Sequestration Threatens Washoe County Schools

RENO, Nev. It's 3PM at Kate Smith Elementary School in Sparks and the final bell has rung. But dozens of students are still hard at work, at least for now.

Kristen McNeill, Chief of Staff for the Washoe County School District says if the sequester continues, they will be forced to make cuts to special needs programs and Title I schools in the area.

Title I funding supports schools with a large number of low-income students.

"Currently over 43% of our students live in poverty," McNeill said. "They were suppose to fix this. They were suppose to fix the budget issues and it didn't get to that particular point.

Kate Smith is a Title I school. Principal Richard Swanberg says he's been told to expect about $10,000 of his Title I funding to be cut.

"I have a $20,000 general budget that I get from the district.," he said. "That doesn't go very far. That's paper pencils, crayons. After that, everything else comes from title budget or federal funds."

Swanberg says if the cuts happen, he will have to cut down his after school programs, including English as a Second Language tutoring.

"A lot of our kids are ESL students so they just need that extra hour to play catch up," he said.

But with $10,000 less, Swanberg won't be able to pay the teachers. That means he will most likely lose 6 out of the 9 after school tutoring sessions they offer to 2nd graders.

"Studies show if we don't have them reading by 3rd grade, they are less likely to graduate high school," he said. "They're already playing catch up. This will put them further behind."

McNeill says there's nothing the can cut, that won't affect students.

"We're at the marrow, We've gone through the fat, we've gone through the bone. So there is no extra funding that we don't need."

She says they are expecting the final numbers to be announced by May. Right now they are looking for other sources of funding, from grants and foundations, to offset the cuts if it gets to that point.