by DOUG NADVORNICK & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he next few days may determine how many Spokane School District employees will lose their jobs next fall. House and Senate leaders are negotiating the state's next two-year budget with the governor and her representatives, expecting to adjourn the legislative session this weekend.

Spokane Superintendent Brian Benzel hopes lawmakers will heed his call for more money to cover the district's obligations to provide a "basic education."

"The state requirements are coming faster than our ability to pay for them," Benzel said at a community forum at Chase Middle School last month.

But, barring an infusion of new cash, Spokane administrators have been preparing as if they'll have to cut $10.5 million to balance the 2007-08 budget. Last week at a well-attended meeting at Shaw Middle School, school employees whose jobs may be on the chopping block asked board members to spare them from cuts.

"My pride at being affiliated with the district has turned to anger and disbelief," said Rebecca Franklin, who teaches eighth grade at Sacajawea. Franklin is angry that the district proposes to eliminate librarians at the middle schools. "There's a lot of research out there about the importance of libraries. How could we even consider that?"

Dan Lewis, a custodian at Garry Middle School, spoke against a proposal that would mean less frequent cleaning of schools, except for bathrooms. The district estimates it could eliminate as many as 40 custodians. "I feel like a small group of people fighting a Wal-Mart," Lewis said. "Children need clean buildings to learn. When schools show a lack of attention, voters will notice and choose not to vote for levies."

Spokane Education Association President Maureen Ramos asked the board to consider cutting more administrative positions in the district's downtown headquarters. To a round of applause, she said: "We need an equitable reduction in all areas. We have to put more things out on the table [for cuts]."

Benzel says he'll meet with the board in early May to reassess the budget and the results of the legislative session.

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