Less than 180-day school year suggested

The Washington State Legislature convenes a special session November 28 to deal with a shortfall of $1.4 billion in anticipated revenue. One of the biggest portions of the state's general fund budget goes to education. Among the many reductions in Gov. Gregoire's proposed education budget are elimination of programs such as Readiness to Learn, funding for reduction of class sizes, teachers' raises and staff development.

All four county school district superintendents were among the 35 Northwest Washington school superintendents who signed a letter with three budget-related suggestions. If the state is asking staff to do more with less pay and resources, it would be better to reduce the number of days students went to school rather than offer watered down programs.

The districts also want a hiatus from unfunded new initiatives. And they want the legislature to keep  full funding for Local Effort Assistance. LEA helps equalize funding for districts in poorer areas compared to more prosperous ones.

The letter was signed by Lopez Island School District Superintendent Bill Evans, Orcas Island School District Superintendent Barbara Kline,  San Juan Island School District Superintendent Rick Thompson and Shaw Island School District Superintendent Rob Pattermann.

When Representative Jeff Morris (D-Anacortes) was speaking at the November 8 county council meeting he disagrees with the governor's interpretation of what can and cannot be touched in the education budget. He believes savings could be achieved by reducing the number of school districts in the state thereby reducing administration costs.

Besides administration in each district, all school districts belong to Education Service Districts which each provide services to the districts in their care.

A meeting was held a few years ago to discuss if combining the local school districts would be beneficial. The outcome was the participants felt administrative costs are already low, local support for individual island schools is strong, it might be problemmatic to get voters to approve funding for needed facilities on other islands. Traditions with sports teams, high school names, etc was also cited.

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