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    Staffing Adjustments FAQ

    Staffing adjustments are disruptive and frustrating for staff, families, and students. While we work hard to reduce start of school disruption, some change is unavoidable.


    Seattle Public Schools (SPS) supports families in selecting schools and programs that best meet the needs of their children. SPS offers several educational options to families: neighborhood schools, option schools, the Highly Capable Cohort (HCC) pathway and school enrollment outside of their assigned neighborhood school, if seats and staffing are available.

    This commitment to family choice is supported during the open enrollment and school choice process (mid-February through the end of May) and can result in enrollment fluctuations and staffing changes at individual schools. In addition, during summer months we see enrollment fluctuation across the city.

    Why does Seattle Public Schools make staffing adjustments multiple times?

    Every winter, the district produces initial enrollment projections for the following school year. These enrollment projections are used to assess and plan for staffing, space, and material needs. The district supports family choice, so we also conduct an annual school choice process beginning in February. During the school choice process, families can apply to have their children attend a school outside their attendance area. Choice assignments are based on available seats and are made so that they do not impact staffing. After the school choice process ends on May 31, waitlist moves are conducted and additional entering kindergarten students enroll, then school projections for the fall are updated to reflect these changes.

    Why doesn't the district wait until June to do all of the school staffing?

    Early staffing in February, although not final, is needed so SPS does not miss out on hiring top candidates, especially in hard-to-fill positions like special education. In addition, early enrollment projections are conducted so that we meet state law, which requires we notify staff by May 15 if there is a need for a Reduction-in-Force (RIF), and to prepare buildings and begin purchasing resources for the district's anticipated number of students.

    Why do school districts make staffing changes at the beginning of the school year?

    Fall enrollment adjustments is a process all districts statewide implement to match the number of teachers with the actual student enrollment levels of each school. 2018-19 staffing recommendations were developed by a team of representatives from Teaching and Learning, Budget, Human Resources, Enrollment Planning, School Operations, and Capital Planning. The team considered multiple factors including equity and detailed school, class, and program configurations.

    What happened this school year (2018-19)?

    Initial enrollment projections were provided in early February to schools for staffing purposes. Based on the enrollment projections, we were expecting 53,667 students for our 2018-19 school year. By the sixth day of school, we had 52,943 students, which was below our projections and 437 students below enrollment for the 2017-18 school year. Our fall 2018 enrollment resulted in a net reduction in staffing, with some schools gaining staff and others losing staff. We know these changes are often stressful and confusing for schools, students, staff, parents/guardians, and principals. We are currently evaluating information we have that may answer what factors are contributing to the growth projections being less than anticipated.

    Why do you have to make staffing changes?

    School districts are reimbursed by the state for actual students attending school. Student attendance is reported to the state and state reimbursements correlate to Full Time Equivalent (FTE). FTE is the measurement of student’s enrollment and is used for funding.

    When actual student attendance differs from enrollment projections, a district must adjust expenditures by paying for more staff than the state reimburses or by adjusting staff between schools with higher than and lower than projected enrollment.

    Since you know enrollment will be different in the fall than projected in the spring, why doesn’t the district plan for difference?

    SPS plans for fall staff differences in enrollment by setting aside staffing mitigation resources. Those funds are used to adjust differences in actual staff ratios to ensure we address student equity and high student needs, support student IEPs, and lessen disruption at individual schools, honor our collective bargaining agreements, and follow state law.

    This fall, we used our mitigation resources to do all those things. However, actual enrollment for the 2018-19 school year is significantly lower than anticipated. In fact, it is the first year in 10 years that enrollment is lower than the year before.

    For this school year, the School Board approved $4M to address enrollment changes at the school level. The district’s set-aside (mitigation) funds are not enough to cover the actual projected revenue loss from the district’s lower enrollment. This year’s student count was 724 fewer students than projected, resulting in a revenue shortfall of $7.5M, leaving the district with a gap of $3.5M. This was addressed through $2M of staffing adjustments (net reduction of 21 FTE out of 3300 teachers) and curtailment of additional spending in key areas including central office. Of the 21 FTE staffing adjustments, some of those are vacancies.

    The outcome for schools, staff, and students is that the district needs to move educators from schools with lower enrollment to schools that need additional teachers.

    Why were you so far off in your enrollment projections?

    This year, SPS enrollment projections differ from actual enrollment by one-point-four percent. Seattle Public Schools is not alone in having fewer students than anticipated. Districts near Seattle including but not limited to Bellevue, Issaquah, Highline, Renton, Kent, Tukwila, and Federal Way are also experiencing lower enrollment, while districts further south have seen an increase. Reasons vary, but the cost of housing in our area compared to wages earned is a likely factor.

    District staff are committed to analyzing and better understanding the shifts in enrollment. Enrollment planning staff will be working closely with other districts, the city, and partners to produce more accurate student enrollment projections that consider new trends and variables in Seattle.

    Why is my school and not another being impacted?

    Staffing adjustments are made based upon school by school enrollment numbers. If a school is close to its enrollment projection, no changes were made to staff working in that school. When enrollment is much less than projected, staff is moved from a low enrollment school to a school with higher enrollment than predicted.

    Is racial equity a factor in determining what schools will have adjustments? My school serves high need students, why must those students experience a change?

    Schools with higher poverty and higher student needs do receive more staffing. The added staffing needs were considered and factored into all school staffing changes including alternative and re-entry schools.

    I heard the McCleary funding changes fixed school funding. Why are you not using the new money provided?

    Changes to the state funding formula advantaged some districts over others. Over time, the added state dollars for Seattle Public Schools are offset by a higher loss of local levy dollars. This means that SPS does not have the same local resources to pay for more staff. We have less budget flexibility than we have had in previous years.

    I heard that McCleary funding provides and requires staff for 17 students to one teacher class size in elementary grades. Why aren’t you following that requirement?

    Funding was allocated by the state for a ratio of certificated staff to students at 17:1. This includes certificated staff who provide P.E., music, art, or counseling services. For school year 2018-19, while districts were not required to meet that ratio to receive this funding, Seattle Public Schools did lower class sizes for grades K-3.

    Do these staffing changes lay off teachers?

    No. Contracted teachers will not lose their jobs. Teachers will be moved to other positions.

    Why can’t teachers stay at their schools and cuts be made to other non-teaching staff?

    Central office positions are needed to support school operations. However, during this time of projected budget shortfalls, only mission critical positions will be filled, central office hiring has been curtailed.

    What happens to staff who are being displaced?

    Once notified, these individuals will be placed in open positions based on their qualifications per the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Open hiring will continue for some positions. If enrollment increases at their original school, per the CBA, displaced staff have the right to return for two years, if a position is available. To exercise the right to return for the second year, they need to notify Human Resources by Feb. 1 of the first year.

    You can read more about the budget process on our Budget Office webpage.

    When will staffing changes be made at the school level?

    Staff have been informed if they will be impacted. Staffing shifts will take place October 1.

    For additional questions or to request expansion of the FAQ please email