(The Center Square) – Seattle Public Schools is working on its upcoming budget to address a $131 million deficit, but no consolidation of schools will occur in the 2023-24 school year.
In a budget information session on March 20, Seattle Public Schools officials made the announcement that while consolidation will not occur, they will engage with the community to determine a “well-resourced schools” model.
The district’s understanding of well-resourced schools includes well equipped classrooms, up-to-date technology, sufficient number of educators and a variety of instructional materials. These adjustments are a result of a steady decline in enrollment since 2017, with the trend expected to continue through 2033.
“We’re focusing on what our schools should be looking like in the future, so when we talk about well-resourced schools, we want to know what that is first,” Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Brent Jones said in the session. “Any changes we make, consolidations [or] closures really have to be in line with what we develop with the community around this concept of well-resourced schools.”
Enrollment at Seattle Public Schools has dropped from 52,730 in the 2019-2020 school year to 49,387 in the current school year, according to statistics from the district. Staffing within Seattle Public Schools has trended upwards from 5,609 staff members in 2014 to 7,273 last school year.
Seattle Public Schools’ central office is expected to see budget cuts of $33 million for the next academic year. The proposed budget plan calls for reducing central staff positions by nearly 11%, according to Interim Deputy Superintendent Fred Podesta. He added that the school system has found ways to minimize staff impacts by considering a hiring freeze and shifting payroll costs to different funding sources when it is deemed appropriate.
Central Administration made up 6.4% of the district’s $1.1 billion general fund for the current school year. Currently, the district is proposing $11 million in school-based reductions for the 2023-24 school year. Seattle Public Schools officials added that if there is a reduction in educators, it would be limited.
“Every year, the district has an average of 400 educators that leave,” Associate Superintendent Concie Pedroza said. “We anticipate that most teachers, instructional assistants and school staff will find jobs within Seattle Public Schools through our displacement process, which is part of our agreement with our union partners.”
The district expects the 2023-24 budget to be finalized between April and May. The budget would be submitted to Washington state in August. Engagement with the community on any future changes to Seattle Public Schools are expected to begin in fall, 2023.