Q13 FOX Season of Giving

More positions eliminated in Tacoma School District

TACOMA, Wash. -- It's tough when you have to lay off anyone much less right before the holidays.

Tacoma Public Schools says they are in for some rough times.

The district says they are in trouble because of a budget shortfall.

The school district eliminated 19 positions last month. Now this week they announced another round of 13 cuts.

There are a number of people who worked at the administration building at Tacoma Public Schools that will no longer be back after the holidays.

“We need to balance our budget,” Tacoma Public Schools Spokesperson Dan Voelpel said.

Some of the positions cut were vacant and the district says some people managed to move to other roles within the district. But the district could not save the majority of the 32 positions eliminated which were administrative positions. Some were high-level jobs like the Assistant Superintendent and Assistant Director of Students.

The most recent job cuts saved Tacoma Public Schools about $2 million but they still have to make up $5 million this year meaning more job layoffs are coming.

The district says they are looking to possibly cut 10 more positions by next month.

“If the district needed to look at restructuring I am going to say it was beyond time,” Tacoma Education Association President Angel Morton said.

Morton says the district was too top heavy to begin with unnecessary administrative positions. But the Voelpel says they had those roles for a reason.

“Tacoma is the largest low-income school district in the state,” Voelpel said.

He says Tacoma needed the extra support to help the low-income population.

So the question is how did the district`s finances become so dire?

“The landscape changed on us very dramatically,” Voelpel said.

He`s talking about the state's new formula of funding local school districts. In Tacoma`s case, Voelpel says it significantly lowered the amount of local levy dollars available to them and then there was the teacher weeklong teacher strike before the beginning of school this year.

After a contentious battle, the union won a significant pay raise of about 14% jump in salary leaving the district in more of a hole.

Morton says the fight was worth it saying educators finally feel respected.

“We can run special programs until the moon and back but it`s the person working with those kids every day that makes a difference in their lives,” Morton said.

That’s why Tacoma Public Schools says they are doing everything they can to not touch teacher jobs but they may not have a choice by the end of next year.

“We anticipate some of those cuts will be in the schools themselves,” Voelpel said.