State report paints bleak picture for future school funding

OROVILLE – A recent report recommends school districts look at making deep spending cuts as the state wrestles with a budget shortfall predicted to be upwards of $3 billion.

Shay Shaw, Chief Financial Officer for the Oroville School District reviewed a report from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction at the school board’s Monday, Sept. 29 meeting. The report was brought to Shaw’s attention by district Superintendent Dr. Ernie Bartleson who received it at a recent regional meeting.

The report “K-12 Financial Outlook” paints a bleak picture for all school districts in the state and makes suggestions that many rural districts, like Oroville’s, will find hard to enact with budgets already stretched tight.

“We were told we need to look at cutting 10 percent across the board,” said Shaw. “For Oroville that means $670,000.”

One suggestion the report makes is for districts to run their levies at the maximum amount they are allowed to collect.

“Only a couple of districts in the ESD (Educational Services District) run levies at the maximum amount and they are Chelan and the Methow. For us that is not the answer, right now we run a levy of $771,000, our maximum is $1,087,000,” Shaw said.

Other options listed in the report include:

• Close schools

• Programmatic cuts (e.g. libraries)

• Delay curriculum adoption

• Reduce staff (e.g. increase class size, reduce maintenance staff)

• Add additional students (e.g. Internet Academies)

• Cut administration

• Create additional fees for students and families

• Eliminate sports and extracurricular activities or Pay to Play

• Cut arts, music, social studies, physical education

• Eliminate 6th and/or 7th period in high school

• Reduce elective course offerings

• Reduce bussing options (e.g. longer routes, less transportation within one mile for young, earlier starts for fewer buses.

Oroville already staffs its libraries with paraprofessionals, said Shaw and delaying curriculum adoption would be hard to do and still make the WASL goals mandated by the state. The superintendent at Oroville is also only working part time, she added.

“We don’t want to reduce staff as it has been the board’s goal to lower class sizes. It is something we have really worked hard for,” said Jerry Nelson, board chairman.

“The staff is important and it is important we take care of them. When I came on the school board we had two levy-funded teachers that we no longer have,” he added.

Shaw said she “got a kick out of” the OSPI report’s suggestions, explaining the district had already made many of the cuts suggested before the state’s budget problems.

“It is just like they are out of touch,” she said to the agreement of the school directors.

“Yes, how can they say we can just increase the levy number to the maximum. They don’t know a thing about what we do,” said Supt. Bartelson.

“There is no way we are going to be able to do that,” added Nelson.

Shaw said that she thought the district already ran a “tight ship” and that it was not overstaffed and doing pretty well at current budget levels.

“Just strike all those unfunded mandates and send them back,” said Board Member Tedi Fletcher.

Shaw said the report was just a caution and that no final numbers on how much the state would cut back on funding for basic education had been arrived at.