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    Student Enrollment and School Staffing Update
    Posted on 02/27/2021

    On Feb. 23 SPS school leaders received staff allocations for school year 2021-22.

    Early staffing, although not final, is needed so that SPS does not miss out on hiring top candidates, especially in hard to fill positions. In addition, early enrollment projections are conducted so we meet state law which requires we notify SEA represented staff if there is a need for a Reduction in Force (RIF) by May 15, and to support space and materials planning.

    The district receives funding from the state to pay educators based on the number of students enrolled. For many years, including this current school year, we have been able to mitigate a decrease of student enrollment or shifts in enrollment between schools. Our 69.8M budget shortfall projected for 2021-22 limits the funding we have available to hold schools harmless for a loss of students.

    Student enrollment was down in 2020-21 and we expect that to continue next school year because of the pandemic. Families are making different choices for their children as private schools, charter schools, and neighboring districts increase in-person instruction and SPS remains primarily remote. Some families are also making a choice to homeschool.

    School year 2020-21 actual enrollment is 1,646 students less than what was budgeted and staffed for, which equals a decrease in revenue of $22M. We did not make any staffing reductions this school year, which means staffing levels for 2021-22 need to be adjusted for our actual enrollment, plus an additional 216 projected student decrease.

    These school-based positions include classroom educators, administrators, and classified staff. Most of the reduction is at the elementary level.

    At the high school level, the enrollment shifts are primarily due to an increase of grade levels at Lincoln High School and movement of students from Ballard and Roosevelt High Schools to Lincoln.
    Any changes to school staffing are challenging for school communities and we wish the situation was different for our students, staff, and families. Disruption is hard, and it is especially hard during this time of great uncertainty. These staffing decisions aren’t made without considering numerous alternatives. As outlined in our current budget shortfall story the district has plans in place to spend half of its rainy day fund, and to maximize capital funding as ways to try and limit cuts to schools. This leaves very few options and little flexibility to address the continued drop in student enrollment.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    If more students enroll or students move to other schools will the district adjust staffing again? 
    June and Fall adjustments are part of the district’s regular staffing process and will be made if needed this year. During the school choice process, that began on Feb. 1, families can apply to have their children attend a school outside their attendance area. After the school choice process ends on May 31, waitlist moves are made, and new students may continue to enroll throughout the summer. Fall staff adjustments are made again after the final enrollment count in October.

    Are there school-based sources of funding to help mitigate displacement of staff?
    Every year, most schools don’t spend their entire budget and roll funds to the following year. For example, as in previous years, millions of dollars ($7M dollars in school year 2019-20) are also available in school accounts. Schools may use these dollars to stabilize staffing.

    Will my child’s teacher or other school staff lose their job?
    If there is a Reduction in Force (RIF), it will be limited. Every year, the district has an average of 400 educators leave the district. We anticipate that most teachers, instructional assistants, and classified staff will find jobs within Seattle Public Schools. On average 15 to 25 school leadership positions are available each year. We are hopeful that every displaced staff member will find a position in SPS.

    When there are RIFs they tend to occur in specialized areas like Career and Technical Education, languages, or with staff that have limited endorsement areas such as Language Arts only or Social Studies only. RIFs also influenced by each school’s programmatic focus.

    How are February staffing allocations generated?
    Once the February student enrollment projections are finalized, data is sent to the budget team. The budget team uses the same Weighted Student Staffing (WSS) formula to generate staffing allocations. School leaders and central staff are represented on the WSS team and each year the formula is reviewed and revised.

    How does the Weighted Student Staffing (WSS) formula address racial equity?
    The WSS uses an Equity Tiering Methodology that has four tiers created by using both the number and percent of total school enrollment represented by students of color, English Learner students, and students experiencing homelessness. This methodology results in higher levels of resource and funding allocations to our schools serving these students. Examples include smaller class sizes in elementary schools and counselors.

    How were school leaders engaged in budget reduction decisions?
    School leaders are part of an internal committee that develops and adjusts both staff allocations and our WSS equity tiering methodology. This group meets on a regular basis and spent a considerable amount of time this fall providing guidance.

    How were the 2021-22 projections calculated?
    The staffing process starts in December when an expert team predicts the following year student enrollment. The team considers:

    • population
    • registration
    • birth rates
    • economic trends
    • housing
    • neighboring district trends
    • opening of new SPS schools, and more

    This year, the team also had to consider the potential that if the district remains remote or in a hybrid model this fall, we are likely to see another drop in enrollment.

    What is the difference between a displacement and a Reduction in Force (RIF)?
    Displacement occurs within a building or central department and RIF is district wide. Displacement occurs when a budget reduction or staffing decision requires a reduction of SEA represented positions in a school or program. If a staff member is displaced, they are eligible for other positions in the district for which they are qualified. A Reduction in Force (RIF) occurs after district-wide staffing is complete and it is determined that there is a greater number of staff than funded positions. A RIF results in layoffs.

    How does recall from RIF work?
    The recall period for laid-off employees shall be renewable on an annual basis by the former employee for a two-year length of time. Recall is done in seniority order within category and job title as positions become available. Classified employees must inform Employment Services by the 10th of every other month beginning in September that they are available to return to work.

    Have additional questions? You may send additional questions about the SPS budget shortfall for 2020-22 to