Next StepsBetween Dec. 5, 2016 and Jan. 4, 2017 we will continue to solicit feedback on budget priorities from staff, families, and community partners. I would like to thank the Seattle Council PTSA for hosting three regional meetings for families to provide feedback on budget priorities.
Community Budget Gap Meetings
Tues., Dec. 13, 6:30 - 8 p.m. Ballard High School
1418 NW 65th St.
Thurs., Dec. 15, 6:30 - 8 p.m. South Shore PreK-8 School
4800 S Henderson St.
Tues., Jan. 3, 6:30 - 8 p.m. Franklin High School
3013 S Mt Baker Blvd.
Interpretation will be available. To request interpretation please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your requested needs.
Additional details regarding the budget deficit, budget development timeline, and actions you can take will be posted to the 2017-18 budget webpage by tomorrow, Dec. 2.
If you have specific questions or concerns about the budget shortfall please email the Budget Office at email@example.com.
end of update
Update 2: at the end of this thread is the district's press release about this issue. It has no new information.
end of update
Update 1: the Times now has a story on this issue and the district is talking about lay-offs. A message went out to teachers on Wednesday from Superintendent Nyland.
....Nyland said the problem is based primarily on a $23M increase in labor costs and the fact that the district could lose about $31M under the so-called "levy cliff.Information is to be sent to families today, according to the Times. As well, from the Superintendent's letter to teachers:
The budget gap is the largest the district has faced since the 1970s, Nyland wrote in his message.
Additional details regarding budget development and actions you can take will be posted to the 2017-18 budget webpage by the end of the week.But here's what legislative wonk (and all-around smart guy) Robert Cruickshank says in the comments to my story:
It is important to keep in mind this is a fake budget gap. SPS does not have to cut a dime. The legislature cannot push districts over the levy cliff - doing so would be unconstitutional and the state Supreme Court would reject it. The legislature also promised in the 2016 budget to either provide new money to replace the lost levy authority OR extend levy authority for another year. That's a promise and not a law but it suggests that SPS will not actually have to cut anything.end of update
So what should SPS do? Nothing.
SPS staff should NOT be planning for cuts. They should NOT be asking parents to fight amongst each other to decide which programs and teachers stay or go. They should NOT be preparing layoff notices.
Why? Doesn't SPS have to plan in case they lose state money?
No, because again, it's not actually possible for the district to lose that money. Whether through legislative action or court action, SPS will get the money they need.
We must insist that SPS - staff and board - refuse to undertake a divisive, unnecessary, and unconstitutional exercise of planning for a budget cut that is legally and juridically impossible to actually happen.
Here's some information on what the levy cliff is and what you can do to try to head it off before our district falls off that cliff.
I do note that I'm not sure how much of the $71-74M deficit projected by staff is due to the levy cliff. All? Part? If so, how much? I'll have to ask.
From John Freeman at the Washington's Paramount Duty Facebook page (editor's note - I rearranged some of the information):
The levy cliff will reduce the total amount of money school districts can collect from levies on local property values.
For Seattle, the total effect of this may amount to more than $70 million, approximately 10% of the district's budget.
The levy cliff will occur on January 1, 2018, when the State’s temporary increase in the levy lid and Local Effort Assistance (levy equalization) for local school districts expires.
The temporary levy lid lift allowed many school districts to raise up to 28% of the total the district received from state and federal allocations. The school districts were able to generate this 28% from local levy money. Likewise, the state funding for levy equalization was raised by 2%.
On January 1, 2018, when the temporary levy lid and levy equalization both expire, school districts will be capped at generating only 24% from the local levy authority. School districts that currently collect more than 24% in levies will have their budgets decreased.
What you can do
Did you know the Governor and legislators hear very little about public education? It's true! As we get closer to the legislative session, it's really important to build up some heat on folks to get them motivated to effectively address Washington's school funding crisis.
The governor can be emailed here: https://fortress.wa.gov/es/governor/
You can find other legislative folks here https://app.leg.wa.gov/MemberEmail/ or use the district finder http://app.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder/
SAMPLE MESSAGE: Please write or call your current or newly elected legislators and Governor Inslee with this request (you may use this language or develop your own):
I write to urge you to take two actions as soon as the 2017 legislative session convenes:
(1) fully fund public education with new progressive revenue and
(2) delay the levy cliff to January 1, 2019.
The hard reality is that even if the Legislature enacts legislation by the end of the 2017 legislative session, by allowing the State to meet its obligations to amply fund basic education by September 1, 2018, the levy cliff means that many school districts’ budgets will be reduced by millions of dollars from January 1, 2018 until September 1, 2018.
Overall, the levy cliff threatens about $500 million per year in K-12 funding in Washington’s 295 school districts.
In many districts, these cuts will likely require numerous educator and staff layoffs. The levy cliff is already affecting school districts because districts budget based on the school year, and not on the calendar year. Districts are already preparing their 2017/18 school year budgets.
Of course, any local levy revenues and levy equalization amounts do not suffice; the State must fully fund public schools. Washington's constitution requires the State to amply fund basic education with dependable and regular State tax sources.
But the State cannot take the patient (the public school system) off life support (the local levies) before the new heart (regular and dependable State tax sources) is available for surgery.
Press release from SPS Communications, dated December 1, 2016
SEATTLE – The Washington State Legislature’s failure to adequately address public education funding may result in a significant budget shortfall next school year. In 2017-18, the district’s ability to serve students in the way they deserve will be challenged. Unless the Legislature takes appropriate action to address school funding, the district has a projected deficit of approximately $74 million for the 2017-18 school year. This is the largest budget deficit we have faced since the late 1970s and has the potential to erode many of the programs, supports and services students are currently receiving.This potential deficit is the result of two key failures by the Legislature. First, the Legislature has restricted how much we can collect from our already approved local education levies. Second, the Legislature has not fully funded education as they are constitutionally required to do.The Legislature’s paramount duty in the state constitution is to fully fund public education. To date they have failed to carry out this duty. Districts, like Seattle, are forced to make up the financial difference by passing local levies and by asking our community and families to cover the cost of education services. The state only pays 70 cents for every dollar it costs to provide our students with the bare minimum of services. Each school year, our Seattle community provides an additional $100 million in salary compensation which should be coming from the state.If the Legislature takes action, this deficit can be avoided or greatly reduced. Because Legislative action is uncertain, we must plan for a worst-case scenario for our 2017-18 budget. Seattle Public Schools values our staff, our students and our families. The district is committed to educational excellence for every student. Closing the $74 million gap will be the most difficult challenge we’ve faced in decades. Right now there are many unknowns. These unknowns will cause challenges and disruptions to the good work that our schools, educators and central office staff are doing. SPS will be working closely with labor leaders, the Seattle Council PTSA, the City of Seattle, and community partners to ensure our community is informed and have opportunities for budget input. In December, the Seattle School Board will be reviewing additional areas of the budget to reduce, including non-staff and staff costs. The worst-case scenario budget will be complete on January 11. Budgets will be provided to schools in February to begin the school-based budgeting process.