Mysterious Money Movement Changes Everything

Kali Martin and Gabriel Colman

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This year students may have noticed the larger class sizes, teachers teaching out of their expertise, elective classes full, and new teachers. These new aspects of the school are because of budget cuts throughout the district that occurred last year. First, students need to understand these cuts and why they happened: 

WA state is one of the many states that for too long, fought and demanded a raise on teacher’s salary, and at many points throughout WA districts, the teachers had to pull from their own money to pay for school supplies. Many students are not aware that the state of Washington has been going through a lawsuit for multiple years, in which the state was sued for not funding education appropriately. Recently, the state Supreme Court of WA finally ruled that the state of WA was not supplying enough for their public education, resulting in the need for a redistribution of money. As explained by an administrator, the districts were no longer able to use levies, a pool of money used for certain aspects in the district from taxpayer money, for teacher salary as some districts haven’t passed one in decades. Due to the new ruling, the state is now required to provide money to teachers. This was a complex process with the state due to the math needed, based on tax brackets of a district voter show out, as well as teacher union negotiations. Basically, in the end, there was a pay raise to teachers through union negotiations, but there were ramifications. Mrs. Kirk explained this process, “We have a pay scale that goes by years that you have been working in the school district to your education across the board.” She then discussed how the cutbacks came into play, “Once they had the pay increase then they had to look at cuts being made, which the union agreed to.” 

Due to the loss and the influx of a larger freshman class there are over-sized classes, with some teachers handling 37 students in a class. Though this is a bit unusual for Sehome, Mrs. Kirk explained to me that, “The district cut for the worst and hoped for the best, so they hoped that in the summer we could add more staff as we see where we are at.” Since these cuts were made last year without knowledge of the coming year, as well as levies and union negotiations being in-progress, the district had to cut and move staff, in the hopes that staff could be hired if needed.    

Though the cuts were needed for the negotiations of a pay-increase, outcomes were that were larger classes and packed electives. Mrs. Yaude, a teacher in the science program, emphasized how science classes, along with math and English classes, had some of the largest increases in class size. “What I feel about the high amount of kids in a classroom is that it’s not safe,” Yaude said, “Because in a lot of classes you have that many kids walking around with dangerous chemicals and various other things there’s just chances for accidents.”

A common thought of many teachers is that the high ratio of students to teachers can be dangerous and even makes teaching difficult at times. Another effect of the budget cuts is the fact that there are some teachers who are teaching out of their expertise. Mrs. Yaude mentioned, “Mrs. Auld teaches P.E one period. We’ve got teachers that are teaching outside their expertise and I think teachers always do better if their inside their area and if she’s teaching PE then she’s not teaching science and then that’s just one less course of science that’s not being offered and that’s kind of sad.” 

The changes this year are all connected to the cuts and redistribution of teachers throughout the Bellingham School District, with the hope to fix the consequences such as the large class sizes in the upcoming spring. 

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