State budget cuts further reduce South Whidbey finances

Facing a multi-billion dollar deficit, Gov. Christine Gregoire has proposed cuts to state-funded education, and the reductions will hit the South Whidbey School District.

The exact extent of the reductions will remain fluid until the state Legislature votes on it in November, however. Details of Gov. Gregoire’s budget reduction alternatives include eliminating state levy equalization and school bus transportation, increasing class sizes and reducing the school year by one week. The potential cuts will hurt South Whidbey and the district is already in reductions.

“Essentially we’re going to continue to do what we were planning to do, which was look at the whole program,” said South Whidbey Superintendent Jo Moccia.

“Like everyone else, I wish we were able to fund basic education in this state to the level it deserves, but the state’s in financial distress and we have to respond accordingly,” she said.

Most of the proposed cuts will take effect in the 2012-2013 school year.

Still, South Whidbey’s leaders want to be ahead of the damage, not behind it.

“We’re going to look at it sooner, rather than later, probably in December,” Moccia said.

The South Whidbey School Board is scheduled to meet and work on next year’s budget in February. Part of Moccia’s initial — and overarching — plan is to examine the district’s programs as a whole, then keep the essential elements while discarding some others.

With proposed reductions to levy equalization, school bus transportation and National Board certification bonuses, the task of avoiding cuts will be more difficult.

Gregoire’s cuts to kindergarten to 12th-grade education funding total almost $1.3 billion.

The state needs to save another $2 billion in addition to the $10 billion already cut in the past three years, the governor said last week.

Eliminating school bus transportation would save $220 million; increasing class sizes by two students from fourth grade to 12th grade is estimated to cut $137 million; reducing the school year by one week (from 180 to 175 days) is pegged at $125 million.

The cuts have put the state’s executive and the superintendent of education at odds.

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