Several western Washington school districts facing budget cuts in coming year

Olympia, Shoreline, Everett, and Bellevue are just some of the public school districts facing multi-million dollar deficits in the coming year.

It’s an issue several school boards have faced year after year.

KIRO 7 asked Sen. Lisa Wellman, who chairs the education committee, if there were an end in sight to the cuts.

“No, there isn’t,” says Sen. Wellman. “There always will be budget cuts and maneuvering that takes place because your student body changes every year.”

In a nationwide trend, several districts are currently losing students at a time when they can’t afford to.

“Washington funds school districts on a per student basis,” says University of Washington professor David Knight. “So, if you’re a district with declining enrollment, that means you’re going to have declining revenues.”

Knight says declining birthrates and the pandemic have taken a toll on school enrollment and budgets.

“A lot of districts are dealing with the sort of large salary increases they made before the pandemic, which we found made positive impacts, but they create these long-term financial commitments. Now, coupled with declining enrollment, it places districts in sort of short-term financial, difficult position,” says Knight.

Rep. Steve Bergquist is optimistic about the year ahead, saying schools may have overestimated their deficits, as the state’s budget has not yet been approved.

“I think school boards are still putting their budgets together and there are some additional dollars that they are not assuming yet that are in our budgets,” says Rep. Bergquist. “We fully intend to do the best we can to keep schools operating at the level that they need to, to fulfill the needs of the students in our classrooms.”

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