Education cuts retroactive for entire 2010-11 school year in state House supplemental budget proposal
The state House released a proposed supplemental state budget for the current biennium that would cut much of what school districts have been fearing would come for the current school year.
The House proposal calls for cutting about $216.5 million in expenses and transferring about $123.8 million from other funds to the general fund. This is all on top of the $588 million that was cut across state departments in December during a one-day special session.
When it comes to education, the proposal differs from Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget proposal in that it doesn’t reduce levy equalization funds, which is money that property-poor school districts receive to keep tax rates manageable. The House proposal also includes cutting the following:
- eliminating all of K-4 enhancement funding for the 2010-11 school year; $42 million. Some of this funding was cut prior to the start of the 2010-11 school year; the cut was also proposed as part of Gregoire’s budget. But, school districts have been waiting to find out if the cut would be retroactive to the start of the school year, or if they would be taken from February onward. This creates financial problems for school districts due to staff members already being locked-in with contracts for the whole school year, meaning districts will likely have to eat the payroll costs.
- eliminating all of Highly Capable Learners Program funding; $7.1 million. Like the k-4 enhancement funding, school districts knew this would be disappearing, but there were questions about whether it would be for the entire 2010-11 school year, or only part of it. The House proposal calls for retroactive elimination of the funding.
- reduction in food service funding; $3 million reduction, but the actual fund increases to about $60.5 million. This is due to a transfer of about $6 million from the education reform budget to the school food budget to allow districts to eliminate co-pay on lunch and breakfast for students who qualify for free meals. It also includes about $56.6 million in “federal expenditure adjustment authority, which is due to an expected increase in the number of students qualifying for free meals. The state gets reimbursed by the federal government for that spending.
- eliminating summer vocational skill center programs; $1.2 million
- reduction in student transportation; $300,000
- reduction in special education funding; $1.6 million
- reductions at the schools for blind and hearing loss; $1 million
- reduction to the Department of Early Education; $457,000
The budget proposal also includes putting $5 million in a contingency fund for school districts. This is the contingency fund mentioned in December to help districts that may need emergency financial assistance to make payroll.
As the cuts for the 2010-11 school year become more clear, I’ll let you know what districts are doing to meet the reductions. Many of the cuts will likely be handled through reducing non-employee related costs, which doesn’t require school board approval. For example, it sounds like the Bellingham School District will be absorbing the revenue reductions through dipping into reserves and limiting unnecessary expenses. Blaine School District will be cutting material expenses, as well as using funds originally earmarked to help with cuts coming for the 2011-12 school year. Any cuts affecting staff or programs will include school board discussions.