— Ortsac66 (@Ortsac66) October 23, 2014
An annual Seattle Public Schools budgeting process that inexplicably plays out mid-school year is meeting a more heated reception than normal this fall as the district exercises what interim superintendent Larry Nyland calls increased “resource stewardship.”
Thursday afternoon, students, faculty and staff are planning a walkout to protest the planned cut of a teacher at Garfield High School, the only public high school serving Seattle’s central neighborhoods:
The timing of the walkout, 1:50 pm, symbolizes the impact of cutting one core teacher at this late date. Core classes fill to a capacity of 30 students total 150 students per full time teacher. This means that 150 students will have holes in their schedules during the day–roughly 10% of the student body.
The protest is calling for the district to reverse its decision to cut the Garfield teacher.
For SPS, the annual adjustments — even as they come after the school year has already started — are typical business:
Now that we have the official October enrollment counts for each school, as we do every year, we are moving forward with annual staffing adjustments – up and down – based on each school’s enrollment. Some schools have additional enrollment and require additional staff. Some schools have lower enrollments than projected and require staff reductions.
Schools also considers “equity factors” like special education in its rebalancing plans.
Garfield is not alone in Capitol Hill-area schools looking at cuts. 18th Ave E’s Stevens Elementary is also lined up to lose a teacher:
Schools receiving additional staffing budgets:
· Lowell Elementary – 1.0 FTE
· Jane Adams Middle School – 1.0 FTE
· Laurelhurst Elementary – 1.0 FTE
· Rainier Beach High School – 0.4 FTE
· Mercer International Middle School – 1.0 FTE
· Sanislo Elementary – 0.5 FTE
· Concord International Elementary – 1.0 FTE
· Middle College – 1.0 FTE
Schools with reduced staffing budgets:
· Garfield High School – 1.0 FTE
· Stevens Elementary – 1.0 FTE
· Hazel Wolf K-8– 1.0 FTE
· B.F. Day Elementary– 1.0 FTE
· Denny International Middle School – 0.6 FTE
· Madison Middle School – 1.0 FTE
You’ll note, however, that we also are home to a school ostensibly benefitting from the rebalance as E Mercer’s Lowell Elementary will gain a teacher in the process.
2014’s cuts have drawn a harsher response and greater attention. In West Seattle, parents are rallying to raise funds to keep a teacher slated to be part of the cuts. We’re told to expect a similar effort at Capitol Hill’s Stevens Elementary.
For now, Garfield’s parents are joining the protest, pointing to what they say is already an underfunded situation at the school:
The Seattle School District has announced its intention to withdraw one full-time teacher from Garfield, effective Monday, October 25, 2014-leaving 150 students without a class for the rest of the semester, unless Garfield produces $92,000 by Friday, October 24. This cut will occur despite the fact that SPS holds $8.5 million in reserves that could be used to cover this expense.
Garfield High School is already the lowest funded High School in Seattle. At $5,951 per student, we are a full 15% below the average of $7,004 per student per the 2014/2015 district funding report (page 44).
Seattle Public Schools says 52,000 students will attend its classes this year — “within 1 percent of our enrollment forecast.” The number represents a 2% growth versus the previous year.
According to a district memo, impacted schools have until the end of day Friday “to make their decisions” and “inform their employment analyst.”
UPDATE: Here’s a statement on the situation from the Stevens Elementary PTA:
On the evening of Friday, October 17, 2014, the Stevens Elementary School community was surprised and extremely disappointed to learn that the Seattle Public School District had decided to eliminate a Stevens classroom teacher, nearly 2 months into the school year.
The removal of a teacher at this time would be particularly disruptive to our young students, many of whom are recent immigrants and English language learners.
The loss of a primary teacher would affect multiple classrooms across multiple grades at Stevens. We are frustrated that the District finds it acceptable to disrupt so many elementary school students’ education and established relationships with their teachers at this late date in the school year.
Despite significant concerns about the District’s decision, the Stevens PTA worked with Principal Kelley Archer over the weekend to figure out how the school and PTA could jointly fill the funding gap to avoid classroom disruption and maintain the current number of teachers at Stevens.
We remain deeply concerned, however, that the Seattle Public School District’s decision to eliminate teachers in late October is very detrimental to our students. It is also unacceptable and unsustainable to require schools and PTAs to scramble to fill these gaps out of their own pockets.
–The Stevens PTA Board of Directors