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Evergreen Public Schools to cut up to $20 million from budget with details to come at tonight’s meeting

Further details to be shared at tonight’s board meeting

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: February 27, 2024, 1:35pm

Evergreen Public Schools is expecting to cut between $16 million and $20 million from its budget for the 2024-2025 school year, according to the district’s website.

This will be the district’s third-straight year requiring millions of dollars in budget reductions.

Board members are expected to discuss an initial draft of the budget reduction plan in a board workshop at the board of directors meeting at 5:30 p.m. today at the Evergreen Public Schools Administrative Service Center, 13413 N.E. LeRoy Haagen Memorial Drive in Vancouver. Community members can also tune in virtually via Zoom, though the workshop discussing the budget will not be streamed.

Evergreen has previewed the impending cuts at board meetings in recent months, pointing to continued declining enrollment, the exhaustion of pandemic-era relief funding and inadequate state funding as reasons for the deficit.

The district has promised to prioritize community feedback and diversity in its decisions about reductions.

Evergreen is not alone in its need to make cuts. Neighboring Vancouver Public Schools — the next largest school district in Southwest Washington — has also previewed necessary budget cuts in recent months. Vancouver expects it will need to make even more drastic cuts of approximately $35 million — amounting to 8 to 10 percent of the district’s budget.

The Washougal School District is also expecting to make reductions. Last week, Washougal Superintendent Mary Templeton agreed to take a $21,000 pay cut for the 2024-2025 school year to help free up dollars in the district’s budget.

Continued reductions

Last year, Evergreen slashed approximately $19 million from its budget — a move that saw the district cut dozens of academic interventionists, paraeducators, media assistants and at-risk advocates, as well as a handful of its athletic directors. The year prior, Evergreen cut about $20 million, amounting to hundreds of other positions lost.

Staff and community members protested last year’s cuts at board meetings in March. They questioned the district’s use of its “equity lens” — a process of framing decision-making that prioritizes diversity — when it cut positions that worked directly with the district’s most at-risk students.

Students, too, took to protesting the loss of librarians and media assistants. On March 17, Cascade Middle School students walked out of class to demonstrate the frustration, holding up signs reading “Save our Librarians” for cars passing on Northeast 18th Avenue and 138th Street.

The district has not yet settled on the specifics of what positions would be cut for the 2024-2025 year. But it indicated in a presentation shared online that recommended reductions would be finalized in March, and employees would be notified by May.