Marysville schools face mid-year budget cuts of more than $2.3 million

MARYSVILLE — "I've seen this happen maybe once before in my 30-year career in education," Marysville School District Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland said Dec. 20. "It's unprecedented."

Nyland was referring to the state government's recent moves to take back more than $2.3 million in funds that it had already committed to the Marysville School District, in the middle of the current school year.

"We hadn't even gotten the $2.3 million in Ed Jobs money from the federal government yet, and the state is taking it back," Nyland said. "They're also taking back half of the K-3 class size reduction funds, about $600,000, which pays for current K-3 teachers. We've already hired those teachers."

Nyland reported that the state has likewise taken back an estimated $252,218 in levy equalization funds, as well as $21,000 in I-728 and other funds that the district had already spent.

"The state is balancing its budget on the backs of its poorest school districts," Nyland said.

Nyland noted that this mid-year budget reduction is as nearly equal to the annual budget reductions that the school district has undergone in the past two years.

In immediate response to Gov. Christine Gregoire's recommendations, on top of the education budget cuts already made by the state Legislature, the Marysville School District has restricted travel, extra time, overtime and substitutes for its classified staff, reduced its building budgets by 18 percent, and suspended its supply budgets, new hires, and training and texts from the BEA.

Even with the implementation of proposed measures such as a 10 percent Reduction In Force in its operations staff and a 2 percent salary reduction from all its employee groups, the district could still be facing a remaining budget shortfall of nearly $1 million.

Mike Hogan, a Marysville School District parent, urged the Marysville School Board to shy away from any cuts related to curriculum development.

"Look at cuts that won't impact the students' educational development as much," Hogan said. "If their learning suffers or is degraded as the result of temporary difficulties, it will be a travesty that we'll never be able to overcome. The curriculum is the key to the students' success. Make as many cuts as you can outside of that."

Fellow Marysville School District parent Sherri Crenshaw, a teacher at Tulalip Elementary and a former member of the Marysville School Board, reminded the Board that Tulalip Elementary had already undergone a significant turnover in staff to qualify for certain federal funds.

"Because we became a merit turnaround school, half our teachers are new," Crenshaw said. "Because job retention is based largely on seniority, many of our teachers are due to be replaced, again. I hope there's some way we can save some of these positions at Tulalip Elementary, because this constant revolving door is horrible for our students. It hurts those who need more help already."

Jason Call, a math teacher at the Marysville Arts and Technology High School, suggested that the school district might be losing money in the long run by complying with the requirements to receive certain federal funds.

"A lot of these requirements are unfunded mandates," Call said. "We get about $1,100 per child from the federal government, but it's worth asking whether parts of that are actually costing us more than we're getting."

Call took aim at standardized testing as one expense that should be reevaluated, and described math as a "developmental" subject.

"Not all kids are ready for algebra at the same age, but standardization puts them all in the same box," Call said. "We need to be freer to tailor our programs to meet the needs of our students at their current developmental levels. It doesn't do any good to tell kids who don't fit the standardized model that they've failed again."

Nyland explained that the school district will review the hundreds of budget-cutting suggestions that it's continuing to receive, as well as the RIF language in its contracts, before meeting with labor leaders again in early January to discuss possible options. He identified early February as the district's target to make any cuts, since that's the deadline to revise the budget for the remainder of the school year.

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