May 2 message from the superintendent

Spokane Public School families,

Thank you for the support you have shown our students and staff during these really trying times and for the great questions and input as we enter the heart of the budget conversation. We are trying to be timely, honest, and transparent in our communication so that you can give us important feedback that matters.

The remaining budget variables are becoming clearer with the legislative action this week, so we want to be sure you have the latest information. Preparing the budget always has some challenges to work through and this year has extra complexities.

Today, we had difficult conversations with 72 staff members about their status for the next school year. We do not anticipate making any more layoff notifications and are working through the process of matching student-driven building needs to settle on a final staffing plan. That effort resulted in the recall of 11 teachers to meet isolated endorsement needs. Potentially, others may be recalled to meet class size requirements related to legislative action.

The notifications today were included in the original number of full or partial reductions announced last month. The number of total layoffs has been revised downward, based on additional retirements, resignations, and changed service delivery model, from 325 to 255.

Legislative update

After months of advocating for SPS students and families, we spent considerable time this week reviewing and analyzing the actions the legislature took in authorizing a biannual state budget.

  • Special education: SPS will receive approximately $1.2 million in additional funding. This begins to reduce the $7.2 million difference between the SPS cost of providing special education and the state allocation.
  • McCleary transitional funding: SPS will receive $4.8 million in one-time “hold harmless” funding “to help with the transition to the McCleary fix and help offset SEBB and K-3 class size limitations and other financial concerns districts face,” according to the Senate bill report.
  • K-3 class sizes: Meeting K-3 class size requirements this year will cost $2.25 million. The legislature did not extend the deadline to meet the requirements. New middle schools will free up elementary classroom space when sixth grade transitions out of elementary school.
  • School employee benefits: A mandated move to the School Employees Benefits Board will cost SPS $1.2 million more than the state is funding. The legislature voted to make the transition.
  • Local levy: The legislature raised local levy authorization from $1.50 per thousand of assessed value to $2.50. SPS has a current levy rate of $1.50 and a voter-approved capacity of an estimated $1.71, which could generate approximately $3.8 million additional revenue. The school board would have to ask voters to authorize anything beyond the current voter-approved capacity. The board will discuss the levy information over the coming months.

Community engagement will be a big part of the budget conversation over the next four months. Public open-house-style listening sessions are planned for May 14 at Shadle Park High School, May 15 at Rogers High School, and May 16 at Ferris High School. The community is invited to drop in between 5 and 7 pm on any of the dates for small-group discussions about budget topics that you have raised as priorities.

We encourage you to continue checking back to spokaneschools.org for the latest information and updates on the budget and other SPS news. We very much appreciate your support and engagement so that we can make the best decisions possible for students.

Shelley