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Budgets Voted Down In Protest Of Staffing Cuts At Seattle Schools

The staff at 31 Seattle public schools have voted down their schools’ proposed budgets to protest job cuts the district is calling for this fall.

Ingraham High School administrative secretary Mary Smith said her school's staff rejected a budget that would turn the assistant secretary, attendance specialist and fiscal specialist from full-time to half-time positions.

"It’s just not feasible. It’s an unacceptable cut," Smith said.

Smith said the work in the front office would mount once her colleagues went home midday. "The phone would ring off the hook in attendance and counseling, and the fiscal specialist would not be able to finish her work in half a day," she said.

District officials said the cuts are necessary to help balance a $9 million budget shortfall the district faces next school year, due in part to slower-than-predicted enrollment growth.

But the Seattle Education Association teachers’ union has called for school employees to reject the cuts.

SEA President Jonathan Knapp said that along with the district’s regular $20 million reserve, it maintains a perennial $30 million additional reserve that should be used to balance school budgets.

Seattle Public Schools Central Region Executive Director Sarah Pritchett said that’s a misconception.

"That’s not just green dollars that are just sitting in a savings account, or something that’s growing interest and we’re just holding onto it," Pritchett said.

Instead, Pritchett said, the $30 million includes grants and other money that's earmarked for specific purposes and can't be shifted to prevent school staffing cuts.

Although the district cut $4 million from school budgets, it set aside $1 million that schools can apply for to maintain crucial positions.

So far, just seven of the 38 Seattle schools that have voted so far have approved their budgets for next school year. Dozens more schools are expected to vote next week.

For the schools that rejected their budgets, the next step is a mediation between the school, the district and the union.

If they can’t reach an agreement, the district can ultimately decide a school’s budget.

Year started with KUOW: 2008