For months, Kent schools have been in crisis-mode, anticipating more than 100 across-the-board layoffs. But this week, Gov. Inslee approved extra money for schools, which will move Kent back from the brink.
Kent School District officials on Friday walked back dire warnings about layoffs for 127 employees, including teachers, several days after Gov. Jay Inslee signed a new school-funding bill that will bring an extra $75 million to the state’s fifth-largest district.
The updated budget figures mean that Kent, which said it was facing a $19 million budget shortfall for the 2018-19 school year, will leave unfilled 60 positions from teachers who’d already planned to retire or leave for other jobs. But there will be no further layoffs, a district statement said.
Christie Padilla, president of the Kent teachers union, expressed relief tinged with continuing concern.
“I know I should be celebrating because there will be no layoffs,” she said. “But morale has been so low and now there’s such a lack of trust with the district office that I’m not sure how we are going to move forward.”
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For the past 18 months, Kent has been in financial-crisis mode, with spending on basic school supplies and class trips abruptly halted, dozens of administrator layoffs planned and parents wondering who to blame.
Padilla said finance that analysts with the Kent Education Association had been warning since 2014 that the district was spending down its rainy-day fund balance too rapidly while enrollments – now standing at about 27,400 students – remained relatively steady.
Neither Kent Superintendent Calvin Watts, nor his Director of Communications Melissa Laramie responded to requests for comment.