Seattle City Budget Reflects Some SPS Needs

It's quite a fascinating display of power going on among youth and young adults in this country. 

First came the diking of the "red wave" helped very much by Gen X voters. That's flexing some muscle that could have a big impact for 2024 elections.

Regarding the next budget for the City of Seattle, three items have some public education viewpoints.

One,  it appears from the media reporting on SPS students' demands for mental health counseling also managed to get the City Council's attention.
The Stranger's Hannah Krieg on the student walkout over the recent shooting death at Ingraham High School:

As for the City, which does not have much power to regulate guns, the students asked the council to reroute $9 million from SPD to pay for counselors. The students calculated that this investment would be enough to pay a living wage for one counselor for every 200 high schoolers in Seattle, the same ratio the students demanded at the June rally.

The student protestors argued that mental health providers play an important role in preventing gun violence. As one recent Ingraham graduate said at the rally, “Kids do not regularly kill kids. There is something deeply wrong for this to be happening.”

As it stands, the ratio of counselors to students varies from school to school at SPS. According to an SPS spokesperson, the district generally provides one counselor for every 350 students, which the Seattle Education Association fought to lower from 1:375 in its contract this year. The SPS spokesperson did not know how much the district pays for counselors, nor did he know whether $9 million would cover the cost to lower the current counselor-to-student ratio to 1:200.

From Krieg's recent overview of the City Council's discussion on the budget:

Specifically, the Seattle Student Union asked the council to spend $9 million to pay a living wage to enough counselors to achieve a ratio of one counselor for every 200 high schoolers. As it stands, there’s one counselor for every 350 students, according to an SPS spokesperson, even though Washington voters already passed an initiative eight years ago to establish a 1:200 ratio.

The council did not quite meet the demand, but Mosqueda added $4 million over the next two years for mental health services in schools. The council approved Juarez’s proviso to ensure that $250,000 of that $4 million goes straight to Ingraham High School.

If you add all that up, it looks like SPS will receive about $17M over the next three years for student mental health.

I urge you to contact the City Council with your thoughts on the budget. As well, please tell them this:

Councilpersons, PLEASE demand a regular accounting from Seattle Public Schools on the spending of said counseling dollars. PLEASE demand that the district doesn't create a new "district" overseer of those dollars - schools mostly do it on their own now so they don't need some JSCEE overlord to tell them what to do (and which will drain dollars from the services). 

Twitter: @SeattleCouncil

Email: council@seattle.gov

Two, so-called "ghost cops" were chopped from the budget. Those are unfilled positions at SPD that even if not filled in one budget cycle, roll over to the next budget (kind of placeholding those budget dollars).

The Solidarity Budget called for the council to cut the Mayor’s proposal to fund 120 unfillable positions at SPD, aka “ghost cops.” When central staff crunched the numbers, they actually found even more ghost cops–a whopping 240. The council voted to remove 80 of those ghost cop positions to save $11 million.

Wonder if some of those "ghost cop" positions were ones that were previously held for cops at SPS schools. No matter what, it doesn't appear that the City will have the dollars to allocate for cops at schools so if that decision gets made, the burden will largely fall on SPS to pay for them.

Three, 

In a story this summer, The Urbanist advocated for speed cameras to keep pedestrians safe. Pedersen, not known among progressives for good ideas, proposed funding to expand the school zone cameras program, which makes money for the City by fining speeding drivers. 

It’s unclear how much the cameras will raise–$1 million on the conservative side, according to The Urbanist. The revenue will be spent on making school routes safer and more general pedestrian safety.

Lastly, did you catch the disconnect between the two statements from the SPS spokesperson?

First:

As it stands, there’s one counselor for every 350 students, according to an SPS spokesperson, even though Washington voters already passed an initiative eight years ago to establish a 1:200 ratio.

Second story:

As it stands, the ratio of counselors to students varies from school to school at SPS. According to an SPS spokesperson, the district generally provides one counselor for every 350 students, which the Seattle Education Association fought to lower from 1:375 in its contract this year.


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