
All seven Whatcom County school districts will have levy elections in February.
The Meridian School Board will continue discussing the levy at at special work session on Wednesday, Nov. 9 at 5 p.m. in the Meridian Middle School library.
Note: this post was updated with more details Oct. 27
Gov. Chris Gregoire just released a list of possible budget reductions. And education, especially higher education, is taking quite a hit.
Gregoire’s budget cut list includes about $4.2 billion in cuts for the rest of the 2011-13 biennium. However, about $2 billion of those cuts are what Gregoire plans to include in her 2012 supplemental budget request to the Legislature in November when the special session starts.
In all, proposed education cuts range from $545 million to $1.5 billion, with the lesser option being what Gregoire will likely proposed to the Legislature.
Last month, state agencies, including colleges, sent the governor’s office information about what 5 and 10 percent budget cuts would mean for them. These cuts are even deeper than that.
Here is a look at areas poised for cuts, with notes about areas Gregoire will be suggesting in her supplemental budget request. For the list that was release by Gregoire’s office, click here.
Department of Early Learning
- reduce seasonal child care administration, saving $2.1 million. This eliminates state funding given to nonprofits to help migrant workers with childcare. (Likely in supplemental request)
- Eliminate state funding for Child Care Resource and Referral program, saving $1.3 million. This would reduce services by about 11 percent, since most of the funding comes from the federal government. (Likely in supplemental request)
- Reduce administration within the department, saving $950,000. (Likely in supplemental request)
- Reduce enrollment in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program by 11 to 25 percent, saving between $6 and $14 million. This would equate to a loss of 1,065 to 2,223 spots, mostly for three-year-olds.
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
- Delay the June 2013 apportionment until July 2013, saving $330 million. This is an accounting move but doesn’t change the total amount school districts receive. (Likely in supplemental request)
- Eliminate or reduce levy equalization funds, saving between $30 and $300 million, depending on what percentage is cut. These funds help property-poor districts that can’t raise as much money through tax levies as others. Gregoire is proposing cutting the payments by 50 percent, instead of entirely. (Likely in supplemental request)
- Eliminate school bus transportation funding, starting with the 2012-13 school year, saving $220 million. Most school districts already subsidize state transportation funding with local money due to costs being more than what the state provides.
- Increase class sizes by two students in grades 4-12, saving $137 million. This would increase the statewide class staffing ratios, resulting in fewer teachers. (Likely in supplemental request)
- Reduce the school year by a week, leaving 175 days in the calendar, saving $125 million. This equals a three percent reduction in the school year.
- Move bus depreciation payments from October to August, saving $49 million. This would be a 10 month delay for districts waiting for money to buy new buses. (Likely in supplemental request)
- Eliminate or reduce National Board Certification bonuses, saving between $8.4 to $40 million. Greogire prefers reducing the amount from $5,000 to $4,000. (Likely in supplemental request)
- Eliminate full-day kindergarten funding for high-poverty schools, saving $38 million.
- Change the school funding formula to base it on “average daily attendance,” which would save about $33 million. Gregoire prefers changing the attendance policy so that students who are absent for 20 days in a row are considered withdrawn from the district; this would save about $6.4 million (Likely in supplemental request)
- Eliminate or reduce small grants and projects, including PASS, Readiness to Learn, principal and superintendent internships, career and technical education start-up grants, Washington Reading Corps and more, saving about $9 million (Likely in supplemental request)
- Reduce staffing for high schools with less than 300 students from 9 full-time teachers to 8, saving about $5 million. (Likely in supplemental request)
- Reduce OSPI administration by 10 percent, saving $600,000. (Likely in supplemental request)
- Reduce K-12 salaries (and other state employee salaries) by an additional 1 percent for the 2012-13 school year (this is on top of the 1.6 to 3 percent reduction staff took this year). Saves about $37 million
- Reduce the amount the state kicks-in for health insurance by $23 per employee per month, saving about $20 million (Likely in supplemental request)
- Eliminate or reduce the amount of State Need Grant financial aid given to students. Elimination of the program, which helps 700,000 low-income students, would save about $303 million. Gregoire also proposes reducing the amount of the grant award to each student by about $2,700, excluding students who attend private colleges/universities, or reduce the eligibility of students by requiring students be at 55 percent of median family income. The alternative proposals would cut between $25.5 and $68.4 million.
- Reduce state support to all state public universities and colleges by 10 to 20 percent for the 2012-13 school year, saving between $111 and $222 million. Gregoire prefers reducing the funding by 15 percent, which equals about $166 million. (Likely in supplemental request) (Note: The state universities still have the ability to change their tuition, as granted by the Legislature last spring. That is how they handled many of the cuts for the current school year. Tuition is already set to increase for the 2012-13 school year.)
- Eliminate the State Work Study program, which helps 7,600 students, saving about $8 million. (Likely in supplemental request)
The proposal also calls for reducing state funding for the School for the Blind and the Center for Childhood Deafness and Hearing Loss by 5 to 10 percent, saving between $711,000 and $1.4 million. Gregoire supports cutting funding by 5 percent (Likely in supplemental request).
You can get an overview of all the proposed cuts, not just education, on the Politics Blog.
Below are some comments released by various education groups.
The Blaine School Board unanimously approved the $21 million 2011-12 operating budget Monday night, Aug. 22.
The budget includes about $20.5 million in revenue, about $279,000 less than the previous school year. About 68 percent of expenditures are for teaching and teaching support.
During the 2010-11 school year, the district prepared for about $1.7 million in budget adjustments for the 2011-12 school year, however due to people catching up on late property taxes, $514,000 was carried-forward in the budget from the 2010-11 school year. But budget reductions were still necessary; staffing will be down the equivalent of about eight full-time positions districtwide.
Enrollment is also budgeted to be about 2,050 full-time students, a decrease of about 23 students compared to last year.
About $1.1 million is budgeted to be in the general fund at the end of the year, which is the equivalent of about 5 percent of district expenditures and meets the school board’s reserve policy.
To view the district’s budget, click here.
School boards for three Whatcom County school districts will consider adopting the proposed 2011-12 operating budgets on Thursday, Aug. 11.
To read the stories previewing the budgets, please click on the proper links.
Mount Baker – school board meeting 4 p.m. Bellingham Herald preview story.
The Meridian and Nooksack Valley school district budgets have already been adopted.
After avoiding most staff layoffs during the last few cash-strapped school years, the Mount Baker School District will have fewer teachers for the 2011-12 school year as part of budget cuts due to declining revenue and enrollment.
The draft 2011-12 operating budget includes about $20.7 million in revenue and about $21.7 million in expenditures, however the expenditure amount may drop before the budget is adopted as district officials look for other places to reduce costs.
The school board will consider adopting the budget at their regular meeting Thursday night, Aug. 11.
According to Superintendent Rick Gantman, the district is looking to cut about $1.8 million when compared to past school years and after accounting for the loss of federal stimulus funds and increased personnel, gas, food and other necessary costs. The draft budget currently shows that district expenditures are expected to decline by about $477,000 when compared to the 2010-11 budget, but numbers haven’t been finalized with regards to personnel or non-employee-related costs, according to Ben Thomas, the district’s interim business manager.
During the last school year, the district’s budget included spending about $1 million in reserves, a move that school board and district officials hoped would get them through the recession and allow them to keep staffing and programs essentially the same.
Staffing in the draft budget is slated to be the equivalent of about 223.6 full-time positions, a drop of about 18 full-time positions when compared to the 2010-11 school year. Nearly all of those staffing reductions are for certificated staff, which includes teachers and counselors. Some of the positions were vacated by people this year due to retirements or leave of absences.
Enrollment in the district’s regular program, which doesn’t include Running Start students, is budgeted to be the equivalent of 1,894 full-time students.
Rrevenue is expected to decline by about $184,000, according to the draft budget. About 20 percent of revenue, or $4.2 million, is from local property taxes, and about 66 percent of revenue, or about 13.7 million, is from the state.
About 69 percent of expenditures is slated for teaching and teaching support; about 13 percent of expenditures will be used for administration, according ot the draft budget.
The district and unions representing staff are also still working through the salary reductions that were included in the adopted state operating budget; it is up to each district and union to decide how to handle the pay cuts, with some districts around the state covering the difference in pay and some unions having its members take the cuts.
Basic Education: $10.7 million
Alternative Learning Experience: $292,000
Special Education: $2.5 million
Vocational Education: $739,000
Compensatory Education: $1.6 million
Other education: $562,000
Community services: $102,000
Districtwide support: $3 million
Transportation: $1.3 million
Food service: $917,000
The Meridian School Board adopted the 2011-12 operating budget Friday morning, July 29.
The budget includes about $17.5 million in expenditures and about $17.1 million in revenue. The difference between revenue and expenditures is coming out of money put aside last year for future budget restrictions.
When compared to the 2010-11 budget, revenue is expected to be down about $1 million, mostly due to declining enrollment and state-level funding reductions for alternative learning programs, which the popular Meridian Parent Partnership Program falls under.
Staffing is budgeted to be essentially the same as the 2010-11 school year, with the equivalent of about 162 full-time positions; some of those positions may be unfilled this year.
At the end of the year, the budget calls for there to be about $1.6 million left in the general fund. Of that, about $705,000 is put aside as reserves, per board policy, and much of the rest is committed to future school years to handle increased personnel costs and anticipated state funding reductions.
Whatcom Community College’s Board of Trustees is slated to adopt the 2011-12 operating budget at their meeting Wednesday, July 20.
Below is a brief look at what’s included in the budget. If you want to dig deeper on your own, you can view the draft budget by clicking here.
- Expenditures expected to be about $19.4 million, about $250,000 less than the 2010-11 budget.
- The college, which operates mostly on a combination of state funds and tuition, is budgeted to receive about $10.1 million in state funding, about $2.3 million less than budgeted for the 2010-11 school year. During the 2010-11 school year, the state Legislature reduced state funding to community and technical colleges by about 4 percent, which equaled about $772,000 for WCC. That funding cut continues in the 2011-12 school year, plus an additional $956,000 cut. State revenue to the college is also lower due to a 3 percent pay reduction for state employees, which equals about $274,000 for WCC.
- Revenue from “local funds,” which includes tuition, money from reserves, and money from the college foundation, is expected to be about $9.3 million, about $2 million more than the 2010-11 school year.
- Tuition will increase by 12 percent, meaning the average full-time WCC student will pay about $136 more per quarter, according to the draft budget.
- Other revenue includes about $366,000 in reserve funds and about $93,000 from the college foundation.
- For the 2010-11 school year, the college will receive state funding to educate the equivalent of 2,457 full-time students, 585 full-time Running Start students and 150 full-time international students. The college is also budgeting for an additional 637 full-time students, bringing the estimated enrollment to more than 3,800 full-time students.
- Staffing is budgeted for the equivalent of about 316 full-time positions, a reduction of about 16 full-time positions across the college.
- State work study funds, which help students pay for college by working at the school, were reduced by the Legislature by about $200,000 for the 2011-12 school year. The college will spend about $97,000 to fund the most necessary positions as part-time hourly jobs.
- The Associated Students of Whatcom Community College is spending about $65,000 for student employment to replace some positions lost from Work Study funding and about $18,000 to pay for officiating fees for athletics.
- Funding for the Turning Point program, which was designed to help recently widowed, divorced or displaced homemakers transition into the working world, was eliminated by the Legislature. The college will continue the program through the fall, with hopes of finding alternative funding sources.
- Massage Therapy and Online Nursing programs will be self-supporting during the 2011-12 school year. This means students in those programs pay more – the massage program is $155 per credit, about $50 more than other programs, and the online nursing program has a tuition of $1,800 per quarter, about $700 more than what a full-time student in another program would pay.
Update 7/13: I just spoke with Superintendent Linda Quinn about how the various employee groups are handling the state-imposed pay cuts.
As part of the state budget, the Legislature reduced funding for state-funded employees, including teachers and school district staff. The various staff groups in the Ferndale School District are absorbing the cuts, Quinn said, but each group is doing it differently, ranging from pay cuts to furloughs to keeping positions open and doing more work.
The rest of the original blog post is below.