Seattle Schools To Use New State Funds To Avoid Planned Staffing Cuts

Mar 19, 2014

Following a cash infusion from the state and agitation from building-level staff, Seattle Public Schools administrators announced this week they won't be cutting staff members at schools after all.

Superintendent José Banda said the district will use the $8.3 million from the state Legislature's newly-passed budget to restore the equivalent of 50 assistant principals, counselors and clerical staff positions they had intended to eliminate next year.

"We intend to fully restore what was cut," Banda wrote in a district-wide email.

The planned $4 million cut sparked an outcry from teachers and school employees. At the urging of local teachers union leaders, the staffs of at least 40 Seattle schools voted to reject their building-level budgets in protest.

"We've been pushing hard on this issue for more than a month now," said Seattle Education Association president Jonathan Knapp. The union later credited union members' agitation for restoring the positions with a post on its Facebook page.

In addition to the $4 million in initially-proposed cuts, Banda says the district has already directed $1.8 million into school budgets.

"We have heard from our school staff that this new formula [the proposed cuts] is detrimental to our schools. Please know we listened to your concerns and funding of our classrooms and schools remains our first priority," Banda wrote.

In light of what district leaders initially projected as an $18 million budget shortfall, administrators planned cuts to transportation budgets and central office spending this fall. District officials have since revised their estimate downward, projecting a $9 million budget gap.

In his district-wide email, Banda said administrators had tried hard to avoid cutting at the school level.

"One unintended consequence of that has been a workload shift from Central Office to schools," Banda wrote, adding later, "I understand that many schools and departments have had to do more with less over the years."

Banda added state lawmakers are "still not fully funding all K-12 educational needs."

Knapp said legislators must do more to fund education.

"This is avoiding cuts that would've made schools inoperable," he said. "There's still a long ways to go before we live up to the ideal as articulated in the state constitution to amply fund public education."