The Puyallup School Board on Monday adopted a 2012-2013 school budget totaling more than $196 million after making cuts of nearly $8 million to certificated and classified staff.
The budget is easier to swallow than what the district had braced for last fall, when it asked a committee to identify $12.5 million in possible cuts. At the time, there was fear the 2012 Legislature would slash state education funding more than it ultimately did.
In the end, the board cut 25 teaching positions and as many as 50 non-certificated full-time staff positions. The spending plan adopted Monday is based on state and federal funding reductions and factors such as a projected enrollment decline of 230 students next school year.
In the 2012-2013 school year, the district plans to eliminate 11 certificated staff positions and 3.3 full-time classroom aide equivalents because of the expected enrollment decline.
In addition, teaching staff will be reduced by another 14 positions because of the Legislature’s reduction in state funding for smaller class sizes in kindergarten through fourth grade. However, the district expects to add back 11 teaching positions because of an initiative called Graduation Matters.
The budget eliminates some non-certificated staff including 14 bus driver jobs and the equivalent of five full-time library assistant positions.
And the fate of about 30 paraeducators remains in limbo until fall, when they will find out if they are transferred to other classes or schools or whether they are rehired at all.
At Monday’s meeting, about a dozen people spoke out against the possible displacement of the paraeducators, who serve as a resource for teachers and special education students.
Justus Anderson, a senior next year at Emerald Ridge High School, said that because of paraeducators in the high school’s learning lab, he is now earning As and Bs.
Anderson said “something broke inside of me” when he heard some of those support positions would be lost.
Anna Maria Hill, a paraeducator at Kalles Junior High School, said her colleagues are not faceless and neither are her students.
“I beg for you to reconsider,” she challenged the board.
Greg Heath, chairman of the board of directors, said the board and district know real people are affected by budget cuts. He said officials are working hard to ensure Puyallup students are served well.
Corine Pennington, executive director of business services for the district, said a series of budget cuts in recent years has been painful for Puyallup schools.
“We have reduced our overall general fund budget by over $25 million in the last five years,” she said. “It’s been really tough. It’s unprecedented the amount of cuts districts are subject to because of the poor economy.
“We need our lawmakers to develop a stable and reliable revenue stream to fund the state’s 295 public school systems,” Pennington added.