MERCER ISLAND, Wash. -- Statewide budget cuts are taking a dramatic toll on schools across the state. Many assume that wealthier districts are immune to money problems, but that is certainly not the case.
Mercer Island, which enjoys a reputation as being one of Western Washington's most affluent communities, is facing cuts which will mean losing six teachers.
"Our school district operates just like any other school district. In fact, because of our demographics, we actually receive less federal funding than other school districts. And so we have the same funding restraints that other school districts have," explains Penny Yantis, Executive Director of Mercer Island Schools Foundation.
Mercer Island public schools have already chopped three million dollars from their budget over the past few years. It is a significant amount of money in district with just five schools. Now, with the newly released state budget, they are losing another $500,000 which will mean laying off six teachers if money can not be found elsewhere.
"They've cut administration, they've cut janitorial, they've cut tons of things. And there isn't any place left to cut. And what impacts your child more than the teacher in the classroom with them? So this really speaks to the heart of education to me," says parent and Schools Foundation co-president Denise Hopkins.
The good news for Mercer Island is that citizens are very protective of their schools. Levies for specific school projects are generally approved, and the turnout at fundraisers is large. Yantis is optimistic they will be able to raise enough money to fill this latest budget gap.
"We grant the money to the school district, and then the school district is able to contract with the teachers and hire," Hopkins explains. But they will have to raise much more to replace all that the district lost in recent years.