Tacoma teachers on chopping block as district prepares for ‘worst case' budget scenario

VIDEO: Tacoma teachers on chopping block as district prepares for ?€˜worst case' budget scenario

TACOMA, Wash. — Tacoma's school board told superintendent Carla Santorno during a Thursday night meeting to begin the work of deciding which jobs the district will cut and prepare to send out layoff notices in about a month.

“We’re required by law, like all school districts are, to notify any certificated staff, which includes teachers, by May 15th if they will no longer have a job next school year,” said district spokesman Dan Voelpel.

Other districts across the state are also threatening cuts saying their budgets are facing shortfalls.  Spokane's superintendent is moving fastest, announcing more than 300 layoffs in that district this week.

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“Because there is such a big effect we did want to start giving those layoff notices today,” said Spokane Public Schools superintendent Shelly Redinger.

When teachers across the state walked off the job demanding higher pay last fall they left school districts in a tough position. Pay the teachers or shore up their budgets.

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That's because the McCleary decision, a state Supreme Court ruling that ordered the state to fully fund public schools, also led to funding changes that hurt some districts.

Voter approved levies were capped and districts like Tacoma that have relied on them for years suddenly faced budget shortfalls. Paying teachers more means cuts somewhere else. Tacoma has already eliminated 43 administrative and support jobs but still faces a $30 million deficit for the 2019-2020 school year.

Now both sides are waiting, and hoping, the state Legislature will act on bills that would ease the levy cap before the layoffs begin.

“We’re continuing to lobby, we’re continuing to email, and we’re continuing to push for that legislative fix that will raise the levy lid and raise the funding that our voters have already approved,” said Tacoma Teachers Association president Angel Morton.

In an email statement to KIRO 7 House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (D) 47th District said, We’re working on a levy policy. This is about educating 1.1 million school kids. We’re going to try to give districts some additional flexibility to plug some holes, and we want to do it by April 28.”