The largest public school district in Washington state has begun informing employees that they might be laid off in the 2023-24 school year due to a massive budget crisis in the wake of plummeting enrollment, a result of long school closures in response to the pandemic, as well as parental concerns over safety and radical curriculum being taught to their children, while special education services, gifted tracks, and STEM programs were cut.
The Seattle Public School district is projecting budget shortfalls of approximately $131 million in the 2023-24 school year and about $92 million in the 2024-25 school year.
Washington public schools, especially in Seattle, received millions in funding in Covid funding, but tracking of those funds has been almost non-existent.
According to a budget presentation made to the school board on Tuesday, most of the proposed cuts for 2023-24 are in the main headquarters and will save almost $33 million.
The Seattle Times reported 30 employees in the central office received notices this week that they might be laid off in the 2023-24 school year.
Cuts could also be made to employees of the Running Start program for 11 and 12 graders that enable them to take college courses.
Since the Alan T. Sugiyama school and Middle College, both have fewer than 100 students, management of the schools will be shifted to another team.
Staff from STEMbyTAF that focuses on science, technology, engineering, math, and humanities is also on the chopping block.
Earlier this week, Democrats in the Washington state Senate proposed legislation that would cut learning time in classrooms by 4 hours a week, despite learning losses from the school closures in response to the pandemic, so students can spend time with non-teachers for educational activities separate from the standard curriculum, while teachers participate in “Professional Learning Communities.”
The district has lost over 3,500 students since the 2019-2020 school year. Declining enrollment began in the years prior to pandemic closures but increased exponentially as the schools remain shuttered while other districts across the country re-opened and parents learned about the radical curriculum being taught in classrooms and grappled with safety concerns on campus.
According to the district, SPS could lose an additional 3,000 students by the 2025-2026 school year which would be a 12.5 percent drop in enrollment over six years.
In response to “equity” concerns, Seattle Public School cut its tracks for gifted students. Many families pulled their kids from the district after programs for special needs students were also cut.
This week, the board of the Everett School District approved a plan to eliminate as many as 142 positions to compensate for a $28 million deficit.
In Bellevue, school district officials have begun the process of planning to consolidate schools because of declining enrollment and three elementary schools are potentially on the chopping block.
The Bellevue School District lost almost 2,000 students since 2019 and officials are projecting the trend of students leaving the district to continue.
Some parents have demanded increased security on campus following multiple incidents including a fatal shooting and violent homeless encampments on school grounds that school officials refused to clear.
In response to the violent BLM/Antifa riots that rocked the region in 2020, the Seattle and Bellevue districts removed Seattle Police officers from campus.
Over 10,000 public school students in Washington state left the system during the Covid closures. Homeschooling rates in the state nearly doubled and currently stand at approximately a 43 percent increase over the 2019-2020 school year. According to the State Board of Education, private schools saw an increase of at least 20 percent over pre-pandemic numbers.
That number could end up being a best-case scenario as it was revealed in a 2021 presentation to a state Senate committee that the “November 2021 forecast is, on average, 50,334 students or 4.5 percent lower than the February forecast, and 42,036 students or 3.8 percent lower than the June forecast for the 2021-23 Biennium.”
According to state data from the Office of Financial Management, by October 2020, approximately seven months after Washington schools began remote learning following closures imposed by Democrats in response to the pandemic, statewide public school enrollment had lost roughly 40,000 students, or about 4 percent of the children enrolled during the previous school year.