Schools face budget cuts

Loss of federal funding leaves some programs imperiled.

If Bainbridge school officials want to preserve remedial reading programs, drug and alcohol counseling and career advice – all of which are threatened by upcoming state and federal budget cuts – they’ll have to put their thinking caps on.

“I’ve always been pretty creative” when it comes to finding ways to finance important programs, Bainbridge schools Superintendent Ken Crawford said. “But our creativity is certainly being challenged, particularly when you go from little funding to nothing at all.”

The cutbacks anticipated for the 2005-2006 school year are grim, according to documents released by the district this week.

Federal funds that pay for career counseling and vocational equipment ($16,645), drug and alcohol counseling and education ($12,236) and technology equipment ($3,737) are set to be eliminated entirely under the Bush administration’s current budget proposal.

Funds for remedial reading programs serving 240 Bainbridge students in grades K-8 are also on the chopping block, with state and federal grants cut in half over the past two years, a loss to the district of about $100,000.

To continue the programs without the additional funding, cuts will have to made somewhere. That’s a dilemma Crawford and the Bainbridge Island school board will discuss at 7 p.m. Thursday night in the Bainbridge High library. The meeting will be preceded by a 5 p.m. study session on the $8.9 million technology levy set to go before the voters on May 17.

“Our plan is to keep all of these programs in some fashion,” Crawford said. “We’ll either have to subsidize these programs from our general fund, or find cost efficiencies somewhere. If we use funds designated for regular teachers, this would of course affect our student-teacher ratios.”

While the district has been dealing with the steady erosion in government funding for years, “you can’t get any more dramatic than the outright elimination of funds for these programs,” Crawford said.

“Every one of these programs is valuable, and literally hundreds of kids benefit,” the superintendent said. “We’ll be looking at every option available to preserve them.”

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