A first cold shower budget vote
Last night the House Ways & Means Committee voted for an ‘early action’ bill to reduce spending by $222 million for the current fiscal year. I voted for the bill despite my fierce internal opposition and efforts to prevent a $42 million reduction in funding for a bureaucratic sounding program called “K-4 enhancement” that is very, very important to Seattle.
For me as a new member of the powerful budget-writing Ways & Means Committee, this tough vote was a cold shower of reality.
For Seattle schools, the K-4 enhancement program–which translates into funding for 58 elementary school teachers–means that the district will be forced to use their reserve account to keep paying the bill for the rest of the year. My sincere hope is to maintain funding for this program in the 2011-2013 operational budget. If it is not, the jobs of at least 58 elementary school teachers in Seattle will be endangered.
While K-4 dollars flow equally to districts statewide, Seattle and other districts that do not receive levy equalization dollars value the funds a great deal. Statewide about 1,500 teachers are funded by K-4 dollars.
In higher education, we painfully took $2 million from both the University of Washington and Washington State University out of their research budgets.
Watching so many efforts to restore funding fail, I am proud of aggressive efforts inside and outside of Olympia to restore $7.2 million for the highly capable program, equating to $400,000 for Seattle schools. The APP program in Seattle is funded primarily by local dollars but the state funds are essential to maintaining the APP infrastucture.
Parents saved the highly capable program. Hundreds and hundreds of email to legislators from parents statewide made the difference. I am so proud of 36th District education advocate Janis Traven of Magnolia who helped energize parents citywide to reach out to legislators.
It made the difference.
While many legislators care deeply about highly capable and worked hard, Rep. Jamie Pedersen deserves enormous credit for his steadfast support and thoughtful, quiet work to support restoration of funds.
My particular focus today in this post is on education but we made substantive reductions in a wide range of programs. It was a sobering introduction to the front lines of budget writing.
Your partner in service,
restore $7.1 million in state funding for the highly capable program. For Seattle this cut would have been an additional $400,000 but the impact would have been particularly painful. I fought tooth and nail for restoration of the funds and am so grateful for the hundreds of emails from parents that made it all possible. While this cut doesn’t make up for the awful $5.4 million cut made to Seattle Public School District overall, it was a small moral victory for parents.