Saturday, September 22, 2007

board members: face the budget crisis now

Bob Shirley and Russ Lehman are proposing that the Board tackle the impending budget crunch now, instead of in the spring, The Olympian reports. I'll look at their proposals in turn.
•Eliminate up to $1 million in expenses not supported by state funds. In particular, the two board members cited student transportation as a potential area to make cuts.
This would potentially involve reducing routes for students who live within 1 mile of school. I'd suggest a tiered approach: cut service to secondary-level students who can walk to school, and thus combine elementary routes, given the freed-up seats. (Hey, maybe it could work.)
•Create a new performance- and skills-based compensation program for principals. Under the two board members' proposal, such a program should reward leadership and acquisition of knowledge and skills.
I believe it was Lehman who floated this idea when the Board was deciding on the last budget (he and Shirley, if you recall, voted against). I'm initially skeptical that this would fly with principals, who face different situations across the district and might see this solution as creating inequities in compensation.
•Create a teaching schedule that has one half-day each week devoted to teacher collaboration and skill development and one half-day each week devoted to classroom preparation. The two board members' proposal states that the district doesn't have the money to create this type of schedule now but should plan for the future.
We recently ended our D schedule collaboration days. I'm not sure anyone really misses them. The existing option for collaborative staff development could be expanded without creating another disruption to the schedule (and bus routes and parents' lives).
•Choose additional budget cuts now that will take time to implement.
Forward-thinking is a plus. I'd like to see what Shirley and Lehman recommend.
•Join the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools' lawsuit. That's the coalition of community groups, school districts, and state and local education associations that sued the state this year, claiming Washington has not upheld its constitutional obligation to fully fund public education for all children.
Lehman floated this a while ago; it's worth bringing back as the lawsuit plows ahead.

Whether starting early will help the Board make better decisions is an open question. At least, though, we can provide time for community members to have their say.

The Olympian notes:
The Olympia School Board has a study session to discuss budget process issues planned for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Knox Administrative Center, 1113 Legion Way S.E., Olympia.

The meeting is open to the public, but public testimony won't be taken.
The proposal can be read here [Word file].

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