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School cuts could go deeper
As bad as Gov. Gary Lockes proposed state budget looks for schools, it will probably get even worse, said Terri Patton, South Kitsap School Districts assistant superintendent for business.
Historically, the governors proposal is a high-water mark, Patton said. That usually is the best scenario the legislators cuts usually go deeper.
Patton said she is waiting for numbers from the states Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction, due at the beginning of next year, which she said would give her a much clearer picture of what the budget will mean for the district.
Lockes proposal is just the first step, Patton said. He floats out the first ballon and people react. Well know a lot more in the next couple of weeks.
Though Lockes ground-zero approach pushed education to the top of the priorities heap, his budget proposed cutting more than $545 million dollars from public education, including not fully funding the class-size reduction mandated by Initiative 728, and suspending I-732, which provided cost of living pay raises for teachers.
Patton said she agreed with suspending the pay raises, and for the most part agreed with Lockes proposal, calling it fiscally responsible.
I admire his approach, she said. Freezing salaries is a prudent move. It makes sense to me, with people losing their jobs all across the state. Their salaries may not go up, but at least theyre keeping their jobs.
However, Patton said, if I-732 is suspended, it could make reaching an agreement with the teachers union more difficult.
It makes the tension harder, she said. We have to go to the bargaining table, and if our teachers will not accept no salary increases, we will either have to reach a settlement and shift monies from elsewhere, or if we cant reach a settlement, the teachers may go on strike, or we have to have less teachers.
Patton did note that a key piece was missing from Lockes budget, however, which was increasing revenue.
The only part thats missing, as far as the school district is concerned, is the lack of a revenue increase, Patton said. Theres no tax increase for the long term, which is a little disappointing, because this is a long-term issue. But I know people want to get re-elected, and raising taxes is not popular.
SKSD Superintendent Bev Cheney said she was slightly relieved with Lockes proposed budget.
It was better than I had anticipated, said Cheney, who recently had been showing the public her Stormy Weather presentation which feared across-the-board cuts of 10-15 percent to the districts budget.
We thought we would lose all of I-728, so thats positive, but we certainly wont be able to make any enhancements, Cheney said. So its a glass half-empty, half-full sort of a feeling.