North Sound News

Dozens of teachers in Edmonds to be laid off because of budget shortfalls

EDMONDS, Wash. — Dozens of teachers in Edmonds will be getting layoff letters Wednesday. The school district says it's something that needs to happen to help the district close a major budget gap of $17.7 million.

The school board voted 3 to 2 around midnight Tuesday to approve a motion to lay off 25 teachers, 8 assistant elementary school principals and two instructional technology coaches.

But the district is looking for more money and it is possible some of these employees will get their jobs back in the coming months.

The meeting was packed with hundreds of people and the crowd packed two overfilled rooms. Dozens of people spoke during public comment protesting the cuts ahead of the vote.

“Reject the reduced education plan,” one parent said.

A  teacher at Edmonds Heights K-12 just hired last year spoke and accused the school board of poor planning.

“It’s shocking, I think it's a huge disservice to the children, and the teachers, and the community. I think it's really unfortunate,” said Brian Langford, an Edmonds parent.

The school district said it had no other choice.

“It is concerning. And this has been really difficult. It's been really difficult for the teachers facing the prospect of being released,” said Greg Schwab, the Edmonds School District assistant superintendent.

The Edmonds School District is facing a $17.7 million shortfall - it says in large part, because of funding changes after the McCleary decision last year.

Last week, the number of teaching positions facing elimination was higher, at 46 jobs.

The district said in the past week it's worked to save as many possible. It pulled about $3 million in funding intended for next year. Plus, more teachers have announced their retirement. The two factors combined are saving about 20 jobs.

But still, the district needs to cut 25 positions. Seventeen of those positions are teachers who are on “provisional” status, meaning teachers in their first three years. Eight additional teachers to be cut hold continuing contracts.

“I think you'll see some increases in class size,” Schwab said.

Teachers during the meeting expressed their concern about facing even larger class sizes. One teacher at Lynwood High School said some classes are already at 37 students.

Which teachers get laid off is based entirely on seniority.

“It has nothing to do with performance at that point, really has to do with how many years you've worked with the system,” Schwab said.

Parents say it's tough to believe this is the district's only option.

“It seems like they're collecting enough taxes, we have pretty high property taxes,” said Angie Langford, another Edmonds parent.

“Rather than laying off teachers, there's gotta be another way,” her husband Brian said.

“It’s been hard for everybody,” Schwab said. “We have to go out and implement that decision tomorrow and impact people's lives, and that's never a small thing,” he said.

The Edmonds School District said it’s dealing with a bigger budget problem than some other districts in Snohomish County, because it has a smaller savings fund, more special education students, and fewer-than-expected retirements this year.

It also said it lost money from the McCleary decision because a cap on the local levy has affected their ability to collect money. Plus, Schwab said before McCleary teachers were funded based on experience. He said now teachers are funded on a flat rate. Because Edmonds has more teachers with a lot of seniority, Schwab said the district also lost money on that part of the McCleary decision.