BISD facing immediate cuts from state

School districts around the state will have to make some serious cuts after the State Legislature used a special session last weekend to overcome a $1.1 billion deficit for the 2011 state budget.

From the $590 million cuts made, there were public school reductions totaling $50 million. Those cuts include the suspension of funds for K-3 staffing. Also included was the loss of $208 million from the Edujobs Fund, which was part of the stimulus package passed by Congress earlier in the year.

The funds cannot be cut per law, so the Legislature will give the state’s school districts the money after reducing their basic education allocation by the same amount. All the cuts willgo into effect by February 2011.

On Wednesday, Gov. Christine Gregoire presented her proposed budget for the 2011-13 biennium with $2.2 billion of cuts to education. Those cuts include the suspension of initiatives 728, which reduces class size, and 732, which provides an annual cost of living increase for teachers.

Other proposed changes include the elimination of the K-4 class size reduction funds that are provided to school districts and a 10 percent reduction for various programs, grants and allocations.

Supt. Randy Dorn, Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, said in a statement that the cuts went too far.

“The past five days have been the worst for students in Washington State in the 30 years I’ve been in education,” he said. “Gov. Gregoire’s budget proposal will not allow us to move forward. It feels like we’ll be starting over. But this budget isn’t all about numbers; it’s about kids. And once again, our kids got cut.”

Supt. Faith Chapel said Bainbridge Island School District will see a reduction of over a million dollars from its budget with the cuts made in the special session.

“That’s money that comes out of this year’s budget,” she said. “That’s very significant.”

She said there will not be any immediate changes for this year thanks to cuts made from previous years, a small balance from the 2009-10 budget, the recent levy passages, higher than expected enrollment and the support of the Bainbridge Schools Foundation and Parent Teacher Organization.

But Chapel also said the district will still have to make some tough decisions when its budget advisory committee resumes meetings in January.

“The proposed budget reductions are truly devastating,” she said.

Chapel also said the school district is part of a favorable ruling made by King County Superior Court in February that will go before the state Supreme Court early next year.

State Rep. Christine Rolfes who was one of the six who voted no on the budget, said she did so because of the proposed cuts would have an immediate impact.

“My whole point was we don’t really know when you make cuts like that,” she said. “I didn’t know what the decisions were and what the impact was. Hopefully the impact is not as disastrous as they could have been.

“There are going to be a lot of unintended consequences because of the real quick cuts we made that none of us will fully know until nonprofits and agencies start cutting their programs,” Rolfes continued. “Really it could be characterized as a race to cut the budget in order to stop the bleeding.”

Rolfes, who currently is a member of the education appropriation committee, said she doesn’t know if she’ll be appointed to it next year.

“My goal is to find a way to cut education funding in a way that doesn’t have a strong impact on the kids in the classroom,” she said.

Staff Writer Jessica Hoch contributed to this report.

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