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Hundreds of Washington teachers might not have jobs next year

Issaquah School District
Students in an Issaquah biology class construct molecular models. They might not have as many teachers next year. The school district sent layoff notices to 51 teachers.

Hundreds of teachers throughout Western Washington are unsure if they’ll return to their classrooms next year. Many districts have had to layoff instructors to balance their budgets as support at the state level dwindles. Even districts with the most resources are feeling the pinch.

When Kristin Latousek decided to leave her career as a geologist to become a math teacher, she thought she was making a secure decision.

“They said, oh, we need math, science and special ed teachers," she says. "Basically, there will be tons of jobs. And I knew I wanted to go to Issaquah for a number of reasons. One of them was that there budget seemed to be in order.”

After less than a year at Pine Lake Middle School in Issaquah, she received a lay off notice. So did 50 of her peers. That’s more pink slips than just about any other district in the state, except Spokane. There, more than a hundred and forty teacher jobs are on the line. 

Phyllis Runyon, president of the Issaquah Education Association, says no community is immune from the state’s financial situation. Not even one with a high tax base and ample resources like hers.

“It’s not Issaquah, it’s not Kent, it’s not Spokane," she says. "It is our legislators who have chosen to cut, cut, cut education. That’s where the blame rests. And on voters, who chose not to pass initiatives that would bring in the revenue that this state needs to do many things, including education.”

Some larger districts are trying to balance their budgets with fewer teacher layoffs. Seattle plans to send out about 30 notices. Dan Voelpel, spokesman for Tacoma Public Schools, says his it’ll keep all of its teachers, but will close two schools.

Of course, things could change when lawmakers finish the state budget. If they don’t figure it out later this month, schools won’t know exactly how many teachers they'll lose until well into the summer.

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