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Olympia schools hope to sidestep trouble in July if state government shuts down

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on June 17, 2013 at 4:03 pm with No Comments »
June 17, 2013 4:03 pm
Randy Dorn, state superintendent
Randy Dorn, state superintendent

State schools superintendent Randy Dorn is warning that the Legislature’s failure to pass a state budget by Friday, June 21, means $45 million in aid to school districts may not go out as scheduled next month. In a news release last week Dorn said, “Most of the money is needed for child nutrition and special education.’’

State government agencies such as Dorn’s are going through exercises to see what a shutdown could mean. As we reported this morning, it likely means temporary furloughs for thousands of state workers, if the divided Legislature cannot get a budget in place by June 30.

Local operations like Olympia School District have also been doing the math to see what impact a shutdown would mean for them. July 1 is the date that a new two-year budget cycle begins and without a budget it could mark the cessation of cash disbursements to schools via the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“We are very carefully analyzing our fund balance compared to our rate of expenditures, and we will be bringing some options before the (school) board,” Olympia schools spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet said. “Right now we think we will be OK for July. But if it looks like we will be close we can consider an inter-fund loan between our capital and operating budget, which is an option that is available to us.’’

The Olympia board meets on June 25 – a Tuesday – so that is the date the briefing would likely take place, if needed, Japhet said.

Tacoma Public Schools sent out layoff notices to four teachers last month in moves unrelated to the threat of a government shutdown. Olympia School District has not announced any layoffs.

Dorn is on record as favoring larger investments in K-12 education to answer the Supreme Court ruling that said the state was failing to live up to its constitutional duty to amply fund basic education.

“The hits just keep on coming,” Dorn said in his statement. “Because the House and Senate cannot come to a compromise, there are a lot of unintended consequences. In this case, districts have already spent the money and the state won’t be able to reimburse them.”

On one side, Republicans who control the  state Senate Majority Coalition have been hostile to new taxes, insisting upon policy reforms such as changes to workers compensation before considering new revenues.

On the other side, the Democrat-controlled House has insisted on closing tax exemptions for out-of-state shoppers, sales of bottled waster and for oil refineries, while  resisting Senate calls to cut more deeply into social programs to close a $1.2 billion budget shortfall and put upward of $1 billion new money into K-12 schools.

Stay tuned.

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