Learn more about how Seattle Public Schools are Funded
With the news of the potential loss of a classroom teacher at Montlake, you may have questions about why schools would lose a teacher after school has already started. Even though Montlake did not lose a teacher at this time, other schools did. So, it is important to understand how public schools are funded in Washington State and in the Seattle Public Schools District.
Funding during the Pandemic The most important factor in school funding is enrollment. State funds are allocated to districts based on enrollment and then the district allocates staffing positions to each individual school based on their enrollment. If enrollment is down, districts and schools receive less funding. The pandemic has caused a decrease in enrollment in Seattle Public Schools, especially in elementary schools, so the district will receive less state funding this year as a result.
Last spring, the Montlake PTA led an advocacy effort to pass state legislation that would enact enrollment stabilization. That is, the state would continue to fund schools based on which enrollment number was larger: pre-pandemic enrollment in 2019 or projected enrollment for 2021. This bill was not passed. The state legislators indicated that districts could use their federal covid relief funds to keep staff where enrollment was down.
In the 2021-2022 SPS Budget, it shows that the district is receiving 2.42% less state funding ($16.7M less) and twice as much federal funding as the previous year with $68.5M covid relief funds (ESSER). These relief funds are to be used to address the learning loss caused by the pandemic.
SPS Budget Allocations The Seattle Public Schools district develops their annual budget over the course of a year. In February of each year, schools receive their budget allocations for the following school year based on projected enrollment. The Weighted Staffing Standards is the precise model that the district uses to allocate staff to each school. It considers projected enrollment, class sizes, poverty level and equity tiers.
Last spring, Montlake was allocated 10 classroom teachers based on a projected enrollment of 227 students. That was one less teacher from the previous year. Our Special Education program was also impacted, and at the time the school lost 0.6 of a Resource Room Teacher and 0.3 of an Instructional Aide, leaving us with a 0.4 Resource Teacher, a 1.0 Access Teacher and 3 Instructional Aides.
Currently, Montlake has enrollment at 185, much less than projected. The district’s K-5 enrollment is down approximately 6.2% from spring projections. At the same time, there are reports of middle schools and high schools with higher than projected enrollment. Meany was projected to have 450 students and they have 525. Classrooms are too full to meet covid safety protocols and some classes are without a teacher.
Each fall, the district evaluates the actual enrollment at each school and makes any necessary adjustments. Since Montlake’s enrollment was much lower than projected, there was concern that we would lose another classroom teacher. That did not happen. Most likely the district used the covid relief funds to keep as many staff in place as possible. However, some schools did lose staff and some schools received more staff.
Impact Even though Montlake did not lose an additional teacher at this time, there has been much uncertainty and stress about the drop in enrollment and how to manage with one less classroom teacher from last year. In the summer, the staff had to decide how to combine two classes. Plans were made with the enrollment information that they had. When school started, they discovered that an additional 22 students had left without unenrolling. Montlake has lost nearly 50 students from last year.
Now that the staff knows that they have 10 classroom teachers, they can make some further adjustments given the current enrollment. There is an opportunity to reduce the number of split level classes and take advantage of small class sizes.
Advocacy Stay tuned for more information about advocating for more school funding.