Spokane Public Schools lays off hundreds of employees citing $31M budget gap

Spokane Public Schools lays off hundreds of employees citing $31M budget gap

Spokane Public Schools issued 325 layoff notices across the district Thursday, citing a multi-million dollar budget deficit.

Those affected were notified Thursday morning in private meetings with their superiors. SPS said 182 of those affected are teachers.

Superintendent Shelley Redinger said the move comes after several months of discussion about meeting students needs within budget constraints of a new state funding model. Redinger said the local levy capacity was reduced by $43.6 million over two years.

Despite reducing spending during the current school year, SPS is facing a $31 million budget gap for the 2019-20 school year.

Redinger reiterated that the district looked to minimize impact to classrooms. The district first started making cuts in the central office and other organizational support functions. Redinger said this included utilizing attrition and leaving open nearly 100 positions that were unfilled unless they were critical.

Forty one percent of cuts were made ouside of the classroom, which resulted in $5 million in cuts. Redinger said that was still not enough to sustain ongoing student needs.

“SPS central office functions account for 4.5 percent of the total budget, the second lowest percentage among peer districts statewide,” said Redinger. “Investments in student learning account for about three quarters, the third highest among our peers statewide.”

Redinger said families will soon hear about recommendations to reimagine the elementary school day and library model across the district. A recommended change to the elementary school day would introduce a consistent weekly schedule for families, add time for students to each lunch, build in additional social emotional time and reduce K-3 class sizes, while doing all of those things more cost effectively.

The 2019-20 school budget will be finalized at the end of August and the district said they will continue to look for efficiences to meet student and family needs until then. Redinger said that will include conversations with the legislature about funding class size reductions in grades 4-12, urging them to fully fund the $7.2 million gap in special education, and making sure future mandates come fully funded.

“As professional educators, members of the Spokane Education Association put our students at the center of everything we do,” said SEA President Katy Henry in a statement Thursday.

According to the Spokane Education Association, the statewide union, the Washington Education Association, is currently working to increase state funding with allies in Olympia.

“Our union will fully support every educator who receives a layoff notice, and we will work hard to protect all educators and the students they serve.”

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