The purse strings were pulled even tighter as Governor Christine Gregoire today unveiled her plan for cutting another 2-billion dollars from the budget.
The governor's proposal includes major cuts to education, from the Department of Early Learning to higher education. All tolled, the cuts to education amount to $1.6 billion -- more than half of the total reductions.
In developing her plan, the governor said in a letter delivered to lawmakers today that she directed staffers to follow several guiding principals, among them: "Our children deserve the best public education we can provide to ensure their future success."
In a phone call immediately after the governor's news conference, a spokesman for Washington State University President Elson Floyd said the president is "livid." Floyd told KING 5 News, "this budget does not represent core Washington Values."
The governor's proposal would cut $533 million from higher education, including the elimination of the state's "Need Grant," which provides grants to 70,000 low-income students. The plan would also suspend the state's work-study program cutting aid to another 7,600 college students.
Also included in Gregoire's proposed budget is $1.06 billion in cuts to -12 education. In that category the Governor has suggested the state eliminate school bus transportation - instead shifting the responsibility for transporting students to parents and communities through local transit systems beginning in the 2012-2013 school year. She also wants to increase class size in grades 4-12 and eliminate full day kindergarten.
Kids might find one aspect of the Governor's proposal to their liking. Gregoire is asking the legislature to reduce the school year by one week, from 180 to 175 days.
Proposed reductions also target the Department of Early Learning, with cuts totaling more than $18 million. The governor is suggesting the state cut the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) for all three year olds.
The governor blamed "the reckless behavior of Wall Street" for choices she and lawmakers face in cutting the budget.
Earlier this year lawmakers approved a budget that included more than $2 billion in cuts to K-20 education in Washington, which extends into college and graduate school. That figure accounted for nearly 41 percent of the cuts made to all state departments.
In a statement, State Superintendent Randy Dorn said. "I understand why the Governor must propose cuts...but these cuts can't happen. Levy equalization is used to fund basic education services for students, including required services in special education. And, what's more basic that hiring teachers to keep class sizes down in grades 4-12? The state has a constitutional responsibility to fund basic education first. We are not meeting that obligation today. These cuts would just make the situation worse in our schools."
The Washington Education Association was also quick to react to the governor's announcement. In a press release issued moments after Gregoire's morning news conference, WEA President Mary Lindquist said, "Washington's educators stand firmly opposed to another all-cuts state budget. Millions more in budget cuts will force schools to lay off even more teachers and support staff, forcing students into severely overcrowded classrooms, where they won't get the help they need to succeed."
Lawmakers are slated to return to Olympia next month to vote on Gregoire's proposed cuts. To read the Governor's proposal in its entirety, click here.