Today, Gov. Christine Gregoire released her proposed state budget for 2011-2013. The state faces approximately a $5 billion budget deficit and the Governor has proposed cutting approximately $1.7 billion from K-12 education. This is a severe reduction to a wide range of programs. Without a doubt, this is by far the worst budget situation that I have witnessed in my 46-year career.
We are currently analyzing the proposal to determine the amounts of specific reductions and the potential impacts to our district.
A very quick analysis of the Governor’s proposal shows the following reductions:
- A reduction in funding teachers in grades K-4. Over the last twenty years, the state has provided enhanced funding to lower class sizes in K-4. The governor’s proposal removes this enhancement and reduces the teacher-to-student funding. For Tacoma, this amount equals approximately 40 to 45 staff positions at the primary grades.
- A freeze of all salary increments for teachers. There will be no experience or education increments and there are no salary or cost-of-living increases in the Governor’s budget.
- Elimination of the school bus replacement funding. Instead of annual depreciation payments, the state will reimburse us after the bus is depreciated -- approximately 15 years later.
- Elimination of all stipends for Nationally Board Certified teachers. This cut comes at a difficult time when today we expect to hear that at least 30 of our teachers have worked hard to achieve their National Board Certification.
- Continued suspension of all I-728 funding. That initiative passed in 2000 by 72 percent and provided resources to enable schools to extend help to students to meet state standards.
- Examples of other reductions include all funding for special programs for highly capable students, internships, readiness-to-learn programs, College Bound Scholarships and elimination of funding for Washington Scholars Program.
As we work through this process, we expect to come across a variety of reductions to other programs or areas. So far, it appears that the Governor’s budget does not call for reductions in all-day kindergarten nor Levy Equalization Assistance (LEA) for poorer districts, including Tacoma.
The Governor has proposed no increased support for health benefit costs for state workers. There’s a possibility that the state will consider eliminating each school district’s individual health benefits programs and shifting all school employees to the state’s health plan. The theory behind this proposal is that the state could negotiate a better package if more people were part of the plan.
Obviously, we have much more analysis to do on the Governor’s budget proposal. Her latest proposed cuts come on top of nearly $8 million in reductions to the Tacoma Public Schools during the special session of the Legislature last weekend.
Fortunately, we have been able to manage our budget and our staffing over the last two years and that has enabled us to remain financially stable. Now, we will have much more work to do in the coming weeks and months to organize ourselves to continue providing a quality education to our students.
I recognize that these cuts and the uncertainty about the funding will be stressful for students, for parents, and for you, the staff. We will try to do our best to keep you informed at every step and partner with you through these struggles. Like you, I got into this profession to find new and effective ways to educate many generations of children. At times like this, it may be especially important to stay focused on that goal. I am proud to be working with you as we tackle this incredible challenge to make sure our children will always be well served in Tacoma.