Dr. Nyland's March 2 Letter to Families Regarding Budget Update
2017-18 Potential Budget Deficit Update
Dear Seattle Public Schools Families:
This is an update on next year’s budget situation. As you know, due to the state’s delay in fully funding education, Seattle Public Schools faces a $74 million budget shortfall for 2017-18.
As a district, we must advocate for both short and long term funding solutions. It is important the Legislature’s proposed solutions address our 2017-18 deficit as well as ensure we can offer our students a 21st century education for years to come.
Short Term Solution
Most of the 2017-18 budget shortfall is related to salaries and compensation, something the state should be fully funding, but $30 million of our deficit is because the state has reduced how much we can collect from already approved local levies. Unless the state Legislature takes action, our local levy authority will reduce before the state has provided additional funding to backfill for the decrease.
This misalignment of state activities is called the Levy Cliff. Our Seattle Legislative delegation has been working diligently to obtain temporary relief from the Levy Cliff. I want to thank our delegation for their good work and we remain cautiously hopeful there will be a positive solution for Seattle, but it is unclear when relief may be provided and how much funding will be restored. While a Levy Cliff bill has passed the House of Representatives, the Senate has not acted upon it.
Long Term Solution
There are four state education budget plans on the table right now: the governor’s education plan, House Democrats’ HB1843, Senate Republicans’ SB5607, and SB5825 sponsored by Senator Mullet. The good news is all policies and or plans recognize that addressing school funding should be done this legislative session. The bad news is, so far, none of the proposals would cover more than half of our 2017-18 budget shortfall. The current plans or policy recommendations do not fully address the state’s constitutional duty to amply fund public education.
Timing creates additional uncertainty for the district. Currently, there is a lull in legislative action. From this point, legislators will need time to review the four different plans and begin working toward a compromise. Without clarity from the state, we must move forward with delivering the worst-case budget to schools.
Impacts for Seattle Public Schools
Each school receives funding based on the projected full time student enrollment, with schools receiving additional funding for students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.
On February 28, because the state did not address the Levy Cliff in time, schools received reduced budget allocations that reflect our worst-case scenario for next year’s budget. Over the next few weeks, school leaders will be working with staff to make the required reductions and a prioritized restoration plan for when we get our final budget from the state.
We have been actively preparing for this scenario. The School Board has held nearly a dozen work sessions trying to minimize impacts of budget cuts to schools and the budget office, with support from the Seattle Council Parent Teacher Association (SCPTSA), has held numerous community meetings. Out of $74 million in budget reductions, $16 million will come from schools’ budget formula.
Without new funding from the state, impacts families will see in 2017-18 include:
Larger class sizes: We will need to go back to the contractual ratios outlined in the Seattle Education Association contract except for grades K-2 in schools with a high number families experiencing poverty.
Reduced mitigation funding: Every year, we have been able to offer mitigation funds, funds outside the per student allocation, to support unique school programs and needs. For example, mitigation funds were provided to reduce multi-grade classrooms last fall. This funding has been reduced from $7M to $2M. While we will be able to provide some support, it will be significantly reduced.
Loss of unique positions and disruptive movement of staff: While we don’t anticipate many teachers or school-based staff will lose their jobs because of typical turnover, there will be close to 200 displacements and shifting of teachers across the district. The staff changes will most likely take place at the start of school when enrollment is confirmed. Central office staff, administrator positions, including assistant principals, counselors, and specialists are at greater risk of job loss because of the unique aspects of their positions.
Meanwhile, we will continue to work with legislators to convey the gravity of this funding crisis and to prepare as best we can for various scenarios. District leaders, the School Board, and others including many families have made numerous trips to Olympia to share the severe impact these cuts will have on Seattle Public Schools and our students. The Seattle Education Association, SCPTSA, Washington Paramount Duty, and Principals’ Association of Seattle Schools continue to partner and help us advocate for full funding of education in Olympia. I am deeply grateful to our partners and their unwavering commitment to our students and public education.
I know these are difficult times. I truly wish the budget reductions were not necessary. Please share a little extra gratitude and kindness to our school and central staff over these next few weeks and months. The uncertainty is weighing heavily on many of our staff.
I do remain hopeful that at least some of our budget shortfall will be restored for the 2017-18 school year and my commitment to you is to continue providing regular budget updates as we learn more.
If you have any questions regarding the budget, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. You can also learn more by visiting the SPS 2017-18 Budget webpage.
It is an honor and privilege to serve you, your family, and student.
Dr. Larry Nyland
Seattle Public Schools