Thursday, October 23, 2008

Update and Op Ed

Well, I'm no fortune teller when I wrote yesterday that there needs to be some political courage about school closures but in today's PI there's a story about the Board making statements about school closures. From the article:

"This is by no means a commitment to further school closures, but it is an honest realization that we have to look at every possible option because of the severity of our financial challenges," said School Board Vice President Michael DeBell.

The board plans to meet Wednesday to discuss possible changes to its student-assignment plan, as well as short-term ways to ease overcrowding in schools in Northeast Seattle and Queen Anne/Magnolia.

But "we now feel we have to widen the scope of this process because of the looming financial challenges we have," DeBell said.

The projected deficit is a fraction of the district's annual operating budget of about $556 million, but would still mean significant cuts, such as layoffs or school closures.

No decisions have been made yet on how to resolve the budget shortfall, but "we need to look at everything," said School Board President Cheryl Chow.

"We have to put everything on the table to consider ... and it costs money to run buildings."

And the stakes get higher:

"District officials anticipated a $24 million shortfall in their 2009-10 budget, but say the deficit could grow to as much as $44 million if the state withholds Initiative 728 money because of the economic downturn. The initiative, aimed at reducing class size, was passed in 2000."

And it could even get worse with this election. Here is an op-ed from the PI urging voters against I-985 that argues:

"That prospect -- less for schools with no tax cut in return -- is one of the frightening aspects of Initiative 985, the impatient person's poorly considered scheme for addressing traffic congestion by throwing money from all over the state mainly at the problem in the Puget Sound area, probably not achieving much positive and making congestion worse in places. Initiative 985 would divert an estimated $290 million in the next biennium from the state's general fund, which pays for public schools, health care, law enforcement, higher education and other services, into a new traffic congestion relief account. Yes, it would come out of that general fund, the one already facing a $3.2 billion shortfall."

What the national economy and Wall Street are seeing could be just as disastrous for our schools. Please read up on I-985 before voting on November 4th.

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