‘With great pain’: Edmonds School Board directors approve budget cuts

Brier Elementary School music teacher Rochelle Hume addresses the Edmonds School Board directors about the importance of music in schools.

The Edmonds School Board voted April 23 to cut the school district’s 2024-2025 budget to compensate for a $10.6 million funding shortfall.

Eighteen speakers of all ages addressed the board members during the April 23 meeting to defend the arts and career and technical education (CTE) positions that would be cut, meaning the elimination of some educational programs.

Music, art and CTE are vulnerable to budget cuts because they are considered electives and not a core study such as English, math and science.

Superintendent Rebecca Miner said during the meeting that the classes and programs cut at the middle- and high school level will depend on the number of students who sign up for classes.

During public comments, Brier Elementary School music teacher Rochelle Hume explained to the school board the importance of elementary and middle school music programs and how diminishing of those programs will be felt in later years.

Hume gave the example of the loss of the Mountlake Terrace High School choir last year.

“Every part of this curriculum was designed by a collaborative, committed community of dedicated music teachers,” Hume said. “Leaving out any of the parts will have lasting effects.”

She said that even though the students are still getting a music education, not all beginning instrumental programs are created equal.

The Snohomish and Seattle school districts have sixth-grade beginning instruction four to five days per week versus the Edmonds twice-a-week model. The amount of instruction, Hume says, is a key aspect of those districts’ success.

Further, seventh and eighth graders cannot access or perform the same levels of music as other schools without an equitable learning foundation.

Speaker Don Tran credited his participation in school music programs with helping him receive an acceptance and full scholarship into his university of choice.

Another speaker, Liam Salas, graduated from Edmonds-Woodway High School and will soon graduate from the University of Washington with an engineering degree.

Salas explained to the board that his freshman year in high school was difficult, and he didn’t feel self-worth. The one thing he could depend on to pull him through his depression was going to jazz band every day.

Work Experiences paraeducator Christanna Fatty voices her concerns over the transition and consolidation of the career and technical education (CTE) program.

Unrelated to the budget, Christanna Fatty, a paraeducator with Work Experiences, a pre-vocational program that serves high school students with special needs, expressed her concern about the lack of input from staff, parents and guardians on changes to the program.

Fatty said that in the 30-minute meeting when the changes were communicated to her team, they asked what the plan was for the transition. 

The response from leadership was, “There is no plan.”

Fatty expressed her concern about the timeframe for forming a transition plan and executing it transparently and with the involvement of staff, students and families.

The budget reductions came for a vote, and despite the public outpouring, the directors had to make the hard choice.

Director Hawk Cramer moved to pass the reductions, stating “With great pain, I make a motion to approve.”

Director Hawk Cramer said, “With great pain, I make a motion to approve.”

The directors unanimously passed the motion.

The numbers below do not necessarily reflect the number of positions lost, but the maximum number that can be cut for the 2024-25 school year.

Classified Reductions 

– Up to 15 Professional Technical Positions

– Up to 2 Classified Administrator Positions

– Reduction in District-wide Custodial Hours

– Up to 4 Office Professional Positions

– Up to 12 hours/day ESC Office Professionals

– Up to 30 hours/day building Office Professionals

– Up to 20 Paraeducator Positions

Certificated Reductions 

– Up to 26 FTE Certificated Staff

– 3 Certificated Central Office Administrators

– 1 Certificated Assistant Principal

Positions Vacated and Not To Be filled:

– 1 Assistant Superintendent

– 0.2 Classified Director (resignation)

– 1 Central Office Administrative Assistant

– 1 Central Office Professional

During the 2023-24 school year, the district had to reduce staff by almost 40 positions and over 250 staff hours.

In the meantime, the Foundation for Edmonds School District announced its $2.25 million Save the Arts Campaign to protect the district’s arts programs.

Director Keith Smith advises parents and guardians to contact their legislators for sustainable school funding.

Director Keith Smith said during board comments that stable funding is needed and is possible, but it will require legislation.

Though he could not discuss options in depth during the meeting, Director Smith explained some possibilities in follow-up questions with My Neighborhood News Network. However, he admits that there is no perfect funding method.

One method, which Smith said will probably be unpopular, is to create a state income tax. Washington is one of only nine states without one.

Smith also suggested lowering the Washington State Estate Tax exemption from $2.193 million or lowering the state inheritance tax.

Another thing that would help, he said, is increasing the amount of affordable middle housing, such as condominiums.

“Because of the way the state does property taxes, it is more beneficial to tax a larger number of people a smaller amount,” Smith said. “It allows for you to gain more revenue without needing to raise any one person’s taxes, and it would help with our affordable-housing crisis.”

Also, there is a possible cap-and-trade system for pollution, with some of the funds going to education.

For now, Smith said students, parents, and guardians can only use their voices and voting power to hold legislators accountable for the promises made in their campaigns.

“I think that the stories that are being shared at our board meetings are great things to share. Point out the value of the arts and how budget cuts negatively impact children,” Smith said. “If nothing else, demand that state funding for education keep up with rising costs.”

In other business, the following items were approved after a single reading:

— Authorization for the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) replacement project at Mountlake Terrace High School.

— A DISH Wireless site lease agreement for a cellular communications facility at Meadowdale Playfields.

— The site lease agreement extension with Verizon Wireless for a cellular communications facility at Meadowdale Playfields.

— A contract to Pacific Mobile to move eight mobile classrooms from Oak Heights Elementary School.

The next board meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, at the district’s Educational Services Center, 20420 68th Ave. W., Lynnwood, WA 98036.

The meeting can be viewed online by clicking here.

To view the meeting agenda, click here.

— By Rick Sinnett

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