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Seattle Parents Protest District's 'Half-Baked' Plan For Teacher Cuts

Ann Dornfeld
With prices starting at $5,000 for a brownie, this bake sale was meant to raise awareness more than money.

This was not your usual bake sale.

"We’ve got some Bum Deal Brownies, Overcrowding Oreos, B.S. Banana Bread, Forget the Kids Fig Bars," laughed Darcey Pickard as she showed off the pastries parents had donated for Tuesday's “Half-Baked Sale” on the sidewalk outside the Seattle Public Schools district headquarters.

“Half-baked” is what parents call the district’s plan to move an estimated two dozen teachers out of schools this fall due to lower than projected enrollment and the accompanying loss of revenue those students would have brought.

District officials said they move teachers around every year once they figure out enrollment numbers. But it doesn’t usually happen on this scale. Parents and teachers say it would not be a perennial issue if the district made better enrollment projections and built more wiggle room into school budgets.

Parent Casey Peplow said Concord International Elementary in South Park is slated to lose a first-grade teacher – possibly in her son’s class. Peplow said she’s moved around a lot looking for work, and she wanted her son’s school experience to be predictable.

"One of my concerns is stability for him and having a teacher and a group of classmates and peers that he feels really comfortable with," Peplow said.

Peplow said if a teacher is cut at Concord, a first-grade class will be combined with a kindergarten class. That would be complicated by the fact that kids at the international school take classes in both English and Spanish, and because the school has a high rate of low-income families and English language learners.

"Parents and teachers are not being included in the decision-making process. We are not being presented with the challenges and given an opportunity to come up with a solution. We are being told after the fact, or just barely before, here’s what’s going to happen to your school, to your kids, to our students, to your teachers," Peplow said.

School officials said some elementary schools will have as many as 32 students in a class after the cuts.

District officials turned down KUOW’s interview requests. But in a letter to families, they say 675 fewer students enrolled than expected. That means a loss of more than $4 million – which translates into smaller staffing budgets for schools.

Officials said the teachers with contracts will still have jobs, including in schools where enrollment was higher than projected.

The district said the cuts are still a work in progress, so it’s not yet clear how many positions will be pulled, or at which schools. But principals at many schools have been given until the end of the week to figure out which teachers will go and how their schools will handle the loss.

Year started with KUOW: 2008