April 21 Budget Update

Dr. Nyland's April 21 Letter to Staff Regarding 2017-18 Budget
Posted on 04/21/2017

Dear Seattle Public Schools staff:

I hope everyone had a wonderful spring break. This letter is to update you on the 2017-18 budget process and central office reductions. Thank you, once again to our Legislative delegation and all those who shared our deep concern over the Levy Cliff. Legislative action restored $24 million to our 2017-18 budget. Thanks to the work of central office and the School Board, 88 percent of the restored $24 million went back to support classrooms and academics, including over 200 positions.

Restoration of the $24 million still left a shortfall of $50 million. We prioritized classrooms, restoring all but about 50 positions, which is a 1.5 percent reduction. Central administration was reduced by the greatest percentage amount at 4.7 percent.

The Friday before spring break, central office departments were informed of the specific reductions. These cuts required a combination of closing vacant positions and reducing positions. We have now addressed the $74 million shortfall.

Central teams are still working through the realignment process in order to sustain critical functions, and related department reorganizations will be announced in the next couple of weeks.

I want to thank and acknowledge all staff affected by the budget shortfall and reductions. I am proud of the work you do every day to support students, educators, and families and I am angry we are in our current financial situation. All of our cuts could have been avoided if the state had met their Constitutional obligation to fully fund public education.

Next Steps

In 2012, the Washington Supreme Court ordered the state Legislature to fully fund basic education. The Legislature is now five years delayed in meeting that obligation and has been fined more than $60 million ($100,000 a day) for not fulfilling their paramount duty.

April 23 marks the end of the regular Legislative session and workable solution isn’t in sight. Currently, the House and Senate have two drastically different education bills on the table. The House plan provides more support, but both fall far short of closing our gap in Seattle or fully meeting the McCleary requirements. It is unlikely the Legislature will come to an agreement during the regular session, which will require a special session to finalize the state budget. This means our district won’t have a final budget until June or July.

Meanwhile, Washington state continues to provide hundreds of tax breaks (No. 1 nationally in tax breaks per capita) while simultaneously underfunding education. Without an adequate and consistent source of revenue, the state’s investment in education ranks 49th in teacher salaries nationally and 37th in per student funding. Frankly, the lack of support for children in our state is immoral and unacceptable.

Full funding is something I believe is achievable. In the late 1970s I witnessed the state’s recognition and fulfillment of their constitutional obligation, but only after Seattle Public Schools and other districts sued the state and won. Following the lawsuit, the state paid for essentially 100 percent of teacher compensation (now the state pays 78 percent). It took the business community, families, educators, and the district to make it happen. I believe it can happen again; if it doesn’t, the consequences will be dire for our students. Unless the McCleary lawsuit is adequately addressed and districts are provided fair and ample funding we will face a much more significant budget shortfall in 2018-19 and with a depleted financial reserve.

As the Legislature moves into a special session, we need to ensure our representatives hear that we expect, and will work to ensure, that every student in Seattle has access to a great public education. As promised, along with the School Board and our staff, I will continue to advocate for students, their future, and the health of our community. A high performing, well-funded public education system is the bedrock of a healthy community. It is what our students deserve and I will continue to work tirelessly to make it a reality.

Over these next two months I will have less information to share as the House and Senate discuss and negotiate components of their respective plans behind closed doors. I will communicate once the state’s budget and its effect on our district become clearer. For additional budget details and information, visit the 2017-18 budget webpage or contact us directly at budget@seattleschools.org or publicaffairs@seattleschools.org.

It is a privilege and honor to serve as your superintendent. Thank you for everything you do.

Sincerely,

Larry
Dr. Larry Nyland
Superintendent

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