Seattle, WA – November 17, 2023
Seattle Public Schools is exploring the prospect of consolidating schools following the 2024-25 academic year, as the district grapples with a deepening structural deficit.
Projections indicate a staggering deficit of $104 million for the 2024-2025 school year, escalating to $129 million in 2025-2026, and reaching $153 million by the 2026-2027 academic year. The district attributes this financial strain to inadequate state funding, a decline in enrollment, and prior staffing decisions.
During a recent school board meeting, Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Brent Jones emphasized the urgency of addressing the current budget shortfall through collective attention and strategic planning. “We are committed to tackling it in a manner that reflects fiscal responsibility, actively incorporates feedback from our community members, and ensures that our schools maintain a high standard of education,” Jones stated.
A presentation to the Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors outlines the 2024-2025 budget, anticipating cutbacks in the district’s central office, program adjustments, and reductions in school staffing to counter the budget deficit. However, there is no explicit mention of school consolidations for the upcoming school year.
Jones acknowledged the challenge of planning for 2024-25, stating, “What makes it so hard in 2024-25 planning is we don’t even really have funding to do adjustments, so we’re now down to the point where we’re looking at reductions.”
By May 8, 2024, Jones is expected to present a comprehensive plan for well-resourced schools, potentially involving school consolidations from 2025 through 2028.
Enrollment at Seattle Public Schools saw a decline of 4,900 students from 2019 to 2023, resulting in an $81 million drop in revenue. Presently, the district serves approximately 48,000 students across 104 school buildings. In stark contrast, district enrollment peaked in 1964 with 94,042 students spread across 117 buildings.
Addressing concerns, school board member Liza Rankin clarified that school closures and consolidations do not necessarily entail selling the buildings, leaving room for potential future use. Rankin also highlighted the possibility of an upward trend in birth rates, potentially leading to increased enrollment at Seattle Public Schools.
Superintendent Jones expressed optimism about the district’s future, asserting a belief that Seattle Public Schools will embody all the elements of well-resourced schools by 2030. The district envisions well-resourced schools equipped with fully furnished classrooms, cutting-edge technology, an adequate number of educators, and a diverse array of instructional materials.