Area school district faces dozens of teacher cuts

KITSAP COUNTY -- South Kitsap School District will eliminate 68 jobs - 61 of them teaching positions -- for the upcoming school year, the Kitsap Sun reported Thursday.

The drastic cuts were passed by the South Kitsap School Board Wednesday night in an effort to close a $3 million funding gap. According to the Sun, the jobs could be saved if the Legislature approves a budget bump. However, that help may never arrive, and officials weren't willing to count on it.

The school district has avoided layoffs in recent years by drastically cutting programs outside the classroom, backfilling teaching positions with local levy dollars and dipping into coffers. But cost of supplies has continued to climb and enrollment has dropped significantly, leading to significant funding problems.

"We are at the most difficult point this district has ever been in its lifetime," School Board Member Chris Lemke said.

School Board Member Kathryn Simpson told the Sun that the cuts were extremely frustrating, considering the State Supreme Court recently mandated more funding go to public schools.

"The state has talked and talked and talked about the McCleary decision, and we haven't seen a freakin' dime," Simpson said.

Class size has increased by an average of two students per class in the past two years in South Kitsap School District. The number is expected to jump again if the cuts move forward, officials said.