Spokane Public Schools makes headway on budget shortfall
Spokane Public Schools principals have agreed to a 3 percent pay cut, a move that will help the school district offset a $13.1 million budget shortfall.
Additionally, the remaining 85 teachers who received layoff notices last month will be recalled, thanks in part to staff retirements and a new plan to maintain current class sizes in middle school as well as at the elementary level, district spokeswoman Terren Roloff said.
During a school board work session on Wednesday, the board heard a new proposal from the administration that included pay cuts, reductions in administration, central office staff, librarians and instructional assistants; closing administration building for one week in summer and winter, but preserved class sizes.
District administration expects to put together a draft budget to present to the school board next week, but no final decision will be made until the budget is adopted in August.
Using $5.4 million from savings, the district decreased the gap to $6.3 million.
“None of us like making these decisions, but this is the hard stuff we were elected to do,” said Sue Chapin, board president.
While central administration has been proposing a 3 percent pay reduction – the same amount cut by the state – and a freeze in the raises given for longevity, the principals’ pay had to be bargained. Administration announced Wednesday the principals voluntarily agreed to a 3 percent pay cut and salary freeze, for a $398,000 savings.
The reduction in pay to certified staff would be 1.9 percent, the same amount cut by the state, for $1.9 million in savings.
Class size has been the primary focus as school officials struggled with cuts. The board agreed to temporarily suspend class size limits and allow up to three more students – a $5.5 million savings. But community members and teachers begged officials to change class sizes only as a last resort.
The board had already decided to keep the class size at its current level in K-6, and it has been determined to keep class sizes in grades seven and eight as well.
The board wanted to wait a week to decide on raising class size at the high school level until after they received more information about the effect of reducing instructional assistants in the special education resource rooms.
As the district is pondering cuts, school officials are considering investments. Those include academic intervention and credit retrieval programs; a K-8 online learning program and more all-day kindergarten.
Said Chapin, all-day kindergarten is “one very concrete way to help kids.”
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