More than 50 full-time teacher and instructional staff positions could be eliminated from Vancouver Public Schools next school year in light of an expected $14.3 million budget deficit.
According to a news release, the district will reduce its teaching staff by 23 full-time teachers due to declining enrollment. The district is projecting it will have 458 fewer full-time students next school year. That’s expected to save the district $2.3 million.
Another 33 full-time instructional staff and specialist positions not funded by the state will also be eliminated, cutting the deficit by another $3 million.
The district is also expected to cut clerk hours across the district, saving another $1.3 million.
Some of the staffing cuts will be made through attrition, retirements and resignations, according to VPS.
Tuesday’s announcement is the latest in a series of cost-cutting steps the west Vancouver school district is taking, including cuts to central administrative staff and using ending fund balance.
Superintendent Steve Webb in recent weeks has been sharply critical of the Washington Legislature, blaming new school funding legislation for the expected budget cuts in public meetings and on social media. Over the last two years, the Legislature approved a new school funding formula in response to the McCleary decision, a state Supreme Court ruling that the state was failing to pay for basic education.
Though not alone in its expected deficit, Vancouver Public Schools has been the most public and vocal in Southwest Washington about how declining local levy dollars will impact the 24,000-student district. Voters overwhelmingly approved two levies in the district this month — one for program expenses, the other for technology — but the district says the levy dollars aren’t sufficient to cover the gap.
“We don’t want to make these reductions in staffing,” Webb said in the district announcement. “We did not cause this budget shortfall. Our employees did not cause this budget shortfall. The problem lies with the legislative response to the McCleary court decision.”
Still, the district has tens of millions of dollars more in funding now than it did in 2017-2018, the last year prior to the implementation of the state’s new school funding formula.
According to budget documents filed with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the district’s general fund revenue was about $300.4 million in 2017-2018. In the 2018-2019 school year, the district’s revenue is expected to be $324 million.
The district has also pointed to multimillion dollar contracts with its teacher and support staff unions as a key reason for the budget deficit. On a press release sent earlier this month, Vancouver Public Schools reported that nearly $12 million of its budget deficit comes after contract settlements with the Vancouver Education Association and Vancouver Association of Educational Support Professionals.
VEA Executive Director Rick Wilson, however, echoed Webb in blaming the Legislature for the expected budget deficit.
“I don’t think the district is blaming the contracts,” Wilson said. “They understand that there was information coming from the Legislature and the (state) Supreme Court that there was McCleary money that was designated for salaries.”