State plan imposing local education cuts

 


The state’s new plan for funding education is going to make it difficult to put together the budget for the 2018-19 school year, officials here have indicated, and they’re planning for a second round of big cuts.

Superintendent Paul Turner, who trimmed the current year’s budget by over $500,000 last spring and summer, will be faced with the task of doing it again.

It is all tied to the McCleary ruling handed down in 2012 when the Washington State Supreme Court told the Legislature that it had to fully fund basic education.

The Legislature has decided that, as of 2019, the local school levies will be for “enrichment” only, not basic education.

Currently, Grand Coulee Dam School District receives $3.95 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation for its maintenance and operations levy voted by patrons three years ago. In addition to these funds, which come to about $1.13 million per year, the district receives an “equalization” payment from the state of nearly $535,000. That four-year levy passed with a strong yes vote, 591-325.


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But both the old levy system and the state equalization payments will now be gone.

When local patrons vote on a new levy next spring it will be for “enrichment” programs only — that is, for expenses not included in basic education, such as athletics and extracurricular activities. But districts are still waiting for an explanation of what qualifies by definition as an “enrichment” program, as districts across the state struggle to adapt to the new funding plan.

“We are waiting for the rules in how we operate under the new law,” Turner said last week.

In budgeting for the current school year, officials set out to trim $742,000, from personnel and programs. The district finally settled with whittling away over half a million dollars.

Turner is already working on a second reduction; this time it could come largely through personnel. He said the district will have to look at everything as it gets its budget into shape for the next school year.

Budgets are normally passed in July for the upcoming school year.

Levies under the new system will drop to $1.50 per thousand of assessed valuation when prepared for a vote of patrons next spring.

Turner said some districts are planning a double levy, separating them into two levies of $1.50 each.

The jury is still out on whether the new system will allow this.

In the McCleary decision, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state isn’t meeting its paramount duty of fully funding basic education, which is mandated by the state constitution.

How the new funding laws accomplish this may still be up in the air.

 

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