Education Funding

Frustrated Seattle Parent Donates $70,000 to Save Teacher’s Job

By Anthony Rebora — October 13, 2015 2 min read
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Here’s a curious bit of school finance news: A Seattle parent has reportedly donated $70,000 to save a teaching job at an elementary school that his own kids don’t even attend.

Perhaps even more interestingly, the guy says he did it to some degree out of spite: “My broader goal was to shame the [district] administration and the legislature and the mayor, for the fact that a private citizen and parents are putting up money to support children, because they’re doing nothing,” Brian Jones told local news station KIRO7.

At issue is the Seattle school district’s plan to reassign some two dozen teachers this year on account of lower-than expected student enrollments across the system, which has caused a reported $4 million drop in funding from the state.

In addition to staging protests, parent organizations at some of the affected schools have launched fundraisers to save their teaching positions.

Jones, who runs a documentary film production company, made his generous donation to Alki Elementary in west Seattle after reading that a parent group there had started a campaign to raise the $90,000 they were told they had to have to keep a jeopardized teaching slot.

Jones says he has no ties to Alki—his one school-age daughter goes to Loyal Heights Elementary in northwest Seattle—but was moved by the difficulty of the school’s situation and wanted to bring attention to what he sees as negligence on the part of lawmakers and education leaders.

“I’m not Bill Gates. I’m not—I’m a normal guy. And this was a large sum of money for me to do,” Jones told KIRO7.

In general, by reports, other parents’ donations and fundraising activities also seem intended in part to send pointed messages to policymakers about the budget situation.

According to The Seattle Times, a group called Teacher Retention Advocate Parents, or TRAP, was planning to hold a “half-baked sale” at the district’s headquarter’s today, in the group’s words, “to highlight the absurdity of trying to fund basic education with bake sales and carwashes.”

In response to parents’ concerns about the reassignment plan, a district spokesperson sought to direct attention to the state legislature’s “responsibility to fund K-12 education in Washington state” (via the Times article).

Frustrations over state education-spending levels have a well-documented recent history in Washington and were also aired by both sides in the recent teachers’ strike in Seattle.

Follow Anthony Rebora on Twitter for more news and analysis of the teaching profession.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.