Officials say the district will rely on federal pandemic relief ESSER funds and its Economic Stabilization funding, general fund money that the Seattle district sets in reserve to keep some programs going during budget shortfalls, to cover the increased costs in the current school year and partially cover the second year. But how the district will cover the shortfall for the second and third years of the contract is still up in the air.
The Seattle Education Association – the union that covers more than 6,000 employees, including teachers, instructional aides, librarians and some office staff – called for a greater cost-of-living adjustment for educators, as well as language outlining how the district will manage the shift to inclusion of special education and English Language Learners in the general classroom.
The staff covered by the union – which is more than 75% of all district employees – will get a 7% raise the first year, followed by 4% in 2023-24 and 3% in 2024-25, according to information released by Seattle Public Schools. The state budget approved by the Legislature earlier this year set aside enough money to give these educators a 5.5% raise this next school year. Anything above that state allocation is on local districts.
The Seattle contract also calls for increased staffing of social workers, nurses and mental health counselors, as well as of speech language specialists.
About 4,000 out of 6,000 union members voted on the contract, which was approved by about 71% of teachers and other certified staff, 66% of instructional aides and other paraprofessionals, and 82% of office professionals, according to the Seattle Education Association.
Seattle is not the only district facing funding shortages because of rising costs. The Olympia School District faces a $17.5 million shortfall in next year’s budget, after approving an education staff salary increase that adds up to 18% over three years, according to The Olympian.
Olympia School District Budget Director Jennifer Priddy told Crosscut that the district will be able to analyze the 2023-24 budget after this year’s enrollment is finalized in October. “While a projected budget shortfall is a cause for concern, there are many moving parts to the outlook projection and we will proceed carefully as we begin a public conversation about budget priorities,” Priddy said in an email.
The discussion of budget shortfalls for Seattle schools, as well as in other districts, will likely open the door this upcoming legislative session to questioning how the state is paying for public education.
At a meeting earlier this month, Seattle Public Schools board member Liza Rankin pointed out that the upcoming legislative session is a budget year, and called for the state to start paying for the school supports that teachers and parents have said help with classroom success. “So why don’t we have counselors… Why doesn’t every school have a nurse? It’s because the state doesn’t pay for it. And the state is how we were funded,” she said.