Governor’s budget painful for Valley schools

Snoqualmie Valley School District staff will be keeping a close eye on the state Legislature over the next few months as lawmakers tackle Washington’s 2009-11 budget, which includes a $5.7 billion shortfall.

To help close the gap, Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposed plan, released last month, cuts $800 million from elementary and secondary schools statewide, including a savings of $350 million by not giving teachers pay raises.

The House and the Senate will make their own budget plans in the next few months, and school districts will have to decide how to deal with the cuts.

Under Gregoire’s proposal, Initiative 728 money, which is meant to keep class sizes smaller, would be trimmed by 21 percent.

Snoqualmie Valley School District Superintendent Joel Aune said the I-728 funds are “critical” to the district, and the reduction “may result in increased class sizes.”

Voters approved I-728 in 2000 to provide funds smaller class sizes, teacher training, summer and after-school programs and instructional coaches.

Gregoire’s budget also eliminates the cost of living pay increases for teachers and other state employees created by voter-approved Initiative 732, which the Legislature can vote to suspend.

In August, the Snoqualmie Education Association and the district agreed that in the 2009-10 school year, the district would increase teacher pay by the state’s cost of living adjustment, plus one percent. If I-732 is suspended, the teachers’ pay adjustment would be only that one percent.

Also in Gregoire’s budget, schools operations funding from the state for non-employee-related costs is frozen. Aune said that effectively amounts to a cut for the district.

“The funding stays the same, but our costs — fuel, food, utilities — continue to rise,” he said.

Aune is also watching public reaction to cuts to “levy equalization dollars,” state payments that support districts with small property-tax bases. Snoqualmie Valley School District doesn’t receive money through this program, but if voters continue to get fired up over the proposal, a final budget might restore some levy equalization dollars and make cuts elsewhere.

The Snoqualmie Valley School School Board plans a work study session to discuss the 2009-10 school year budget this Thursday, Jan. 8, from 5:30 to 7:15 p.m. The session precedes the board’s regular meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

More information about schools funding, including a narrated video on the topic, is on the district’s Web site,

Get your say

To have a say in the budget-making process, citizens can contact their state lawmakers:

• State Sen. Cheryl Pflug (R-Hobart). Phone: (360) 786-7608. E-mail:

• State Rep. Glenn Anderson (R-Fall City). Phone: (360) 786-7876. E-mail:

• State Rep. Jay Rodne (R-Snoqualmie). Phone: (360) 786-7852. E-mail:

These and other lawmakers will take comments at a roundtable discussion, 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 9 at the Snoqualmie Valley School District office, 8001 Silva Ave. S.E., Snoqualmie.

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