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Haigh confident about education funding

Amid the dark clouds of financial cutbacks, 35th District State Rep. Kathy Haigh (D-Belfair) sees rays of sunshine for both early childhood education and community colleges.

As the chairwoman of the state House Education Appropriations Committee, Haigh said her committee has been asked to find $15 million in budget cuts as the state attempts to balance its budget.

“The more we do right in the first five years, the less we will do wrong in the next 20 years,” she said, stressing the importance of early childhood education from birth to 5 years old before children enter the K-12 education system. “I will find that money somewhere else.”

While many educators statewide expressed concern about potential cutbacks in state funding for half-day and all-day kindergarten programs, Haigh said although there may not be any increases in the number of classrooms receiving funding, she doesn’t expect any cuts to existing programs.

Although teachers are eligible for a cost of living increase in this year’s budget, Haigh said funding that increase would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

“By not doing that we will be saving teachers’ jobs,” she said, noting that so far teachers haven’t complained about not receiving the raise.

The Legislature remains committed to enacting the changes to the state’s K-12 education system, but Haigh said it is going to take about six years for all of those changes to be in place.

“We’re going to keep it moving forward and because it’s such a big change, there’s not enough money for us to do what we want to do,” she said.

If the new public education funding system were enacted, it would place an additional $3 billion into the system and would provide funding for librarians and other staff who play critical roles in public education, but aren’t properly funded under the current funding system, she said.

Community colleges like Olympic College could see increased funding for more students as legislators work to benefit the largest number of people under the existing budgetary constraints, she said.

“It costs less than the University of Washington and at this point we feel it will benefit the most amount of people if we open up more slots at our community colleges,” she said.

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