A message from the Superintendent
March 18, 2014
Dear principals, teachers and staff:
The state Legislature approved a budget last Thursday afternoon that includes an additional $8.3 million to Seattle Public Schools. While this is good news, it should also be noted that the state is still not fully funding all K-12 educational needs. We are in the process of determining the level of restoration to schools this new money will allow.
On Monday, we met with Seattle Education Association leadership to discuss school budgets and we will continue to work together to find solutions. We have met with SEA leadership several times to discuss our budgeting assumptions for revenue and expenditures. These conversations, in addition to the recently released budget at the state level, provide us with the confidence we need in order to restore funding to core school staffing as it relates to our Weighted Staffing Standards.
When we started the process for the 2014-15 budgets in the fall, we knew the District faced an $18 million shortfall. Our initial plan partially addressed the shortfall with savings in transportation, a 1 percent reduction to Central Office and a 0.9 percent reduction of school spending. This has decreased our budget shortfall to about $9 million. The additional state dollars will help close some of the $9 million gap. We remain committed to finding solutions to closing this budget gap and will continue to work with SEA, the Principals Association for Seattle Schools (PASS) and our families and community in order to do so.
In light of the initial projected budget gap of $18 million, a determination was made this year by the Business & Finance Office to request the internal Weighted Staffing Standards (WSS) advisory group (which includes principals, school staff, Seattle Education Association and Central Office staff) to reduce the total allocation to school budgets by $4 million, with $1 million set aside for school mitigation.
As a result, each school was given a funding amount based on student population, including weighted discretionary dollars, to make budget decisions that best fit the needs of their school. The goal was to provide as much flexibility to schools to meet the needs of their school population. Subsequently, we have heard from our school staff that this new formula is detrimental to our schools. Please know we listened to your concerns and funding of our classrooms and schools remains our first priority.
As of today, $1.8 million has already been restored to schools and the Executive Directors of Schools are working with school leaders to have the remaining amounts in place this week. We intend to fully restore what was cut during the WSS allocation.
Over the past five years, the District has worked hard to protect cuts at the school level. One unintended consequence of that has been a workload shift from Central Office to schools. We are looking at ways to address workload concerns, including making sure Central Office is more efficient and best positioned to support schools. I understand that many schools and departments have had to do more with less over the years. As our new budget and leadership teams work together, I am hopeful we will find sustainable solutions.
I want to acknowledge the work that has gone into the budget development process these past few weeks and thank each and every one of you for your patience and hard work during this time. School staff members are making difficult decisions that impact programs and delivery of services to students. As we move forward it is important that we continue to work together on behalf of children.
Seattle Public Schools