“State colleges and universities are girding for a tough financial future after the coronavirus pandemic”
Seattle Times staff reporter
“This is the first of two stories on education funding as schools consider their next steps amid fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Coming Monday: K-12 funding will be put to the test.
“Washington’s public colleges and universities are bracing for a money crisis this fall that is likely to decimate higher education budgets.
“Not only will schools likely lose some students — and the tuition money that comes with them — but the state is expected to slash funding, since higher education dollars aren’t protected by the state constitution in the same way K-12 dollars are.
“With the coronavirus pandemic raging this spring, universities lost hundreds of millions in residence hall rents, meal plans, parking fees and sports tickets. At community colleges, many hands-on vocational programs were canceled. And at the state’s flagship University of Washington, which runs a medical center that has been key to keeping people alive, the hospital is expected to lose a staggering $500 million through September. On Monday, it announced it would furlough 1,500 workers.
“The virus lockdown has also struck at the heart of what makes college years so satisfying — the intellectual rewards of wrestling with new ideas, developing a passion for a subject, building friendships with people from other states and countries, living on one’s own. In March, most college students were forced to return home, trying to make what they could of the college experience through the blue light of a computer screen.
“When — or if — they return, campus is likely to feel quite different, with big lectures taught online, dorm rooms reconfigured to keep people apart and social distancing measures that will discourage parties…”
“Washington’s constitution protects K-12 funding. The coronavirus will test that promise.”
Dahlia Bazzaz and Hannah Furfaro
Seattle Times staff reporters
“This is the second of two stories on education funding as schools consider their next steps amid fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The fate of Andy Kidd’s teaching job was almost decided by a high-stakes card draw.
“It was 2008, and budget cuts were imminent. With the country headed into terrible financial straits, school districts around Washington decided to lay off teachers in order to weather the storm.
“One day, administrators summoned Kidd to Shoreline district headquarters. He and another Shorecrest High School teacher each drew from a deck of cards. A peculiar set of union seniority rules dictated what happened next: the person with the higher card, he said, would be spared.
“Kidd lost. “It felt like there was no hope,” he said. His students wore ribbons that read “Save Mr. Kidd.”
“As the nation once more descends into economic uncertainty, scenes like this could play out in Washington’s schools again. This time, state leaders face a budget challenge of unknown proportions that will test their ability to preserve education funding, as the state Supreme Court ordered them to do in 2012. State officials are confident they can, but in a bleak budget situation, there are still ways for important programs to lose money…”
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