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Faced With Legislative Uncertainty, Seattle Schools Plan For The Worst

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo

Planning for the worst case scenario — that’s where the state’s largest school district finds itself as it prepares its budget for the next school year. Depending on what the Legislature does – or doesn’t do — cuts could be coming to the classroom.

Seattle Public Schools is facing a $74-million deficit. To make up for the shortfall, part of the district’s plan is to increase class sizes, which means fewer teachers.

Nurses, librarians and counselors would be cut back too. But it’s a waiting game because the Legislature could act, meaning the district wouldn’t need to make the cuts. That level of uncertainty makes it difficult to plan.

"Our teachers could have already said, 'I'm going to go somewhere where I know I'm going to have a job,'" said JoLynn Berge, assistant superintendent of business and finance of Seattle Public Schools.

"Hopefully, they'll hang in there with us and hopefully we'll get some kind of a sign from Olympia that something is coming, but that is completely unknown," said Berge. 

The timing is key because teachers need to be notified by mid-May if their position is being cut.

Berge said the cuts planned for the district’s central office, totaling around $4 million will be proportionately larger than those made at schools.

There is still an $11-million gap that needs to be accounted for over the next several weeks.  Seattle Public Schools will also create a restoration plan in case funding from the Legislature comes through.