Seattle, Wash. – Upon seeing stories of parents across Seattle trying to raise money to keep their teachers, a Ballard parent said he was angry enough to donate $70,000 to help Alki Elementary save a teaching position.
Seattle Public Schools announced recently that it would have to remove teaching positions after seeing 675 fewer students than projected. The lower enrollment means a loss of $4.23 million in revenue.
Alki Elementary was one of dozens of schools in the same position. At that school, parents were told they would need about $90,000 for the salary and benefits of a first-grade teacher.
Brian Jones, who runs his own reality film production company, said the $70,000 donation was made on a whim.
“My broader goal was to shame the administration and the legislature and the mayor, for the fact that a private citizen and parents are putting up money to support children, because they’re doing nothing,” Jones said.
He said he had simply been browsing online stories Sunday night about why the Seahawks lost, then found the stories about student population, and the fight to keep teachers. His own six-year-old daughter, goes to Loyal Heights Elementary School in Ballard. A younger daughter will begin school there soon.
He has no ties to Alki Elementary.
Jones said he hopes people will see this, and think "this is not right." He also hopes people will perk up and take action.
By that same sentiment, some parents do not approve of donating to the fund.
Patricia Johnson, who leads the Alki Elementary School Parent Teacher Association, said the parent community is divided.
“Parents were stepping up and willing to devote the money to this cause, but there was this aspect of parents, saying ‘wait a second. By giving the money, I’m not fixing the problem,’” Johnson said.
Johnson said they’re extremely grateful for the money that now allows them to submit a grant to keep the teacher.
But parents, including Jones himself, are concerned that this practice is unsustainable.
“Next year, you can’t ask them to do the same thing. And just like the other schools in the district that are unable to do it this year. I mean, where do they stand?” said Lauren Cardinale, whose son is in first grade at Alki Elementary.
Emily Anderson, whose daughter is in first grade there, said losing that teacher would have meant about 28 children per classroom.
The same set of students last year had such crowding in their kindergarten classes that Alki was the recipient of an extra teacher during this same process last fall.
“I’m not Bill Gates. I’m not – I’m a normal guy. And this was a large sum of money for me to do,” Jones said of his donation.
He said his family will forego vacations for a while, but it’s a cause he wants to take on.
Parents will organize an event in front of the school district headquarters Tuesday afternoon.