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Seattle Public Schools Budget Shortfall FAQs

By Jake Vela, LEV Senior Policy Analyst

  • Rear view of class raising hands - League of Education VotersHow big is the budget shortfall for the 2017-18 school year?
    • Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has recently announced that they have an expected budget shortfall of $74 million for the 2017-18 school year. The $74 million shortfall would be about 10% of the $790 million budget recommendation adopted by Seattle Public Schools in 2016-17.
  • Why is Seattle Public Schools expecting a $74 million budget deficit in 2017-18?
    • The expiring of a temporary increase in how much the state allows Seattle to raise through local levies (levy lid) accounts for $30 million of the shortfall. The other $44 million is because the staffing levels agreed to by the district and the unions in the most recent contracts exceeded the funding levels they knew would be available in the 2017-18 school year.
  • Why is the state levy lid being reduced starting January 2018?
    • In 2010 the legislature temporarily increased the amount of money school districts could raise through local levies (levy lid). This increase was intended to be a band aid to allow districts, who were able to pass additional levies, to make-up for the reduction in state funding for education due to the economic recession. This temporary increase is set to expire at the end of calendar year 2017 as specified in the original legislation in 2010.
  • Is SPS expecting a budget deficit in 2016-17?
    • Yes, the 2016-17 budget adopted by SPS expected to spend $35 million more than they anticipated to get from the federal, state, and local sources. SPS was able to do this because they spent $35 million in reserves they had remaining from previous years.
  • Is this approach to budgeting by SPS sustainable?
    • The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction recommends that districts end each school year with reserves equaling at least 5% of their annual budget to be able to address unexpected changes in costs or funding support from local, state, or federal funding sources. To meet the 5% goal SPS would need to maintain a reserve of $39.5 million to remain in good financial health. According to the 2016-17 adopted budget Seattle is expected to end the School year with an ending fund balance of $39.9 million which would be just enough to meet the 5% reserve fund goal.
  • How has the level of state funding changed since the beginning of the recession in 2008?
    • Adjusted for inflation the state is contributing 14% more per-student for K-12 education in fiscal year 2017 than they did in fiscal year 2009.
  • When did Seattle Public School agree to the salary and staffing levels that created this budget deficit?
    • Seattle Public Schools agreed to their most recent collective bargaining agreement in September 2015 after the state had passed their most recent budget in July 2015. The district agreed to this budget following the strike at the start of the 2015-16 school year. The recent and future salary increases and staffing levels agreed to by SPS and the unions in their 2015 Collective Bargaining Agreements set district staffing levels and salary increases through the 2017-18 school year
  • How much of a school district’s budget is dedicated to staffing costs?
    • Over 80% of the average school district’s budget is from staffing costs.
  • What is a reduction in force (RIF) notice?
    • It is the notice a district sends out to existing staff that may need to be laid off if the district will not have sufficient funds in the following school year. Receiving a RIF notice does not mean an employee will be losing their job, but it does mean they will be in a pool of employees that may be laid off.
  • What determines who will receive a RIF notice?
    • The district will send out RIF notices to teachers, support staff, and other staff positions based on the district’s plan to cope with the budget shortfall.
  • What determines which employees do or do not receive a RIF notice?
    • Who does and does not receive a RIF notice is tied to the level of experience an employee has, so teachers with less experience will be more likely to receive a RIF notice than more experienced employees. New and beginning teachers are more often found in schools with higher levels of low-income students. Teachers, staff, and students in these schools will experience more uncertainty in their school building than other schools.
  • Will the budget deficit be solved before the district would need to send out RIF notices?
    • The legislature is expected to invest more money in basic education in the 2017 legislative session, but a final budget isn’t expected to be completed before the district completes their budget preparations for the 2017-18 school year.
  • How much does $74 million mean on a per-student basis?
    • $74 million translates to a budget shortfall of $1,407 per SPS student. The state would need to increase education funding by approximately $1.5 billion for the 2017-18 school year, one-year before the court mandated deadline of 2018-19, for Washington to experience a funding increase of $1,400 per-student statewide.
  • Are other districts experiencing similar budget shortfalls?
    • In the future other districts may communicate to their communities that they are expecting a budget shortfall because of the levy cliff or other budgeting challenges, but as of December 15, 2016 we are not aware of other districts publically stating they expect to have a budget shortfall in the 2017-18 school year.

Posted in: Funding

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Rainier Prep

As our students prepare to head back to school, the League of Education Voters is highlighting a few of the new public charter schools opening this fall. We recently sat down with Rainier Prep’s founding leader Maggie O’Sullivan to hear about the school’s opening.

Students work with a teacher. Photo courtesy of Rainier Prep.School begins at Rainier Prep on September 1 for students in grades 5 and 6. Based in the Highline area of Seattle, Rainier Prep’s mission is to prepare all students to excel at four-year colleges and become leaders in their communities. At full capacity, Rainier Prep will serve grades 5-8.

Rainier Prep will use a model of inquiry- and project-based learning that complements college readiness curriculum. It all comes back to the people, however, according to school founder Maggie O’Sullivan: “The number one difference at Rainier Prep is our teachers and our staff.” (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps

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Join Joyce Yee for Coffee: April Meetings

Joyce YeeI invite you to join me over coffee for a series of informal meetings to share your stories and discuss how to advocate for education to our policymakers.

This is a critical year for education. We are working to ensure that increases in education funding—as a result of McCleary v. Washington or other efforts—are ample, equitable, stable, and targeted toward evidenced-based strategies that improve access and outcomes for all students. Our vision for public education is one that guarantees every Washington student the opportunity for a high-quality education from early learning through the first two years of college. (more…)

Posted in: Advocacy and Activism, Blog, Events

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Join Joyce Yee for coffee!

Joyce YeeI invite you to join me over coffee for a series of informal meetings to share your stories and discuss how to advocate for education to our policymakers.

This is a critical year for education. We are working to ensure that increases in education funding—as a result of McCleary v. Washington or other efforts—are ample, equitable, stable, and targeted toward evidenced-based strategies that improve access and outcomes for all students. Our vision for public education is one that guarantees every Washington student the opportunity for a high-quality education from early learning through the first two years of college. (more…)

Posted in: Advocacy and Activism, Blog, Events

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Startup Weekend EDU: Calling all education experts!

Have you heard of Startup Weekend? It’s a 54-hour, weekend-long event that brings together experts from different fields—design, development, topic experts, and entrepreneurs. Participants come and anyone can pitch and idea for a problem they want to solve using technology. Teams form around the top ideas by “voting with their feet,” and then they take off on a three-day adventure to create a business model around the idea, code, design, and validate it. At the end of the weekend, the teams present in front of local judges to receive constructive feedback on their idea.

Out of Startup Weekend came Startup Weekend EDU, which focuses specifically on ideas for improving education. The 2014 Seattle Startup Weekend EDU will take place next weekend, November 21–23. But Startup Weekend was created by those in the tech industry, and the types of disruptive technology often resulting from Startup Weekend tend to be less effective—and welcome—in education compared to other industries.
(more…)

Posted in: Blog, Events, LEV News

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Seven SVP Fast Pitch Finalists are championing innovation in education

By Steve Metcalf

Innovators in education have made an impressive showing so far in this year’s prestigious Social Venture Partners Seattle’s Fast Pitch competition. Of the 14 finalists, half focus on early, grade school, or higher education. Last year, only three educational organizations made it to the final round of SVP Fast Pitch.

SVP Fast Pitch is an annual competition dedicated to identifying and nurturing socially minded innovators in the Puget Sound region. Read more for a closer look at the seven finalists with an education focus that made it through the semi-final round on October 7. They will compete at the SVP Final Showdown on October 28 at McCaw Hall. (more…)

Posted in: Events, Uncategorized

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Kicking six-year-olds out of school

A preschool student at South Shore PK-8. (Photo copyright: Stefanie Felix.)Remember the one about the six-year-old who got kicked out of school for pecking a classmate on the cheek? That happened last year in Colorado, but the same sort of thing could happen in Washington state—and likely does.

A recent article in the Seattle Times by Claudia Rowe reports that 104 kindergartners and first-graders were suspended or expelled in Seattle alone in 2012–2013—the majority, for “other behavior.”

What “other behavior” means isn’t clear, but it includes any behavior other than weapons, fighting, tobacco, drugs, or alcohol. It includes things like being “disruptive” or “disrespectful”—and the harshness of the punishment is up to the individual teacher or administrator, regardless of the crime.

And when you’re six years old, being “disruptive” is often synonymous with “being six.”

There is also, Rowe writes, a “growing stack of evidence that shows that educators mete out punishments differently, depending on a student’s race.” (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, School Discipline

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From Sandy Hook to Seattle

Building the compassionate schools movement

Following the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, Dr. Christopher Kukk and Scarlett Lewis, mother of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, began work to weave compassion into schools. They met with President Obama and soon after with his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, who was developing compassion curriculum for schools on the opposite side of the country. The movement to create a nation of compassionate schools had begun.

Join Compassionate Seattle—Compassionate Schools Constellation for a networking conference for teachers, parents, students, administrators, and community partners as we learn from these experts and work together to promote social and emotional growth strategies, community service opportunities, earth stewardship initiatives and innovative perspectives for rethinking schools.

August 11, 2014   7–9 p.m.   $10.00
August 12, 2014   8–4 p.m.   $20.00

$25.00 for both events if registered by August 1, 2014

Cleveland High School, 5511 15th Ave S, Seattle

Register online: http://compassionateschools.bpt.me

(more…)

Posted in: Events

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Parent finds plan disproportionately affects Title 1 schools

This post was written by Fiona Cohen and originally posted on the Our Schools Coalition website on October 1, 2013.

An elementary parent took a close look at the impacts of the proposed border changes on walkability, and found that as they are written now, the changed borders disproportionately affect children living in poverty.

Julie Van Arcken spoke at a community meeting on growth boundaries held in the old Meany middle school on Monday night. A Beacon Hill resident, her address would be moved from Maple Elementary, which is an easy walk, to Van Asselt, which would require a bus ride.

She took a look at which schools would be losing parts of their walk zones if the new boundaries went into effect. Found that 8 percent of Seattle schools would lose part of their walk zones. But when she looked at Title 1 schools—that is, schools with large numbers of low income kids—she found that 28 percent of those had boundary changes that would mean that kids could no longer walk to school. (more…)

Posted in: Blog

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Community members attend school board meeting, rally for our schools

This post originally appeared on the Our Schools Coalition blog, of which LEV is a member.

More than 35 Seattle students, parents, and community members came together at last night’s school board meeting to share their message with Seattle Public Schools’ leaders.

Several Seattle University students attended the school board meeting and talked about the discipline issue in depth.

Several Seattle University students attended the school board meeting and talked about the discipline issue in depth.

(more…)

Posted in: Blog

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