Transparency is crucial for schools facing budget cuts

Earlier this week, the school board for Evergreen Public Schools approved close to $19 million in cuts to next academic year’s budget. Photo by Paul Valencia
Earlier this week, the school board for Evergreen Public Schools approved close to $19 million in cuts to next academic year’s budget. Photo by Paul Valencia

School boards at Evergreen and Vancouver Public Schools have passed massive budget cuts this month

Paul Valencia
ClarkCountyToday.com

When the Evergreen School Board voted Tuesday to pass the proposed budget cuts of close to $19 million, including 124 full-time equivalent positions, it was another step of a long process from the school district.

The result was not a surprise to anyone who was paying attention.

In fact, Evergreen officials warned last spring, during another round of budget cuts, that more were coming this spring in anticipation of the 2024-25 academic year. Then, after a strike at the start of this school year that led to significant raises for its teachers, the district sent a letter to Evergreen families in November, describing the district’s upcoming budget shortfall.

The district said the shortfall comes from inadequate state funding, declining enrollment, the expiration of federal pandemic relief money, inflation, and the increase in insurance and labor costs. 

Weeks ago, the district released its initial proposal for cuts.

After listening to parents, students, teachers, and other stakeholders, and after receiving more funding from the state as well as grants, the district revised its reduction recommendations. The superintendent, John Boyd, volunteered a $25,000 reduction in salary, 10 security positions were restored, and the 5th-grade band and orchestra program was saved from the chopping block. In all, the new recommendations changed the eliminated FTE numbers from 140 to 124.

Those new recommendations were passed by the school board Tuesday.

In a video that was posted on social media showing the vote, a voice could be heard from the gathering: “You’re going to have a lot of angry parents on your hands.”

That very well could be true. A superintendent’s pay cut or saving an orchestra program does not fix the loss of 124 full-time positions and more cuts throughout the district.

But the district can say that it was transparent throughout the process. 

Many taxpayers have complained that government officials, in a number of departments, lack transparency. At Evergreen, Boyd and colleagues within the administration have been reaching out to the community since last year, and had workshops with the board members in December. In January, there were budget discussions and engagement sessions with teachers and community members.

Every recommendation and revision has been posted on the district’s website.

Evergreen Public Schools is certainly not the only district in the region facing budget cuts. Evergreen’s revised cuts that were passed totalled $18.7 million. 

Vancouver Public Schools, which did not have cuts last year, recommended cuts that total $35 million for the 2024-25 academic year, including more than 260 full-time equivalent positions. The VPS school board approved those cuts earlier this month.

As noted on the Vancouver Public School website, retirements, resignations, and leaves will be applied first, then reduction in force will be implemented. That is the case for many of the districts that will be making personnel cuts. 

The VPS budget cuts can be found here: https://vansd.org/wpdm-category/proposed-reduction-plan-for-school-board-consideration/?wpdmdl=82670&refresh=65eb32f6da9681709912822

Clark County Today took a look at several district websites to see if the budget process was easy enough to find.

Battle Ground Public Schools reports it is facing an $8.5 million shortfall for the 2024-25 academic year. The district does not anticipate any layoffs. Many positions will be eliminated, but affected employees should be able to pursue other positions within the district. BGPS anticipates that the number of positions available through attrition will exceed the number of employees displaced. 

For more on Battle Ground Public Schools, go to: https://www.battlegroundps.org/battle-ground-public-schools-faces-shortfall-but-does-not-anticipate-layoffs/

At Washougal, the district is looking at a $3 million shortfall. The district put out a survey to the community and released the findings of that survey earlier this year: https://www.washougal.k12.wa.us/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/WSD-Community-Budget-Survey-exec-summary-2-2024.pdf

Washougal administrators are also holding a listening tour, with the next one scheduled for April 9. 

Camas Public Schools has a section detailing its next steps in the budget process. It can be found here: https://sites.google.com/camas.wednet.edu/budget-finance/home/2024-25-budget-process?authuser=0

POLL: Should teacher unions have pushed for large salary increases last fall knowing significant budget cuts were looming this spring?*
274 votes


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