Parents unhappy over 2,900 teacher layoffs

Parents unhappy over 2,900 teacher layoffs
SEATTLE - Exasperated parents are voicing their disappointment over widespread teacher layoffs in Seattle and across the state that were imposed to meet a yawning budget gap.

The Seattle Public School District is planning to cut 172 teachers - or 5 percent of the workforce - in the 2009-10 academic year.

Statewide, some 2,922 teachers and 332 support professionals are losing their jobs, according to the Washington Education Association.

Now many parents are sounding off. They say education should be the one untouchable part of the budget as Washington state grapples with a $9 billion shortfall.

On a more personal level, some parents also find themselves faced with the difficult task of explaining to their children why a favorite teacher may not be back next year.

"I feel bad about it - because we need more teachers," says Mellchie Boyd, a parent of children in the Seattle Public Schools.

Nelly Mosqueda, a volunteer with the Seattle schools, says she is saddened by the education cuts.

"With all the money coming into the state, that they would pick on the most vital and the most central problem in the whole world," she says.

The teacher cuts were on the minds of parents attending a symposium at Seattle School District headquarters on Saturday.

The gathering was intended to get parents better connected with "how" and "what" their students are being taught, but many parents were more concerned about the effects of the teacher layoffs.

The layoffs are based on seniority so that means that the youngest and newest teachers are most affected by the cuts.

Several parents said they realize the Seattle schools need to get a handle on a $34 million budget gap, but believed the cuts in education are too severe.

Teachers, understandably, are upset, too.

Cleveland High School Spanish teacher Chris Wiley said she still hopes the state will make the cuts somewhere else.

"I would just hope that the district and the state would fund education, as our students are of the utmost importance. They're our future," she said. "It's very important to compensate teachers for the work that they do."

Seattle School Superintendent Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson noted that the district has also implemented a number of budget-cutting strategies to avoid putting the entire burden on teachers.

Those other strategies include a reduction in central office staff, hiring freezes, increased efficiencies in operations such as transportation and nutrition services, closing schools, a responsible use of reserves and freezing cost-of-living-adjustments, she said.

Friday was the deadline for school districts to issue layoff notices to certificated staff for the 2009-10 school year. The notices also are known as reduction-in-force (RIF) notices.

The WEA says teacher layoffs will result in overcrowded classrooms and are the direct result of the state Legislature's decision to cut $1.5 billion in school funding over the next two years.