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Tacoma School District Eliminates Jobs As It Grapples With Budget Deficits

Tacoma Public Schools
A slide from a recent Tacoma Public Schools board study session that shows projected deficits

School districts are required to submit four-year budget plans to the state schools superintendent’s office under a new rule approved by legislators last year. In Tacoma, school district officials are grappling with deficits projected through the 2021-2022 school year.

Tacoma Public Schools said it's taking steps to close a deficit of more than $23 million this school year. The district is not cutting any teachers right now because they're under contract, but it has eliminated 14 administrative and five central office support positions. Some are job openings that won't be filled and in other cases, people have been reassigned as teachers or counselors.

District spokesman Dan Voelpel said five people have been laid off.

“Some are being allowed to phase out over the course of the next few months and others have already left,” he said.

Voelpel said the deficits result from the state's new education funding system, which capped the amount of local levy dollars Tacoma can collect. Tacoma also agreed to boost pay for teachers and other union members to stay competitive with other districts.

So far, the district has managed to make about $16 million in budget cuts and plans to take more steps to reduce costs, Voelpel said.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.