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Seattle Public Schools' enrollment dip to cause $28 million loss in state funding

Seattle Public Schools is expected to receive a $28 million decrease in state funding next year due to a drop in enrollment.

SEATTLE — Seattle Public Schools (SPS) is starting the 2021-2022 school year with 1,300 fewer students across the 104 schools in the district.

The decrease will impact how much money the district receives in state funding for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year.

With the drop, the district currently has 50,000 students enrolled this year, according to SPS spokesperson Tim Robinson.

Robinson said the decline is equivalent to about $28 million in state funding that will not be awarded to the district for next year’s budget.

Even though the budget impact will not happen until next school year, Robinson said some changes have already been made this year because of the enrollment shift.

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“There are some schools that had more enrollment than were anticipated, and they have to make adjustments by getting more educators in,” explained Robinson. “We had approximately 12 schools that had to make adjustments with losing staff, and it was about a total of 10 full-time positions in four or five part-time positions. None of them were laid off. They would just be reassigned to other schools.”

Some district staff studies the area’s demographics year-round, but Robinson said enrollment is a complex issue, which makes it difficult to narrow down a specific cause for any shifts.

Looking ahead to next school year, Robinson said the district cannot say if there will be any impacts to programs.

This year, 300 students are enrolled in a pilot program for virtual learning while the district is back to full-time in-person instruction.

“Seattle Public Schools is it is such a large organization that every year we lose between, around 500 teachers through retirement,” said Robinson. “There’s a lot of turnover, and so within that, we're able to make changes and adjustments for our budget to be balanced.”

There are 4,300 teachers in the district as of this year, according to Robinson.

KING 5 reached out to several other districts of all sizes to find out where their enrollment statistics stand, but some were not ready to share final enrollment totals. A spokesperson for a smaller Washington district told KING 5 while there are early indicators of lower enrollment, the final count will not be made until mid-October.