When: Wednesday May 1 from 8:20-8:55am
ALL students deserve:
- Four full years of courses in all core subject areas
- Culturally responsive curriculum and staff
- Opportunity to thrive in all subjects, not simply to meet graduation minimum requirements
All Seattle Public High Schools must offer students these opportunities. When cuts must happen, equity demands we unapologetically address the needs of students of color who are furthest from educational justice.
Due to the shortfalls in our district, and the district under-projecting Rainier Beach’s enrollment for the 7th year in a row (see graph below), we are having to let go of:
- 0.2 Art teacher position
- 1.0 Social Studies teacher
- 1.0 English Language Learner (ELL) Social Studies teacher
- 1.0 Math teacher
- 1.6 Literacy and Spanish support positions currently funded by the state IB grant.
The district used a lens of equity when making budget decisions this year. This was an important step, yet still resulted in cuts that will have devastating impacts on the students whom this equity framework is designed to protect. This letter is meant to clarify the impact of the cuts that were made to Rainier Beach High School’s budget. The undersigned community members, educators, students, and parents publicly demand the full restoration of 4.8 FTE (or just under 5 full-time educator jobs) to RBHS’ 2019-2020 budget immediately so that we can retain essential staff and continue to provide the instruction necessary for our students to succeed.
The staffing cuts forced on Rainier Beach High School (RBHS) will result in denying our students four full years of Social Studies, a requirement for access to the nation’s best universities, best practice for preparing students for their SBA (Smarter Balanced Assessment), and for their preparation for the International Baccalaureate (IB) program in their junior and senior years. This presents a tremendous challenge to equity at Seattle’s high school with the highest population of students of color (97%) and the highest poverty rate (82%).
The Superintendent’s strategic plan states, “WE focus on ensuring racial equity in our educational system, and unapologetically address the needs of students of color who are furthest from educational justice, and work to undo the legacies of racism in our educational system… BY doing the following: ● Allocating resources strategically through a racial equity framework.” There is no greater attack on equity than denying students with the highest need access to an education that is sufficient to apply to competitive colleges: four full years of their core subjects in high school. In addition to the Social Studies department losing a full 1.0 position, the ELL department (which serves over 1 in 5 RBHS students) is losing 1.0 ELL Social Studies as well. This is going to cause extreme overcrowding in classrooms that are already this year, even with these two positions, well over the “limit” of 32 students per class. Even with full 4.0 Social Studies staffing, some classes this year have been made to serve 38 students in a single class.
RBHS also faces loss of a math position, cuts to IB Arts and Literacy support classes. At the current funding level, students entering above grade level are unable to take four years of Mathematics at Rainier Beach. If the Superintendent and School Board truly want to “undo the legacies of racism,” then we cannot deny students of color the ability to go to their neighborhood school and still be competitive for college. How is this equitable funding when the school with the most students of color is also the only school that doesn’t offer a Pre-Calculus course?
Historically, the District has under-projected enrollment and dealt with this by adding back positions in September, October or later (see chart below). This results in the loss of experienced teachers with a history of dedication to this community and training in IB frameworks; it forces us to hire so late in the year that we have difficulty even filling the positions. It also means repeated loss of culturally competent educators that the district strategic plan intends to recruit and retain. The historic cycle has then included students who leave the school, not feeling like their educational needs can be met here.
Nevertheless, the Rainier Beach test scores, student growth, IB program enrollment, and graduation rates have all been growing steadily and the student population has doubled in the last five years. As we await the building of a new campus, these cuts represent a tremendous threat to our progress.
This year, we will be losing an essential Social Studies teacher due to these cuts. Tess Williams has been involved in the grassroots activism bringing Ethnic Studies to Seattle Public Schools as a member of the Ethnic Studies Task Force and the Ethnic Studies curriculum writing team. The Social Studies department is in the middle of vertically aligning their four years of instruction with the Ethnic Studies Frameworks, and starting the practice of looping our Social Studies teachers from year to year with the students. Ms. Williams and her students were expecting to spend another year together studying identity, systems of power and oppression, resistance and liberation, and reflection and action. Her expertise and experience are essential to the vision of the department here and aligns with the school board’s approval of supporting the implementation of ethnic studies on a broader scale. Students deserve ethnic studies and they deserve Tess Williams. Please help us retain her by restoring funding immediately.
As a newly designated Dual Immersion school and given the world language requirements of the IB program, our students need four full years of world language as a core course. Providing students only the bare minimum to meet graduation requirements denies them the recommended courses for a selective college and reduces their academic success in acquiring the language they are studying.
Rainier Beach has received national attention and accolades for its implementation of an IB for All approach to Language Arts and History, but with a large percentage of our students entering high school below standard in literacy, we need additional support to prepare students for success in these challenging college-level classes. This also helps qualify them for earning college credit in high school.
Our numbers indicate that we’ll get those positions eventually, but October, even June, will be too late.
Fully funding Rainier Beach is a matter of equity that the district has sworn to uphold. We are demanding immediate action for the success of our kids, the health of our community, and the survival of Rainier Beach. As can be seen in the chart below, South End schools are simply unable to compensate for staffing inadequacies with parent financial support. Where is the equity?
We, the undersigned community members, educators, students, and parents, demand the full restoration of 4.8 FTE to the Rainier Beach High School’s 2019-2020 budget immediately so that we can retain essential staff and continue to provide the instruction necessary for our students to succeed. In addition, we stand in solidarity with all Seattle Education Association members and Seattle Public Schools currently facing job and budget cuts.