Highline Schools Targets $2 Million In Cuts In Wake Of State Funding Shortfall

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by Ralph Nichols

Cutting $2 million from a public schools budget already pared down is no easy task. Cutting $4.5 million, with a new academic year just three months away, is even more daunting.

Yet this is what Highline School District administrators and board members have been forced to do – and are doing.

The state’s 2011-13 biennial budget – adopted late last month by a cash-strapped Legislature, by then meeting in special session – provides reduced funding for K-12 education.

Now Highline school officials are grappling with local impacts of this legislative budget-balancing action.

Recommended cuts totaling $2 million, already made public, will be part of the overall cost-reduction package included in the district’s draft 2011-12 operating budget, which Superintendent John Welch will present to the Highline School Board at its June 22 meeting – here are his recommendations:

Click image to see larger version.

A public hearing by the school board on the new budget is scheduled for Aug. 10; the adoption of the budget set for Aug. 24.

Proposed reductions totaling $2 million include the reduction of two management and five classified staff positions, eliminating the first-grade Challenge program, moving to a six-period day at Highline High School, reducing contractual services expenses, and stringent management policies and practices.

Welch told The B-Town Blog that school resource officers aren’t included in projected cuts in contractual services.

Reducing the budget by another $2.5 million is more difficult.

The Legislature passed a 1.9 percent reduction in funding for teachers compensation on to local school districts. But, said Welch, while Highline is a district that uses the state salary schedule for teachers, “we have local bargaining agreements so it’s not that simple.”

State lawmakers basically said “here’s the [funding] cut you’re going to take, now figure out how to do it,” Welch added. “That is where we’re at.”

And this process is more cumbersome because it involves negotiating with separate bargaining units for classroom teachers, principals and other employees.

“We would not be able to do that very well without their help,” said District Chief Financial Officer Susan Smith Leland.

“We’ve had a good cooperation for a long time … they’re there to help us figure this out so that whatever cuts we make [don’t] impact kids.”

Leland said district cuts in compensation could be to salaries or benefits or a combination of both – “but we want to do that without layoffs. We want to try to do that without having people have to lose their jobs.”

Extracurricular programs including athletics, music and drama are not in danger of being eliminated at this time, she said. “Sometimes we have to choose. Right now we don’t have to do that. But we’re able to if we have to.”

Welch said that earlier the school board authorized a reduction in force of up to 45 employees. Notices were sent to 25 that their positions are “at risk.” The full number of notices didn’t need to go out by the May 15 deadline because of retirements and resignations.

Highline School Board President Sili Savusa said June 8 the district now needs “to take a closer look at what it means to provide a high quality education for kids” by maintaining curriculum, retaining quality teachers and giving them “access to the tools they need to educate kids.”

For students, this means “that we don’t remove programs that we know have been successful,” and that “classrooms aren’t stuffed with children because of cuts,” Savusa added. “I mean all kids. Every kid we’re responsible for deserves a great education.”

She said the district also must find new ways to sustain programs, “to think outside the box,” including developing partnerships with the private sector and municipalities.

“I want everyone to know we want to hear from parents and students and the community” in this process. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is our community, these are our kids.”

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10 Responses to “Highline Schools Targets $2 Million In Cuts In Wake Of State Funding Shortfall”
  1. elizabeth2 says:

    If we look at the charge, here is a clue, maybe, as to why the Highline School District is in such bad shape fiancially:

    “Cut 2 management positions – $260,000
    Reduce 5 classified staff positions – $360,000”

    Now, even without a calculator or taking off my shoes, I can figure that we are talking about management staff getting $130,000 a year and classified staff (non teaching) getting $72,000?

    Need I say more?

    • Joanne Glasgow says:

      These figures include salary and benifits (like health insurance, etc…) I believe.

    • Jennifer says:

      This definilty includes benefits as someone who is considered classified in the district I make no where near $72,000 even with my benefits…

      • Jennifer says:

        I should also mention most classified staff have direct contact with students…they are the para-pro’s that are assisting the teachers inthe classroom so it is a bit unfair to say non-teaching.

        • elizabeth2 says:

          Here is what the Highline School District lists as classified:
          “These positions include managers, programmers, technicians, specialists, secretaries, clerical, bookkeepers, office managers, ESL & special needs tutors, para-educators, instructional assistants, leads, security officers, cashiers, cooks, lunchroom help, bus and delivery drivers, monitors, custodians, grounds, vehicle, and building maintenance, buyers, purchasing agents, outdoor education counselors, campus supervisors and sign language interpreters”.

          Most of these are NOT teaching positions although they may involve direct contact with children, most clearly do NOT. The point is that even considering benefits, we are talking about salaries in the $57,000-60,000+ range with $15,000 worth of benefits!

          • elizabeth2 says:

            Here is a link which will provide the information regarding teacher and administration salaries in all the school districts in Washington. If you look under “H” for Highline, you can see for yourself how the moeny is spent. This inforamtion is public and provided by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.


          • Jennifer says:

            Thank you for the info aside from managers, comp tech, grounds crews and a few others you mentioned. The majority on your list do have contact with students daily. I really never can understand people who feel that people that work with our children are overpaid…even if they directly or indirectly work with students. I do agree there are ways to cut costs in the district but, eliminating a classified person (even if they make $57,000 per year, they would have to have been with the district for quite some time) is not going to be the fix that is needed. Imagine this will you….a lunchroom with no staff, a campus with no janitors or security, or even a campus with fewer teachers and fewer support staff….scary really but that is what is on the horizon. So thank you for letting us all know that we make too much money.

  2. Coverofnight says:

    All this back and forth over classified positions…isn’t it obvious? Get rid of management! I’ve yet to meet ANY education administrator who deserves a six figure salary. Aren’t they the ones to hold responsible for the state of education today?

    • elizabeth2 says:

      Management salaries are included on the chart listed above – it is not limited to classified positions. You can see exactly how much administrators are actually being paid. Eye opening!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Please understand a couple of things…. 1) Highline is not unique. Most school districts are having budget issues because of the state budget issues. 2) Highline is somewhat unique because of the large number of students who need special assistance for a variety of reasons. These services are expensive AND mandated by either state or federal law. Management often deals with sorting through and handling such issues. 3) Mangement and other non classroom staff can be incredibly helpful to teachers. Truancy officers, office staff, counselors, vice principals etc are all there to support what the teacher is doing in the classroom and are necessary. Teachers depend on them especially when they have students with special needs. (See #2). I don’t work for the district or have children in the district but I have volunteered extensively. There is not a lot of fat to cut at this point.

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