The supplemental budget adopted by the House today retroactively cuts funding for smaller class sizes in kindergarten through fourth grade—a matter of concern for Washington, whose average class sizes already rank 48th in the country.
HB 1086 modifies the state budget for the 2009-2011 budget period ending June 30. But the loss of K-4 funding means classrooms will become even more overcrowded next year, says Rich Wood, spokesperson for the Washington Education Association. Wood estimates that 1,500 teaching jobs will be eliminated next year without the K-4 funding. An additional 500 teaching jobs could be cut because of the impact of state cuts on local levy collections.
"Additional teachers are hired to bring class sizes down," Wood said. "These cuts will have a negative impact on kids." Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-37), chair of the House Education Committee, agreed that smaller class sizes were a "proven strategy to improve student learning, especially in early grades" but stressed that the state is "dealing with a budget situation that is very grave." "We are having to balance multiple needs," Santos said. "We will be looking at how we can preserve K-4 funding in the 2011-2013 budget."
The senate could vote on whether to approve the cuts as early as next week, said Senate Ways and Means Chair Senator Ed Murray (D-43). Murray warned that education funding would be cut drastically over the next two years. "The budget deficit is so great that the legislature does not have too many options," he said.