State Budget Adjustments Affect Sehome Teachers

Montgomery Meeds

The Washington State Legislature in Olympia. Photo courtesy of The Seattle Times.

Teachers at Sehome High School may be forced to quit or take a reduced schedule by next year due to cuts in the district budget. Students may have fewer class options, and a less flexible schedule due to the changes.

“I was reduced,” Lauren Tucker, English teacher, said. “Right now I am a full time teacher, and the next year I’m reduced. I don’t know what that’s going to be, it depends on how the master schedule shakes out, […] so it could really depend.”

This is the result of the McCleary decision, issued by the Washington State Supreme Court in 2012. The decision found that Washington State was not adequately funding education, and required the state to appropriate more funding by 2018.

“[The appropriation] drew from the taxbase directly from the state,” Martin Atkins, Vice Principal, said. “Most school funding comes from property taxes. And to compensate, or to alleviate that tax burden on taxpayers, the state then said the school district can’t take the levy funds that the voters have approved in your region.”

Levies are temporary local taxes used to supplement school district budgets.

“But for Bellingham schools, it’s a shortfall,” Atkins said. “So the budget for next year is low because of the state’s decision on how to fund schools.”

Atkins also noted that they are hopeful that the legislature will change this, and allow Bellingham School District to use levy money that local voters have already approved. In the meantime, the administration has been doing everything it can to avoid cutting teachers.

“I worked personally with Ms. Kuss-Cybula and […] she tried everything, she worked so hard to make sure that our teachers get to stay on here, cause she knows that that’s the most important part, so she really advocated for me, and I’m sure other teachers as well, but her and Mr. Atkins and the entire admin and district kicked butt at trying to find ways to make cuts to everything besides staff,” Tucker said.

The Bellingham Education Association has also been involved in trying to reach a scheduling solution. “For the people that are using their positions, we’re trying to kind of find out if there are people that are retiring,” Sonya Morrison, French teacher and union representative for Sehome said. “We as departments are trying to hold onto our people as best we can, and offer alternatives.”

A few minutes before midnight last Sunday, the state legislature reached a deal for lifting the levy caps. For districts with fewer than 40,000 full time students, local levies up to the lesser of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value or $2,500 per student would be allowed; as would levies up to the lesser of $2.50 per $1,000 of property value or $3,000 per student for districts with more than 40,000 full time students, according to The Seattle Times. This was passed in an effort to alleviate the financial burden on school districts.