SPOKANE, Wash. — Hundreds of Spokane Public Schools employees will likely be laid off at the end of the year because of a $31 million budget shortfall.

Many KREM viewers asked the same question: How can this be fixed? 

We set out to verify the top three questions we've seen regarding the district's budget.

Some have asked why there are programs that provide free or reduced meals for students, but there's not enough funding to pay teachers.

There's also the question of whether the district can use the recent $495 million bond to make up the costs. 

The third question: Why legalized marijuana revenue isn't being used to fix the deficit?

To answer these questions, we talked to Spokane Public Schools spokesperson Brian Coddington and the State Office of Financial Management.

Coddington said free or reduced student meal programs are primarily funded by federal dollars. He said the district never considered using any local dollars from those programs because of how crucial it is to the community.

"We want to make sure those things stay in place for these students to have access to nutrition," Coddington said. "It's important to be very well-nourished."

Secondly, Spokane voters also passed a $495 million bond last fall. State law doesn't allow those dollars to fund teaching staff.  

"Bonds by state law are defined as capital projects, which are used for building things," Coddington said.

While it may seem like the school bond would be an easy fix to the budget, that money can legally only be used to build or make improvements to district facilities. 

Lastly, the State Office of Financial Management broke down where marijuana revenue in Washington state goes. The short answer is that a portion of this revenue does go to education in Washington state. 

About one third of the marijuana revenue goes to the state's general fund. According to the office of financial management, that total for the 2017-2019 biennium is $247,311,649.

From there, about 50 percent of the general fund is allocated to education, according to the Office of Financial Management. 

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