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‘We ain’t out of the woods yet’: Seattle Public Schools approves 2023-24 budget

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(The Center Square) – Seattle Public Schools passed its 2023-2024 budget with at least 70 cuts to its central staff, no school closures or teacher layoffs, and changes to start and end times for 12 schools.

The $1.2 billion budget is a result of the district’s challenging budget season that attempts to cut a $131 million deficit. To address this, Seattle Public Schools is liquidating its entire rainy day fund, which totals $42.2 million. According to the district, a repayment plan will consist of $6.6 million in annual contributions to the rainy day fund.

At the school level, $10.2 million was reduced, in an attempt to minimize cuts to school programs and classes. However, Seattle Public Schools’ central staff saw $31.2 million in reductions, including $20.8 million in employee costs.

At least 70 positions within the district’s central staff are being cut to address the $131 million budget deficit, whereas there are no teacher positions being cut in the 2023-2024 school year.

A dozen schools within the district will also change their start and end time for the new school year. This change impacts Seattle Public Schools’ transportation system and is expected to save more than $6 million, according to the district.

Bailey Gatzert, Dearborn Park, John Hay, Green Lake, South Shore PreK-8, View Ridge and West Woodland will move to an 8:55 a.m. start time in the next school year. Adams, Concord, Licton Springs K-8, Thurgood Marshall, and TOPS K-8 will move to the 7:55 a.m. start time.

“School start and end times have a significant effect on district budgets . . . currently, our two-tier bell schedule is out of balance,” the district said on its website. “The change will enable Seattle Public Schools transportation to increase yellow bus service efficiency.”

Out of the $1.2 billion budget, the majority of spending is dedicated to general instruction at 43.4%. The second biggest expenditure is special education at 21.2%.

The 2023-2024 budget was passed unanimously by the Seattle School Board on July 6. Five in-person meetings are scheduled for August along with one virtual meeting to engage in conversations about potential school consolidations and maintaining “well-resourced schools.”

Following the budget approval, Seattle School Board President Brandon Hersey congratulated the completion of the budget process, but said “we ain’t out of the woods yet.”

The budget deficit is expected to be around $104 million for the 2024-2025 school year, according to the district.

Enrollment at Seattle Public Schools is also projected to continue declining. The number of students enrolled went from 53,620 in the 2019-2020 school year to 50,028 in 2022-2023. The district projects enrollment to continue to decrease over the next decade.

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