At Seattle Public School’s State of the District address Tuesday, Superintendent Larry Nyland detailed the need for equity in the district of 54,000 students.
Part of that practice allows more affluent schools to pay for some teacher’s salaries and benefits.
“Parents really want to keep their numbers low for classrooms, so they end up supporting the teacher by fundraising on their own,” said Karen Wong, a parent who says Schmitz Park Elementary paid for a teacher in recent years.
Other schools find themselves in similar positions due to lower enrollment.
Families at McGilvra Elementary recently received a letter from the PTA explaining the situation. Due to the district’s decision to keep students in their neighborhood schools, McGilvra’s enrollment decreased 14% this year.
Instead of the usual 12 teachers it’s allocated, the school was allotted 10 teachers. The PTA raised enough from parents to fund the two positions.
Nyland blames the state for not fully funding schools.
“We’re torn. The state’s not funding adequately enough and so that does mean that we have some of our PTAs that have the ability to do that (fundraising), they step in and they help,” he said.
The state gives the district a pool of money. Then it’s up to the district to divide the money amongst the schools. Seattle said it does that based on poverty and equity factors, and that not everyone gets the same funding.
For instance, district officials said one school that has a 76 percent poverty level got $900,000 more funding from the district than a school with a seven percent poverty level.
“So the state formula does give smaller class sizes to schools that have a greater need,” said Nyland. “Those schools that have higher poverty get more money.”
Heidi Bennett is a public school parent advocate who said Seattle is an exception compared to other districts.
“Seattle Public Schools is one of the few districts in the greater Puget Sound area that does allow parents to buy staff,” she said.
“I firmly believe having been supporting fully funding education for over a decade that we would have more parents speaking up more firmly in the greater Seattle area if they had not been able to simply write a check.”
Nyland called on the state legislature to fully fund the state’s schools.