Local educators will protest Monday to preserve education funding

POULSBO — North Kitsap Education Association members will join in statewide protests against education funding cuts Monday.

The protests coincide with a special session in which legislators will discuss how to cut $2 billion from the state budget.

Teachers will work on Monday on what is being called a Day of Action. They will “wear red for public ed” and write postcards to legislators during lunch, according to an email from association president Chris Fraser.

Educators will march down the hill from North Kitsap High School to the corner of Highway 305 and Hostmark Avenue for a “Keep Cuts Away From Kids” rally that will start at 6 p.m. “Parents, students and other community members are welcome to join us,” Fraser wrote.

“Enough is enough. On Nov. 28, we will stand together in opposition to further, crippling cuts to education … Our legislators have the final decision on what cuts are made. On Nov. 28, NKEA will do its part to educate the Legislature about the harmful impact additional cuts will have on our schools and students.”

The state Constitution states, “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children,” but education funding falls short $7 billion to $10 billion per biennium budget to fully fund the new education reform laws passed in 2009, state Sen. Christine Rolfes said during a Nov. 15 visit to the school district.

“We are billions short,” Rolfes said, adding that “adequate funding” could be years away.

“I think we are looking at the new normal,” she said.

A $2.7 million revenue plunge in the North Kitsap School District forced the school board to adopt a $64 million budget for the 2011-12 school year, $2 million less than the 2009-10 budget.

The cuts were the result of reduced state funding and an unforeseen drop in student enrollment during the 2010-11 year. Another drop in enrollment is expected for the 2012-13 year.

The state cut $1.8 billion from K-12 education funding during the last budget adoption. Funding cuts from the state may not be over. Legislative leaders and Gov. Chris Gregoire are scheduled to meet Monday in a special session to cut another $2 billion from the state’s budget. The $2 billion expected to be cut is due to more than a $1 billion gap in state revenues and expenses.

However, education funding can only be cut so much; $12.8 billion is constitutionally protected, according to Rolfes’ presentation.

The North Kitsap Education Association says students are feeling the effects of budget cuts — class sizes are increasing, support staff (including librarians, counselors and para-educators) have been cut, and funds are not available for essential tools such as technology and textbooks.

The North Kitsap Education Association believes schools and students have already absorbed more than their fair share of cuts. “Additional funding cuts could mean further increases in class sizes, up to 2,400 educator layoffs, slashed pre-school and higher education funding, and the end of all-day kindergarten,” the association said in the press release.

— Information from a Nov. 18 story by Kipp Robertson was used in this report.

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