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Schools eye teacher cuts

Two days before spring break, the Snoqualmie Valley School District recommended budget cuts totaling nearly $4.1 million to the school board in an effort to stem a growing budget crisis. The proposed cuts are mostly outside classrooms, but include 18.5 teaching positions. In addition, non-teaching staff would be reduced by 123 hours per day.

The proposed general budget cuts for 2009-2010 would shave 7.8 percent of the district’s expenses. Over $2.1 million would be cut from school services and $1.9 million from central services. The plan did not specify how the cuts would affect classroom curriculum. It is up to the school board to determine those changes.

The board is reviewing the proposal, and will present changes at its next meeting on Thursday, April 16.

The state legislature will send its budget to the governor on April 27. So far, both the state Senate and House proposed heavy cuts to education.

“It’s not a very pretty picture. We are concerned about the program implications of this plan,” Superintendent Joel Aune told the board after presenting his plan. “We feel we were able to hold things together pretty well.”

In the plan, elementary schools would lose 7.5 teaching positions. Middle schools would lose 4.5 teaching positions, including one assistant principal. Mount Si High School would lose 2.5 positions, and Two Rivers School would lose half a position. In addition, one teaching position would be cut from the district’s highly capable program and 2.5 teachers on special assignment would be cut as well.

“We don’t know who these people are yet,” Aune said.

The board must first decide on how the cuts will affect school programs before specific teaching positions can be identified.

Usually, the district loses more than 20 teachers due to retirement or taking a job in another district, which would make layoffs unnecessary. However, the economic recession means fewer teachers are likely to leave on their own.

If layoffs are necessary, they would be driven by the language in the collective bargaining agreement between teachers and the district. Teachers reviewed the language last week, but the Snoqualmie Education Association could not be reached for comment.

The biggest cut from school services came from the elementary schools, which also have the largest student population of the three levels of schools in the district. Reductions from elementary schools are estimated to save $732,000, over 34 percent of the total $2.1 million in reductions from school services.

Proposed reductions in middle schools are an estimated $544,000, or over 25 percent of the total cuts. Cuts to high schools are an estimated $465,000, or nearly 22 percent of the total cuts from school services.

Extra-curricular activities also suffered a proposed $400,000 cut. An estimated $300,000 of these savings would come from changing the middle schools’ athletic program from an interscholastic to an intramural program.

The plan proposes cutting hours worked by mostly secretaries and custodians. The custodial staff would be reduced by 64 hours a day, or eight full time positions.

In total, reductions in jobs or changes to how they are paid for would shave $2.4 million from the district’s overall expenses. District administrators had said they wanted to avoid cutting jobs but had to as employee wages and benefits make up 82 percent of the district’s general budget.

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