School district proposes $19 million in cuts, and some parents feel the district lied to them
Some waited for hours just to talk for less than three minutes.
That is how much they wanted to be heard.
It has been a couple of days now since the latest school board meeting for Evergreen Public Schools. More than 50 people signed up for public comment, most to give board members their opinion on the proposed cuts for the next academic year’s budget.
John Boyd, the superintendent of Evergreen Public Schools, announced on March 7 that the district had to cut $19 million from the budget, and the proposals included teachers, librarians, at-risk advocates, paraeducators, athletic directors, and more. On Tuesday, Boyd gave the official proposal to the school board.
There was no vote on the proposal this week, but there were a number of people who were moved to speak out against the proposed cuts.
It took more than two and a half hours to get through public comment. The entire school board meeting — with the proposal for the cuts from Boyd and his administrative team and public comment — can be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMy8M0TPuno&list=PLRpvYk4gjB0VtcvOutphj33SLikq2F7Lx
Here are just some of the comments made to the school board.
Chuck, a parent, noted that the district had threatened to cut positions last year if the levy did not pass. The levy did pass, and yet, a year later, the same positions are on the proposed cut list.
“You lied to us,” Chuck said. “You’ve broken our trust.”
Another parent, Carmela, noted that as a new homeowner, she is paying attention to levy and tax information for the first time. She said she and her husband hesitantly voted yes on last spring’s levy because her children came home and said their favorite teachers were going to be fired if the levy did not pass.
“Those were lies,” Carmela said. “Teachers were misled. They were manipulated. They were also manipulated to lie to the kids to have them come home and feed us lies to get bought into what you guys want us to do.”
She called the series of events sad.
“It creates a lack of trust for me, as a homeowner, who is going to vote on future levies,” Carmela said.
A spokesperson for Evergreen Schools said Thursday that if the levy had not passed, the proposed cuts would have been tens of millions of more dollars.
As far as what’s next, there is a vote scheduled for the March 28 board meeting on a resolution for a modified educational program. That, a spokesperson said, allows the district to move forward with the elimination of certificated staff. The 2023-24 school year budget will be finalized in August.
For now, many in the Evergreen community are upset for those who will potentially be out of a job and they are concerned about the impact the cuts will have on the students.
On Tuesday, some Evergreen employees on the cut list spoke during public comment, reminding the board of their responsibilities. Other employees showed up to speak on behalf of colleagues.
Athletes showed up to support their athletic directors.
One employee, parent, and union leader wondered why so few cuts are coming from the central office in the district. She named dozens of positions on the cut list at the high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools.
“The cuts never end unless you’re at the district office, especially if you are in a senior role,” she said. “Where are the cuts from above at the district office?”
One librarian brought a notebook and wanted to read a story to the board members.
“Once upon a time …” she started, before ripping out the page. She started again, then ripped out another page. And another. She noted it’s a pretty bad story without the main characters.
She referred to board members who can be the authors of this story and make for a happy ending.
“You hold the pages now. What will you write?”
Also on the proposed cut list are family resource coordinators. Several spoke up on their behalf, noting that while enrollment at Evergreen Schools is decreasing, the number of homeless students is on the rise. One official noted that 1,200 students in the district are experiencing homelessness.
Another parent recently moved to the Northwest from Louisiana, in part because of the schools. But now, she is not so sure that things are better here.
“Education is feeling like it’s starting to fail,” Latasha told the board. “How are you setting our children up for success?”
She concluded her three minutes with this:
“Please hear our voices. It’s not a cry. It’s a never-ending call for action,” she said. “We together, as a community, as a village, must do better.”
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Evergreen reports they lost about 13% of their student population. That should work out to roughly 3300 students. The district gets about $12,000 per student per year from the State. That would mean a shortfall of about $39 million?
Here’s the OSPI report card website: https://washingtonstatereportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/ReportCard/ViewSchoolOrDistrict/100084 It shows (22/23) 22,676 students.
In 2022 Evergreen convinced the voters that they needed a new levy with a big increase. Here’s an article from that time: https://swweducation.org/evergreen-school-district-levy-february-2022/
In 2022 they knew they were losing students but chose not to tell the public. They knew that they would have a shortfall in funding. Why didn’t the school board tell the public?