Edmonds School Board considering teacher layoffs to address $17.7 million shortfall

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    Edmonds School Board Vice-President Deborah Kilgore and Board President Diana White listen as Superintendent Kris McDuffy explains the efforts of district staff to balance the budget for the 2019-20 school year.

    The Edmonds School District Board of Directors held a special meeting early Wednesday morning to discuss ways to address a projected $17.7 million shortfall in the upcoming 2019-20 school year, including teacher and staff layoffs.

    As of the Wednesday, May 8 meeting, 43 full-time employees (FTEs) of the district labeled as certificated or classified potentially face being laid off, district staff said. Affected positions include teachers, paraeducators and assistant principals. More than half the employees facing layoffs are provisional status — meaning they are in their first three years of working for the district.

    Since January, the school board has worked to find solutions for the expected budget shortfall. Unlike the neighboring Everett, Snohomish, Mukilteo, Lake Stevens, Marysville and Arlington school districts, the Edmonds School District is the only district facing layoffs. Superintendent Kris McDuffy said the prospect of layoffs is tough, but because 88 percent of the district’s budget is employee salaries and benefits, there are few other options.

    “It’s been excruciating for everybody,” she said. “We’ve been looking under every rock and examining every line item.”

    Because the Washington State Legislature last year reduced the amount of money school districts could collect from voter-approved property tax levies, the Edmonds School District suffered a near $20 million loss, said Executive Director of Business and Finance Lydia Sellie. In 2018, the district collected more than $67 million, but in 2019 only $47 million was levied, she said.

    School Board President Diana White noted that some people have suggested that the pay raises received by Edmonds School District teachers in 2018 contributed to the current budget issue.

    “I hear that a lot — that the reason we’re in this (shortfall) is because of the raises we gave,” she said. “But that’s not really true.”

    In addition to staff reductions to address the deficit, the board of directors will avoid filling multiple vacant positions, including three custodians, one groundskeeper, a special education data-processing specialist and a technology support specialist. The budget would also cut $2.5 million in expenses for materials, supplies and operations budget and slash more than 300 daily hours for paraeducators.

    However, much is still to be determined before the new school year, Superintendent McDuffy said. No final decision will be made on the plan until the board of directors votes at the May 14 school board meeting. Should the layoffs become a reality, affected faculty will know the following day.

    “This is evolving by the hour, literally,” she said.

    Before casting their votes at the May 14 meeting, the school board directors have several variables to consider — including employees who are resigning or retiring, future student enrollment, the number of students per classroom and the number of teachers required to teach those students. According to data collected by district staff, enrollment for the coming school year is not projected to increase, Sellie said.

    “The state funds employees based on the number of students the district has,” she said.

    Should more students enroll in the district than schools can accommodate with projected staffing needs, Sellie said, the school board could tap additional funding to bring in more teachers. Board Vice-President Deborah Kilgore said she was not sure the board should project a decline in student enrollment, which would result in more cuts due to the need for fewer teachers.

    “We’re turning people’s lives upside down,” she said.

    Board Director Anne McMurray said she would like more community feedback before voting on the proposed plan at the school board’s next meeting.

    “As we’re thinking about this, we need to remember how the community as a whole views their investment,” she said. “

    The next Edmonds School Board meeting will take place on Tuesday, May 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the district’s Educational Services Center, located at 20420 68th Ave. W., Lynnwood.

    —Story and photo by Cody Sexton

    35 Replies to “Edmonds School Board considering teacher layoffs to address $17.7 million shortfall”

    1. I’d like to know why Arlington, Snohomish, Everett, Mukulteo, Lake Stevens and Marysville AREN’T facung layoffs??!! What is so fiscally different in our school district?!
      And honestly, why are we looking to cut TEACHERS and not ESD office jobs?? I notice that the Superintendent is looking for a Very Well paid Executive Assistant.
      Are our current resouce$ being allocated the best they can be on behalf of the Students??

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    2. Is School Board President Diana White Channeling National Politicians?
      Interesting how a 19% pay increase doesn’t contribute to a 5.5% (estimated from $17.7 million of current year budget) shortfall. Interesting how a $38.4 million budget increase the same year the 19% increase took effect is unrelated to a shortfall for next year…
      I hope state and local funds aren’t being used to teach this type of math to students.

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    3. How about using current curriculum (like social studies) instead of purchasing a whole new district wide curriculum at this time as currently planned?

      Also, how about making teachers and lower class sizes more of a zero policy than spending more money on an equity policy which has curriculum that hasn’t even been approved yet by parents and community? I believe that it’s more “zero”, or high priority for our kids to have enough teachers, which provides more equality for ALL kids because they can access education better when they can actually have time with their teacher. Just some thoughts from a community member since you said you wanted to know. Thank you.

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      1. Thank you, Alyssa. You are right. As a parent who lived through last fall’s “equity summit” at Meadowdale High school, I couldn’t agree more. Equity would imply that ALL people were represented, not just the LGBT and Black Lives groups. The Key Note speaker was Jeoma Oluo. Her writings are easily googled, and full of anger and hate. Why would the district spend money on bringing her in front of our students if the real purpose was encouraging kids to love and respect each other?

        We had the privilege of hosting a foreign exchange student in our home last fall. She and her peers were astounded at the broad range of class options our kids are offered. Where she came from, in Germany, education is focused on math, languages, history and science. It is no wonder that kids in the US educational system fall behind their European peers. You can bet that they are not being taught to spell women “womxn” in their English classes.

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    4. How about the teachers and their union look at themselves and question why the entirety of the State’s McCleary funding went to out of scale raises to them. The teacher’s union got what they demanded and should now answer to their members and the parents and taxpayers. I have never believed that the teachers unions were ‘for our kids’ while I accept that there are teachers who are. Good luck with this but my sympathy has run thin . . .

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      1. Before the new deal Edmonds year 1 teachers walked in at 52,688 this was bumped $10,000 at every level bringing starting teachers to $62,688.

        They also changed the top of the pay structure to kick in MUCH earlier. Where it took 28 years to hit top pay $101,022 now it only takes 14 to get $114,272. This means if you were a 14-27 year you got the $10,000 raise and the bump to top level at the same time. And of course that means 14 additional years of being at top pay level compared to before.

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    5. The legislature has changed the amount that can be levied at the local level. By a vote of the people we can bridge the budget gap.

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    6. They could reconsider how they spend their money, like on that ridiculous “equity summit” that got rolled out at Meadowdale High School last fall, whose guest speaker was a known racist, jeoma Oluo. Feel free to google her white people and man-hating essays. How much school district money was spent on telling everyone that white people (particularly white men) need to stop oppressing everyone? Shame on the school district.

      If they were truly interested in equity, there would be more representation than just LGBT, and Black Lives Matter. What about Muslims, Christians and Jews, to name a few, who are taking their fair share of abuse in the world? What about other racial and ethnic groups? This waste of time and money was nothing more than the extreme leftist agenda being forced on our children. The district’s agenda is to roll this monstrosity out to each of the other high schools, followed by newly formatted, and required senior social studies and history classes that insist on more of the progressive agenda, intent on wiping out the very thought of traditional conservatism in America. I can tell you that in our family, and all of the families we know, our children have been taught to be kind and respectful to everyone, regardless of who they are, how they live, or where they come from. We do not need the school district to teach right and wrong to our kids. That is the parents’ responsibility. 99% of all parents know that, and do it.

      Did the district seek parent input and involvement before sending my daughter home with a paper proclaiming that “…a lot of us don’t know the differences between sex, gender and sexuality. This workshop will explore these…” Where is the science behind this? There isn’t any. There is just emotion, and indoctrination, loudly cried for by 3% of the population in this country.

      And now they are cutting teacher jobs in the district because of budget shortfall. How about having teachers teach reading, writing and arithmetic? How about actual, fact-based history? How about teaching critical thinking by representing ALL groups’ perspective. Special interest group teaching is a waste of our money. It’s an expensive proposition to turn our schools into the “Nanny State.” So just stop it!

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    7. The article indicates that the School Board President noted that some have suggested that the pay raises in 2018 contributed to the current budget issue. “I hear that a lot — that the reason we’re in this (shortfall) is because of the raises we gave,” she said. “But that’s not really true.”

      Maybe I don’t understand the meaning of “contributed.” I thought an increase in salaries would add to the debit side of a normal ledger.

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      1. It would certainly make sense that if they are laying off teachers to save money, the big raises just given would have contributed to the budges shortfall. I guess it all depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.

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    8. Why is the budget shortfall due to teacher pay increases in Edmonds Dist., when all the Districts nearby got essentially the same raises and they don’t have budget short falls? That doesn’t make sense. The schools in Washington weren’t properly funded at the state level for years and teachers hadn’t had much in the way of pay raises for years. It’s not really fair to attack them as the main cause of the shortfall in Edmonds. Is it possible that Edmonds is spending too much on administration and facilities compared to other districts? Shouldn’t someone maybe do a study along those lines before they condemn the teacher’s union and it’s motives in all this? I don’t want to pay any more property taxes either, but if I plan to stay in Edmonds, I know I will have skyrocketing property taxes, if something isn’t done at the state level to mitigate them someway. I can vote against the school levees and probably will.

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      1. The article does not mention how much of a raise the other districts gave so we can’t say how much of a factor that is in this case. One probelm with the huge raises is that much of it was from State funds that were known at the time were not going to be there on a continuing basis. Depending on how much and how districts looked to handle them future budgets is where many problems can arise.

        Also some districts have a signle overall budget with subsets for the different departments. Others have basically a stand alone budget for every single division of the district that is only loosley bound together so they can move funds around. This way they can have a lot of money in say buildings and yet be “broke” in other places. Many adminstrations like to do this so they can show they need money for things people support, even though the reason they need that money is they shifted it to cover areas that people are less likely to pass a levy for, such as bussing or non-teacher compensation.

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    9. Are we being “played” to dig into our empty pockets to approve another Education Levy??
      Of course , it’s for the kids….

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    10. I’ve always voted for all the school levees, even though I don’t have any kids, because I really like kids and I think healthy public schools are crucial to having a strong and vibrant economy and generally good society to live in. However, I’m really sick and tired of all the tax breaks going to people who do not need them or, in many cases, even want them. The fall back position on government and school funding ends up being the property owners, for taxes, from the politicians on both the right and left. The Trump Fed. Income Tax cut being a prime example of the “big lie” on so called tax reform. It was neither reform, nor a tax cut for most of us. So, I will no longer vote for any tax increases for any reason until I see my income and property taxes go down and Warren Buffet’s go up. PS Build that overpass at Dayton, Mr Buffet!

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    11. I am more interested in the “optics” of this conversation than anything else. Now, I was not a stellar math student. But, in the 2017-2018 budget, Salaries and Benefits total was $244,795,035. In 2018-2019 Salaries and Benefits is $280,671,489. That is about $35,876,454 in Salary & Wage Increases. If you do not get more money in, and you give (generally speaking) a 14.7% pay raise, there is not going to be enough money. Why don’t they explain it to us like that instead of the hand wringing and gentle double speak? Considering that Teacher Salaries make up a large percentage of that (and should), one would expect that during shortfalls, that is where a large percentage of cuts would be made.

      An interesting point that I would like to make is the transparency into cash outflows – I was able to grab some budget information from the District and State websites, but you really get zero visibility and transparency into actual expenditures over the course of the year. I could only find Public Works awards greater than $300K on the procurement site – is there a legal reason why monthly purchased services or contract services would not be available? That would make it easier to see where the money is going versus having to guess what is spent on various programs. Maybe it is available, or maybe you have to FOIA request to see monthly expenditures by vendor, but it would be interesting to see that information.

      Just as another FYI, and probably because I had way too much coffee this morning – I looked at the total budget for 16/17, 17/18. 18/19, and compared the cost per student. The $15,139 that is spent per student in 18/19 (budgeted) is 14% higher than the $13,466 per student in 17/18 (I believe this is a budgeted number, but would interested to see the actual spend per student). Ironically, Salaries and Benefits went up by 14.7%. Go figure.

      It would also be interesting to see what funds have been “committed” versus actually spent, and see the actual versus budget for 17/18 – and compare shortfalls to budgeted rates – I could not find that either.

      Sorry for the rambling, but the District reporting certainly does not make it easy to dig into the numbers, and perhaps the confusion comes from some transparency issues into “trust me – we are out of money, we are doing our best” and from the almost certain – “hey folks, you want to chip in a bit more on a special education district levy?” (Again, something I am not opposed to, but the general obfuscation around expenditures and detailed transparency gives me some pause on on just giving it my best answer from my high school days – “uh, okay dude, sweet”).

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      1. George your analysis is pretty much right on. Thanks for the work. The metric of $/student is interesting and would be interesting to see how those numbers compare with other 294 districts. 295 districts total.
        At $15k/student and maybe 20 students/teacher the cost for the class would be $300k. Data is hard to get but the teacher average for salary and benefits is probably just over $100k.

        One idea for cost savings would be to see what can be done to support all 295 districts so they do not have to do some of these tasks locally. Raises all the local control vs central control but the goal is to provide the best education possible and try to manage costs.

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        1. i did the comparison to Seattle, just for grins, and was going down the same road – when I look at the burden per student, it may not be apples to apples, but it can be close and can be used as a benchmark across similar districts (for instance, I would expect cash outlays to have a higher cost on the West side of the state versus the central parts, etc) – but it still would be an interesting comparison. They have the data, and it could be quickly compiled on a cost per student basis.

          I am certainly no teacher, nor do I have the patience, skill set, temper, disposition, or any other word that can be used for “tolerating hormone ridden rugrats for 7 hours a day”, and believe that a thriving wage (not just living wage) is the least we can do for the teaching community. However, I also believe that both the district and the union need to be realistic about the expectations and the consequences. You give a 14.7% unfunded raise, you have to find that money. Considering there are roughly 40K Edmonds residents that would mean a levy of $425 per every resident (that assumes all 40,000 are able to pay tax) to make up the $17 million shortfall. I would have to borrow that…

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          1. The levy would be more than $425 because all residents would not be paying, only property owners.
            And it is too bad that the teachers are unionized because that blocks the poorest ones from being laid off as it is the most junior ones that must go. In the business world we used a layoff to get rid of the poorest performers. A merit system is not compatible with labor unions.

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      2. Agree – there is a lot of hand-waving and inexactness in what the district is publicly sharing. It would be nice if an independent look at the budget details could be done (but doubt that can happen). It certainly would make me feel more comfortable voting for (or against) the next school levy.

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        1. Jim, the data I cited on another thread came from ESD. When asked they will provide details. That does not mean we cannot do better but they are willing to share if we ask the right questions. The same can be said for the city. Asking the right questions does produce information that can be useful to assess if our govt and our schools are doing the most cost effective delivery of services.

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          1. I still have to agree with George. His first paragraph hits the nail on the head – the district spent more than they made.

            In their recent statements, the district (and sometimes the union) has attempted to obfuscate what happened. It makes it easier for them to do so because it is an arduous task for the typical voter to get facts.

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    12. It was just announced that Tacoma School Dist. has a major budget shortfall to deal with too, so maybe the dominoes are just starting to fall on this issue, statewide, in the coming years. It might be time to go to the Teacher’s union to see if they want to give back some small percentage of the pay raises to save a few member’s jobs. The teachers deserved the raises big time, in my opinion, but the property tax payers are pretty tapped out around here, and I suspect the bond levees will be a tough sell for some time to come.

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    13. Per Education levies, the Educrats (education bureaucrats) have killed the Golden Goose !!!

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    14. It’s all a shell game. Get money, give it teachers, give administrators raises, cry about budget short falls, lay off a few staff, get more money, replace staff and give teachers and administrators raises, rinse, repeat

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      1. You may be a bit over-cynical! I taught and coached for my entire working life, and never made what most people would call a decent living, and I knew very many teachers and coaches who are dedicated, hard-working professionals, often making-do on low salaries, low budgets, over-crowded classrooms and second jobs. Providing a good education and supporting educators adequately is not easy, and it’s not cheap. Quality education and respect for teachers is, however, a metric of what a society values.

        I don’t know the answers, though again I would posit that athletic programs suck a great deal of money away from academic education. Just to stir things up, why pay enormous amounts for playing fields and stadia and football programs – a sport which is known to damage growing brains? Why not promote “life sports” – things you can do and enjoy all your life? After all, why do we educate, and what for?

        I am not wise enough to know where the problem(s) lies in our city or state, nor do I have a solution, that needs to come from those who are involved and know the ropes and the profession of education, working with parents dedicated to education and willing to take time to study and understand the situation and the opportunities thoroughly. I’m pretty sure that simplistic explanations and sweeping blaming fall short of the truth or providing any solution.

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        1. Actually simplistic explanations are often the best. My recent tax statements says I’m tapped out with school tax increases, as are most. It’s that simple.

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          1. That’s the result, not the explanation. Susan Paine points in a useful direction, and my own experience is that a great deal of savings can be made by examining all programs, and analyzing which ones cost more and produce less, which ones give the greatest benefits and are worth supporting.

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        2. Nathaniel,

          What I can tell you regarding the athletics is that during the 2008-09 downturn, the school board worked with the community and asked that the community take on the funding of the extracurricular athletics AND music activities through the booster clubs. It was a ton of work and done mainly by Susan Phillips – she did an amazing job. I was board president back then. It was a scramble to preserve the academic programs and all the teachers we could.

          It was a great collaborative effort by the whole district community. If the district isn’t doing that now, maybe they should reconsider this idea.

          And the PE courses include the life sports – my daughters both took “yoga-lates”. It’s good to see some evolution from the old style PE.

          Hope this helps.

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