Coupeville fears school funding cuts

Nearly two months into the school year, Coupeville school teachers, administrators and staff already find themselves in an unnerving situation. They are bracing for funding losses in the middle of the school year while still  providing a quality education for students on Central Whidbey Island.

Rumors have been flying about education reductions coming from the state to resolve an expected $1.4 billion reduction in revenues. School administrators also learned this week to expect reductions from federal sources.

Even with the possible funding cuts, it looks like Coupeville school officials will avoid layoffs — for now.

“We’re not going to have to make any cuts mid year,” Superintendent Patty Page said while literally knocking on wood at last week’s school board meeting.

Page described the situation as “unnerving,” because it adds a lot of stress and diverts staff attention from the classroom.

“The state has an obligation to support education and they aren’t living up to that,” Page said.

The governor released a list Thursday of recommended budget reductions. Possible statewide cutbacks for education include eliminating levy equalization payments($300 million), eliminate school bus transportation ($220 million), increase class size ($137 million) and reduce the length of the school year by five days ($125 million).

Page was informed last week that the school district should expect cutbacks in money it receives for Title I, Title II, vocational education and special education.

She didn’t know how much will be lost from federal programs. The state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is still determining how much money school districts will lose. The Coupeville School District receives $123,000 in Title I funds, which is targeted to programs benefiting low income students; and it receives $31,000 in Title II funds, which helps fund professional development. Coupeville School District receives $188,000 to fund its special education programs.

The federal funding sources comprise a significant portion of the district’s budget.

However, Page there are several factors that may  soften the blow of the expected budget losses.

First, enrollment in the school district is sharply higher than expected this year. Currently, the school district has 84 students more than budgeted, which is a boost considering the district receives approximately $5,100 in state money for each student enrolled. Page also said officials budgeted conservatively and built up a fund reserve to hedge against expected funding losses.

While waiting for information to become available, school teachers, administrators and support staff continue their work in the classroom.

“We will continue to do what we do well — and that is teach kids,” Page said during the meeting.


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