Budgets are being cut deeply all around Puget Sound as the state deals with a $9 billion budget shortfall. Education hasn’t been spared, from the UW to massive layoffs at school districts like Seattle and Bellevue.
We just got the latest update from the Mercer Island School District in the mail, which warned of similar bone-exposing cuts. The MISD estimated that about $2.4 million was cut from its 2009/2010 budget. According to the June flier, this means:
- Up to 11 teachers cut
- Class sizes increase to 26 in elementary school and up to 35 in high school
- Staff and administrative positions will be cut
Pretty bad news for any school district. Extremely disheartening in a district where people typically pay higher home prices for a good school district. But a couple of saves have softened the blow:
First, the Reporter says up to 5 positions will be saved by the money raised by the Mercer Island Schools Foundation breakfast. When Ken Glass alerted us to this event back in February, I thought it would be pancake-focused affair. Little did I know it would end up plugging a giant hole in the schools budget- $430,000 of the hole, to be exact. Nice work Ken and others from the MISF!
And with a little help from the federal stimulus, another $400k gets saved in this school year. So after the saves, the budget reduction is about $1.6 million, which isn’t great but sure is better than $2.4 million.
There will still be budget reductions. Professional development for faculty and staff, music programs, and certain clubs and after-school activities will be hit. Which leads us to the next save…
Youth Theater Northwest, a 25-year old Mercer Island institution that gives kids a chance to learn about theater (and a frequent contributor to the Mercer Island Bulletin Board), has also been rocked by the recession. Manuel Cawaling, Executive Director of Youth Theater Northwest, wrote about the situation and the save in pnwlocalnews.
Last winter, the economic recession and a resulting decline in revenues threatened to end our legacy as the theater came very close to the brink of closure. In response, the theater launched a “Save YTN” campaign and the immediate support of many emergency donors kept our theater doors open through spring. After a momentous vote in the chambers of Mercer Island City Hall, our legacy has been secured for the future. On Monday, June 15, the City Council approved a historic allocation of $37,000 to the Theatre’s Emergency Appeal. This is not only a cause for celebration among our young students and their families, but a victory for the entire community.
With that vote and contribution, Youth Theater Northwest’s Emergency Appeal is over. And now if the theater program gets cut by the MISD along with music, those kids can head across town and still get the chance for all that exploration and enrichment that happen after normal class hours.
When people ask me why I like Mercer Island, before I talk about the schools, or quiet, or the fast commute (or Bennett’s, the best-kept secret on Mercer Island), I tell them about the community. Not to get too mushy, but I’m a bit knocked over by the neighborliness and willingness to jump in and help out in this town. Recession sucks. But recession with good neighbors sucks less.