The Washington Senate released its proposed 2009-11 budget Monday, and education officials all over the state probably gasped when they saw it.
The Senate calls for cutting about $513 million from higher education and $877 for K-12 public schools.
The cuts to K-12 include eliminating almost all of the I-728 funding, which is voter-approved funding to help reduce class sizes. I-728 funding is used to hire additional teachers in many school districts, which means that many teachers will likely be laid off this coming school year. Teacher pay-raises, along with all state employees, are also being put on hold. Levy equalization funds, which help rural districts offset low property values for tax levy purposes, are being cut by 75%. Plus more than $100 million in education capital project funds are being used to offset the budget crunch, meaning there is very little state money available for school construction projects, new or repair.
In all, school districts could see about a 11 percent reduction in revenue from the state. However, most of the federal stimulus money is targeted for school districts, so Senate leaders say the cuts will be closer to 2.5 to 3 percent.
School officials still don’t know when stimulus funding will come to them.
So what do these cuts to K-12 mean? It’s too early to know how each district will handle things, but parents and students should expect larger class sizes, fewer “non-essential” classes, reductions to sports offerings, and building problems going unrepaired.
For higher educaiton, the cuts are just as devastating. Colleges can raise tuition by 7 percent, but no more than that, as stated in state law. But that doesn’t even come close to making up the difference. In a statement released to campus yesterday, Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard said WWU could see cuts equalling about 25% of their operating budget for the 2009-10 school year. The cuts would be about 13.5 percent the following year.
Cuts of that magnitude mean reducing faculty and staff, which reduces the number of spaces available in any given course, which means students will have a harder time getting classes, let alone getting into college. Higher education officials estimate there will be 10,000 fewer slots available for students in state colleges and universities.
It should be noted that education still gets a larger piece of the pie than in years’ past.
The House will set to release its proposed budget today, so we’ll see how different it is. The final budget will be a combination of the two. Either way, it will be much more dismal than Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget that was released in December when the expected deficit was only about $5 billion, not $9 billion.
For more information about how the budget proposals are affecting schools, read the following stories.