Vancouver Public Schools on Thursday issued layoff notices to 30 clerks in the district, alerting them that their positions will be eliminated for the 2019-2020 school year.
The affected employees include 19 media clerks at all school levels, seven counseling clerks and four wing clerks who are assigned to individual wings of the Skyview High School campus. The district, which is facing a $17 million budget shortfall, expects the cuts will save $1.35 million.
The Legislature is poised to adopt its biennial budget this weekend. If the district’s budget outlook improves, proposed cuts will be reconsidered, the district said in a statement. Vancouver Public Schools has an annual budget of about $324 million.
Vancouver Public Schools, and other districts across Clark County, are announcing budget cuts in light of changes to the state’s school funding model, declining enrollment and increased labor costs due in part to last year’s contract negotiations. Evergreen Public Schools is facing deficits between $15 million and $18 million, while Battle Ground Public Schools is facing a hole of about $8 million.
The Vancouver school district has also announced the elimination of about $6.4 million in central administrative and administrative support services, $6.65 million in school-based reductions and spending $3.75 million from the district’s financial reserves.
In the aftermath of the cuts, union and human resources staff are meeting one-on-one with the affected employees to discuss their options for future employment in the district. Andrea Adams, president of the Vancouver Association of Educational Support Professionals, said clerks may qualify for positions with comparable hours and pay elsewhere in the district.
Still, laying off employees is “a messy thing,” she said.
“It’s been a hard month,” Adams said. “It’s been really sad.”
Vancouver Public Schools leaders have been outspoken about how changes in state funding have affected the 23,000-student school district. District officials say capped local levy revenue and limitations on how state dollars can be spent are forcing them to make cuts in the upcoming school year.
“Without legislative action, valued K-12 programs and staff positions will be cut, class sizes will go up, and some districts may be insolvent in the next several years,” Superintendent Steve Webb wrote to state legislators earlier this year. Webb has dubbed the ongoing issue the “McCleary mess,” after the court case which prompted the funding change.
Whether the state’s operating budget offers relief for the 253 school districts projecting budget shortfalls remains to be seen. The news website Crosscut reports that legislative leaders have been mum on details of their two-year state operating budget even as they voted on tax increases to pay for it.
Teachers were not affected by Thursday’s layoff notices, and Vancouver Public Schools said no layoff notifications will be issued to certificated staff. Vancouver Education Association executive director Rick Wilson said some staff on one-year contracts will be eliminated, as well as a “limited number” of people who are in a probationary period.
Still, the layoffs will affect certificated staff in other ways, he said.
“Our members are very concerned because (clerks) provide an immense amount of help to our teachers and counselors,” he said.
Librarians, for example, “rely heavily” on media clerks to provide technical support to students, put books away, keep the library open during lunch or planning periods and do clerical work.
“To take away that support staff is really creating challenges,” Wilson said.
Vancouver Public Schools is slated to conduct a public survey next month on the proposed budget cuts and present final recommendations to the school board by May 28. The board will adopt the final budget over the summer.