RENO, NV - Today, Nevada schools are operating on budgets that are 4 percent less than what they had counted on for this year. Along with most agencies, they were part of the last round of across the board cuts ordered when state revenues fell below expectations.
There may be more cuts coming in the months ahead, but school administrators' newest worry is the budget they will have to live with beyond the next year. The state has told all agencies, including the schools, to prepare budgets trimmed by an additional 14 percent.
In Washoe County that translates to about $25 million dollars a year, three times the size of the last big cuts ordered in 2002. Those cuts will cost the district 100 positions, many of which still haven't been restored. In fact, school administrators say cuts have a way of becoming permanent.
The number isn't set in stone, but just the thought of it has administrators like Washoe County Superintendent Paul Dugan shaking their heads at the prospect. Dugan says the goal is always to keep any cuts from directly affecting the classroom. Dugan says that won't be possible with cuts this size.
"Increasing class size is the first thing we'd have to look at," says Dugan. "And we'd have to consider things like delaying the purchase of new textbooks, cutting summer school programs."
Even those measures might not do it. School districts in other states facing the same dilemma are considering responses that would have previously been considered unthinkable, such as a 4 day school week.
No one wants to go there, but Dugan says the district might have to consider the unthinkable.
"At 14 percent the cuts are so absurd; we might have to consider absurd remedies."
Does that mean shorter school years with longer hours? "Absolutely."