In an effort to show the public that state funding cuts hurt, Seattle Public Schools plans to shut down for one full day before school starts, and close school early on another day during the school year.
Principals have agreed to take Aug. 31 as a furlough day, and the district announced Wednesday that it has reached a tentative agreement with the Seattle Education Association for teachers and school support staff to do the same, plus a half-day later in the year.
The hope is to highlight the effect of $1 billion in school funding cuts statewide that lawmakers approved last spring, including the decision to reduce base salaries of teachers and school support staff by 1.9 percent, and those of principals by 3 percent.
“The state has somewhat arbitrarily cut this,” said Duggan Harman, the district’s executive director of finance, referring to the salary reductions. “Seattle doesn’t have the choice except to shut down.”
The Aug. 31 closure will be a few days before the school year starts Sept. 7. It will affect training and other activities scheduled for that day. The district’s enrollment office will be closed, too. Nearly all district staff will be gone, Harman said.
The other half-day will occur in January or February, when the district and the teachers union may go to Olympia together to voice their concerns.
The union originally proposed scheduling both days during the school year, said Executive Director Glenn Bafia, but the district didn’t want to do that.
Harman said Aug. 31 “was the day we felt worked best to…minimize the impact on kids.”
The furlough days are part of tentative agreements with teachers, principals and other school employees on how to handle the loss of $4 million in what the district gets for their pay. Under their union contracts, many affected employees didn’t have to accept the reductions.
Similar discussions are going on in school districts all over the state. In some, teachers are absorbing all or part of the losses through furloughs. In a few, the district essentially is picking up the tab by using savings or cutting expenses.
In Seattle, Harman said, “we did not feel that, given the reductions we’ve already made over the last three years, that we could just simply…backfill for this loss in state revenues.”