Spokane School Board to consider declaring financial emergency in the wake of COVID-19

Spokane Public Schools are preparing to declare a financial emergency due to COVID-19
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SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane School Board is meeting Wednesday to discuss a possible financial emergency declaration, anticipating budget cuts following the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to agenda documents, the School Board will be considering a resolution to declare a financial emergency, as well as a “modified educational program.” This comes as a result of a fall in sales tax revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. The board says the next scheduled revenue update is in June.

They estimate the loss in state revenue at around $7 billion—which will mean significant cuts to the Spokane Public Schools budget.

Basic education is constitutionally protected, and the Office of the Superintendent Public Instruction has defined funding for it—but the School Board is concerned that “non-basic” education is at risk of reductions.

According to agenda documents, CARES Act and Emergency Management funding will provide reimbursement, though the latter is limited to items like PPE gear and hand sanitizer stations. Local Effort Assistance (LEA) and levy money accounts for just over $70 million, though the board says the state’s reductions have not been determined yet.

With this comes many uncertainties—expanded bus routes to accommodate social distancing, rotating schedules, whether to hold lunches in cafeterias or classrooms, PPE gear and other concerns.

Based on calculations at the end of the documents, Spokane Public Schools would be operating at a deficit as high as $13.1 million through 2024, though net operations are projected to recover by the 2022-23 school year.