The parent donated to Alki Elementary — not his child’s school — because he wanted to send a message about school funding.
Brian Jones isn’t a politician. He says he’s just a parent who’s angry about public-school money problems. So over the weekend, after hearing that Seattle Public Schools plans to reassign teachers as a result of lower-than-projected enrollment, he donated $70,000 to help keep one teacher in place — and not at his own child’s school.
One of Jones’ two daughters attends Loyal Heights Elementary in northwest Seattle. The other is in preschool. His donation went to Alki Elementary in West Seattle, the first school he saw that was going to lose a teacher due to the district’s budget-related shuffling.
“When I saw what they were doing in West Seattle, I got really upset,” Jones said Monday morning. “I don’t even know anyone over there, but I made the donation to basically say, ‘Shame on you’ to the Legislature, and the school district, and the mayor. It takes the parents to solve the problem that they can’t.”
The Ballard resident said he hopes his donation, first reported on the West Seattle Blog, will send the message that elected officials should make public education a priority.
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The school district said late last week that about two dozen teachers will be reassigned to different buildings or positions, largely due to lower-than-expected enrollment, which means the district won’t get as much money from the state.
No one will be laid off, as teachers are under contract, but teachers will be moved from some schools to others, depending on whether they were over or under their individual enrollment projections. Some of them will replace long-term substitutes, who originally were assigned to a single school and now will move back into the regular substitute pool.
The district hasn’t released a list of which schools will lose or gain teachers, or a date for when the transfers will take effect. A number of schools have already announced that they will lose teachers, however.
Parent organizations at several schools have planned fundraisers, petitions and protests in response to the reassignment plans. With Jones’ donation, the Alki parent group reached its goal of $90,000 on Crowdrise.com, a crowdfunding website.
A district spokeswoman, however, said Alki and any other schools that raise enough money will still have to go through a formal process before the funds are accepted to keep a teacher, which she said is similar to what happens when schools receive grants.
“We always encourage parents and community members who want to support children in Seattle Public Schools,” said Stacy Howard. “And we would also encourage this parent and others, to learn as much as they can about the Legislature’s responsibility to fund K-12 education in Washington state.”
The school’s principal referred all questions to Howard.
Jones owns a documentary production company with his wife. He said he didn’t make the donation for the attention, but to start a conversation about funding.
“There are two things that we need more than anything to better our society: great education and loving families,” he said. “That’s it, period. That’s all I care about.”
Other groups have planned two events for Tuesday at the district’s headquarters in Sodo. Teacher Retention Advocate Parents — T.R.A.P. — will hold a “Seattle Public Schools Half-Baked Sale” on the lawn of the building from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to protest the cuts and “highlight the absurdity of trying to fund basic education with bake sales and carwashes.”
Later, teachers, parents and students from schools affected by the reassignments will stage a protest at 4 p.m. at the district building at 2445 Third Ave. S.
A smaller number of reassignments happened last year, but parents from at least one school — Gatewood Elementary — raised enough money to keep a teacher who otherwise would have been transferred to another building.