While thousands will march through the city to mark the important day, many Seattle educators, students, and parents will be on the road to Olympia this MLK Day Monday to make a stand for education spending in the state as Seattle Public Schools faces a $74 million shortfall.
The Seattle Council of Parent, Teacher and Student Associations has put out a call for action:
Unless the Washington State Legislature takes action quickly, this budget shortfall will cause significant damage by necessitating cuts in staff at schools and to needed central services, disrupting the stability of school communities and support of the whole child, and impacting our most vulnerable populations in greater proportion.
State Sen. Jamie Pedersen representing Capitol Hill and the 43rd Legislative District says the ball is in the Republicans’ court. “For the past seven months, a bipartisan group of legislators has been meeting to develop a plan to provide sustainable school funding,” Pedersen writes. “Democrats released a plan before the statutory deadline, but we have yet to see a plan from Senate Republicans. I’m hoping the 25 members of their caucus will release a plan soon so we can start negotiating a solution that will reduce class sizes, increase teacher salaries, and give us the ability to build or renovate schools.”
Pedersen, a father of three students at Seattle’s Stevens Elementary and one at Thurgood Marshall Elementary, says the $74 million shortfall faced by Seattle Public Schools is the result of a so-called “levy cliff,” which he describes as “an artificial limitation in state law on local districts’ ability to collect money that has been approved by district voters.”
Seattle Public Schools superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland says the impact from the budget woes in Olympia could be the worst we’ve seen in forty years. “Unless the Legislature takes appropriate action to address school funding, the district has a projected deficit of approximately $74 million for the 2017-18 school year,” a letter from Nyland on the budget situation reads. “This is the largest budget deficit we have faced since the late 1970s and has the potential to erode many of the programs, supports and services students are currently receiving.”
In the meantime, the district has begun shaping its “budget priorities” to prepare for the shortfall.
The PTSA group is hoping to buy the district more time and is asking for help calling legislators and the governor –legislators (hotline 800.562.6000) and Governor Jay Inslee (360-902-4111) — to tell them to extend the “levy cliff” and fully fund teacher compensation for the 2017-18 school year.