MUKILTEO, Wash. - Mukilteo School District (MSD) has become the latest school district in western Washington to slash its budget for the upcoming school year.
The cuts add up to roughly $23 million, though a spokesperson tells FOX 13 News that they hope some of the positions on the chopping block can be rehired if enrollment rebounds. In total, a plan approved by the school board on Monday night cuts upwards of 100 employees.
A letter sent to parents from Superintendent Alison Brynelson called the cuts "heart-wrenching decisions."
According to the MSD, the new plan $7.5 million can be cut by eliminating certain operating supplies, equipment, survey programs and curriculum. The rest of the cuts are individual employees ranging from teachers, paraprofessionals, support teachers, administrators, office workers, and maintenance employees.
"We are very aware that each position has a face, name and livelihood attached to it," said Brynelson.
The cuts come as a number of districts throughout the state deal with similar issues: decreased enrollment, one-time federal funding from the pandemic is gone after this school year, and a lack of state funding.
In terms of enrollment, a school spokesperson told FOX 13 that roughly 600 students left the district during the pandemic, and that the return of students to the district didn’t materialize as pandemic restrictions eased.
Perhaps the largest factor of district budget shortfalls, including MSD, comes from the 2018 McCleary decision which required the state to pay for all basic education costs. The initial influx of money was considered a "win." There was even money earmarked for districts with higher cost-of-living called "regionalization," though it was set to decrease every year, which has widened the gap between what the district gets from the state, and what they need to pay staff as inflation has raised the cost of living in the area.
"It doesn’t necessarily meet the full need of delivering the full education and the services that we feel students need," explained Diane Bradford, the district’s communications director.
Mukilteo is hardly alone in the budget crunch. Earlier this year, Bellevue Schools decided to merge schools despite pushback from parents and teachers. Seattle Public Schools is considering cuts to a variety of programs – including band classes that have won the district praise in the past.
A few miles away from Mukilteo, Everett Public Schools is dealing with a similar situation: cuts have been floated to fix their budget shortfall as well.
"If you’re losing enrollment, federal dollars are going away, inflation is eating you up, districts have to respond today to that and make those hard cuts," said State Superintendent Chris Reykdal in an interview addressing budget problems at schools around the state.
In Mukilteo, there is hope that enrollment will climb next year, which could allow for additional hires in the near future.
The School Board President Judy Schwab told parents in a written letter that they’ve survived similar budget cuts in the past.
"I know we can rise above these challenging times in the long run," she wrote. "We want our community to know their board and the district will continue to focus on our mission of success for every student and to advocate with legislators for full funding to accomplish that essential goal."
In the short term there are no major changes slated in the legislature that would alter current funding models. In fact, MSD is at its cap in terms of local levee dollars it collects to help fund any gaps in the budget left by the state.
It’s unclear what could be on the horizon, but any major changes would have to be taken up in the next legislative session as the legislative calendar has moved beyond the time of year when new bills are considered.