Education department projects low impact

'Our teachers will get jobs if they want jobs,' ... education majors need not worry amid a $31 million budget deficit in the Spokane Public Schools district next year


A group of students raise their hands in response to the teacher. The EWU Education department said that the upcoming Spokane Public Schools budget deficit is nothing new and is known as a funding cycle. | Nicole Honeywill

By Sam Jackson, Copy Editor

As over a hundred teachers face potential layoffs in the Spokane Public Schools district, job opportunities in Spokane for future teachers graduating out of EWU could be at risk. 

“This deficit has hit our area clearly but it is part of cycle of education and the funding that goes with it. So there’s pros and cons,” said Carissa Gran, director of field experience for the EWU department of education. 

In early April, a total of 325 SPS employees received layoff notifications amid a $31 million budget deficit in the district next year. Though on Sunday, April 28, Washington state lawmakers approved to raise the cap on local levies for school districts throughout the state. The decision could help the SPS budget crisis, but it’s too early to know for certain. 

Tara Haskins, chair of the department, told The Easterner that she’s seen situations like this, known as “funding cycles,” and recalls one specifically in 2008. In 2011, The Spokesman-Review reported 238 layoff notifications for employees of SPS.

“This funding cycle is in a different space than it was a few years ago and will likely be in a different space in a few years from now … and I’ve seen this,” Gran said. “It comes and it goes. And we do our best to meet the needs of the students that are in our regional schools as well as support candidates that are looking to go to the west side or Alaska. We have candidates that go all over the world.”

Gran works directly with the education department’s partner districts including SPS. She works to build relationships and partnerships to place students (candidates) in those schools for internships. She said the budget deficit in SPS isn’t affecting this process right now. Gran often asks the partnering districts what areas they need the most in to figure out what the department can do to prepare candidates to best suit those needs. 

“We have to respond to workforce needs, that’s one of our standards,” Haskins said.

Ashley Watts, a substitute teacher in Spokane and EWU alumna, told The Easterner in a Facebook message that the biggest effect of the layoffs for her is that trying to apply for jobs in Spokane is hard now.

So many layoffs means more experienced teachers are applying for the same jobs, (there’s) mostly just fear about how SPS is handling teacher salary and the competition for smaller district jobs.”

— Ashley Watts, Spokane substitute teacher & EWU alumna

“So many layoffs means more experienced teachers are applying for the same jobs,” Watts said. (There’s) mostly just fear about how SPS is handling teacher salary and the competition for smaller district jobs.”

Haskins agrees that EWU places a lot of graduates into Spokane, but said there are rural areas outside of Spokane teachers are needed known as “content areas.”

“Our teachers will get jobs if they want jobs,” Haskins said in reference to students that are willing to move or look where teachers are needed most.

Haskins and Gran agree that this is just a part of the education funding cycle and the SPS administration and other employees will do the best they can by the students within the district. 

“I feel I can say that because of conversations I have with our partners,” Gran said. “That I know their goal is always to do what is best for students and to meet those needs in any way they can.”

“Impacts to classified staff are expected to be communicated by May 2,” according to a news release regarding the budget deficit by SPS superintendent Dr. Shelley Redinger. The decisions revolving around the plan for the budget are still underway. 

The EWU education department is confident in adjusting advising methods for students graduating and becoming teachers in Spokane, according to Haskins. 

“I believe people go into teaching because they want to make a difference in kids’ lives,” Haskins said. “And I believe that everybody involved will do their best and (work) their hardest to make sure those K-12 students aren’t affected. I just think that teachers are passionate people, that’s it’s not a self interest.” •