How is the state budget affecting your school?

Local school districts are making adjustments to staff contracts and salaries now that the Washington State legislature finally passed the state budget for the next two years. The eleventh-hour move on the last day of the legislature’s special session on May 25 set out $4 million in cuts, including reductions to public education funding that local districts are now trying to sort out. The approved state budget mandates a 3 percent cut in pay for school administrators; a 1.9 percent reduction in pay for teachers and classified staff, and cuts to various programs like alternative education and learning assistance. For the Colville School District these reductions were less severe than anticipated, allowing the district to rescind the 23 Reduction in Force (RIF), or pink-slip notices, sent out to staff in May. “At the time we didn’t know what was going to happen and we had to meet the May 15 deadline for sending out the RIF notices,” said Superintendent Ken Emmil. “We had to plan for both the best and worst case scenario and for us that was a $6 million swing.” In total, the Colville School District will see a $939,778 reduction in funding that includes staff salary reductions, reduced funding for K to 4 classroom ratios, and less money for learning assistance programs. The state budget also called for a 10 to 20 percent reduction in Alternative Education funding, said Emmil. “We were relieved to see that the legislature did not change the structure of Alternative Education programs to mandate a certain number of ‘in-person’ hours, as many of our virtual learning students do not live in the district, so requiring ‘in-person’ time would be difficult,” he said. Emmil noted that about a third of Colville School District students, or roughly 860 students, are students who live out of the district boundaries but are enrolled in virtual learning programs. In order to apply the mandated administrative staff pay cuts, Emmil said his office will be taking a 3 percent cut. However, the classified staff and principals will be able avoid the 1.9 percent pay cut by attending two days of non-paid training the district will provide. Certified teachers who will see a reduction in paychecks due to the state salary schedule can make up that reduction by a attending a 3-day training in which the district will pay them per-diem for attending. These adjustments are only part of the district’s efforts to gear up for next year when traditional student enrollment is anticipated to drop by 100 students and 9 teachers retired from the district this year. “In some ways we are going to be better off next year because with challenges come opportunities,” said Emmil. Kettle Falls renegotiates contracts The Kettle Falls School district saw their state funding trimmed back by $483,000, a cut that will result in the loss of 3 certified teachers and a renegotiation of some administrative contracts. They also anticipate having 35 fewer students next year, which will mean another funding reduction from the state since the district is paid on a per-student basis. Superintendent Greg Goodnight said the district had to give RIF notices to himself and the two district principals in order to renegotiate their contracts to reflect the 3 percent reduction in pay. The 1.9 percent salary reduction for teachers will be automatically applied to their paychecks, as their union adheres to the salary schedule set by the state. Goodnight said while the district will absorb the funding reductions as best they can, he is not impressed with the way the reductions were made. “The way the reductions were lined out to us makes implementing them and making it fair hard,” he said. “I am really questioning the decisions forced upon us because these pay cuts did not come with less work and the state collective bargaining laws make it complicated to put this into action.”