Seattle school year ends, big issues remain

Jun 22, 2010, 2:50 AM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

Wrapping up the school year is easy for kids. Grab crumpled papers and dull Sharpies from a desk or locker, shove them into a backpack, and wave goodbye this afternoon. See you in September!

It’s not as simple for the people who are working on budgets and planning for the next school year.

Balancing the budget

Although Seattle Schools started with a $31 million shortfall, the district has proposed a balanced budget for the 2010-2011 school year, as they are required to do by law.

Here’s a link to the 352-page budget document. Skip ahead to page 41 for the reasons the district – and all public districts for that matter – had a huge budget gap. Page 71 is interesting because it lists the numbers of staff members the district employs. For example, Seattle has 1,127 elementary teachers in the current year, and will have 1,152 for the next budget year. The document contains the budgets of every school in the district. The general fund budget begins on page 272, and the capital budget starts on 309.

schoolbudgetThe bottom line? A spending freeze saves $7.7 million. The district will delay spending on instructional materials and professional development to save $6 million. Cutting 85 jobs from the central office staff saves $6.6 million. And they’ll tap into $4.5 million in reserves.

The district holds a final, two-hour public hearing on the budget beginning tomorrow (Wednesday) at 4:00 pm at the John Stanford Center.

The district already has a projected shortfall of $24 milllion for the 2011-2012 budget.

Splitting up families

When Seattle changed its student assignment process to have kids go to the schools that are closest to their homes, it knew there would be families split up by the new plan.

Initially, 556 families with kindergartners applied to go to a school that is not in their attendance area. The district was able to accommodate most of those requests except for 148 kindergarten students who were put on a waiting list for their older siblings’ schools. Staff members have managed to reduce the number to about 111 kids who could be going to different schools than their older brothers or sisters in the fall. That number might change again, depending on final enrollment.

Changing of the guard

Along with students who volunteer as crossing guards, Seattle has a few adults who are paid to help at busy school intersections.

SchoolZoneUntil now, the Seattle Police Department ran the crossing guard program. The department’s own budget problems forced them to eliminate the program. Beginning in September, the district will take over responsibility from Seattle Police.

There are 58 crossing guards, who typically work one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon on school days. The district has identified 100 intersections where they would like to have adults on duty.

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Seattle school year ends, big issues remain