Proposed state budget cuts could mean shorter school year

By Dr. Marci Larsen, Superintendent | Dec 07, 2011

Last month I had the opportunity to tell you about one of the most enjoyable parts of my job: announcing that three of our schools were honored by the state for their improved academic performance. Now, unfortunately, I must tell you about one of my least favorite subjects: budget cuts.

The state legislature is now meeting in a special session to determine how to fill a $2 billion shortfall in the two-year budget they just adopted last spring.

Many programs important to the citizens of the state are being considered for budget reductions or outright elimination in order to compensate for falling revenue from state taxes. The result will impact many people, from those who depend on state health coverage to students in our state colleges and universities.

While I can’t speak for the many agencies in state government that would be impacted by the proposed budget cuts, I can tell you about the proposed cuts in public education and how those may impact your school system.

Just before the legislature started to meet, the governor released her ideas for meeting the budget shortfall. Included in her proposal were several items related to public schools that would cut state spending by a total of $370 million.

Two in particular have received some widespread attention in the media, so I will tell you more about those.

The first is the governor’s proposal to reduce the number of school days from 180 to 176. The state provides about two-thirds of the funding that a school district receives in order to operate each day.

By cutting four days of school, the state would reduce costs by about $99 million, mainly because school employees would work four fewer days. School districts would also see a proportional cut in the other payments they receive from the state to pay for basic operations.

The other proposal getting attention is a plan to cut about $151 million in what is called levy equalization payments, which is money that the state provides to school districts that serve areas with low property values.

This proposal would not impact the Mukilteo School District because we don’t get levy equalization money, but it would have a significant impact on many of our neighboring school districts.

Everett, for example, would lose about $1.4 million and Marysville would lose about $4.5 million.

In the days ahead, members of our school board and I will be in touch with our legislators to discuss these issues in more detail. We will encourage them to come up with a solution that will be equitable to all school districts across the state.

It isn’t fair to have cuts that impact the students in only some school districts, especially those least able to afford it, while other students are left untouched.

I have nieces and nephews who will be attending school in Arlington and in Monroe. I want them to have the same chance at a good education that we are able to provide to the children in Mukilteo.

Our legislators have a difficult and unwinnable task ahead of them. Every cut that they make to a program or service will come as a hardship to somebody in the end.

I also know that whatever decisions come out of Olympia, we will continue to serve students and our community the best that we know how.
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