Blaine School Superintendent gets budget increase (to nearly $15,000 per student) and announces plan to lay off teachers

Jun 14, 2019

On Tuesday, Blaine School District Superintendent Ron Spanjer (annual salary and benefits $221,000) announced he plans to lay off teachers.  Like all districts in Washington, Blaine has received large funding increases from state taxpayers over the last six years.  Last fall Superintendent Spanjer gave out pay raises he couldn't afford, putting his budget into deficit.  Now he wants to lay off teachers.

The Blaine School District, with five schools, employs 269 people. Of these, only 128, less than half, are teachers. Since 2014 the district’s budget has ballooned from $22.3 million to $33.2 million, a nearly 50% increase.  Blaine school spending rose from $11,000 per student in 2014 to almost $15,000 today, more than most private schools get.

Superintendent Spanjer’s troubles are part of a bigger picture. Last fall strikes by the powerful WEA union closed schools in thirteen districts, and union officials threatened the education of children in a dozen other districts.

To appease union power, many superintendents gave out unaffordable double-digit pay raises, which of course increased union profits from monthly dues.

This was part of the WEA union’s larger strategy to raise taxes and increase its own budget. After the legislature increased state property taxes for schools in 2017, the union in 2019 pushed for an increase in local property taxes too – and got it.  Governor Inslee and the legislature repealed the $1.50-per-thousand tax limit, breaking their no-more-local-taxes promise and opening the door to big increases in 2020.

As a regressive tax, these increases will hit poor families and the elderly hardest.  It will also reward property-rich districts at the expense of property-poor districts, increasing wealth disparity in the state.

In February eight school districts told lawmakers they plan to cut student programs and lay off teachers.  In May, the union spokesman, Rich Wood, told The Seattle Times that “The dire predictions that a lot of school districts were making, I don’t think have come true.”   

It is difficult identifying all the lies being told here.  Now Blaine superintendent is handing out pink slips and union seniority rules are getting young teachers in Spokane, Edmonds, Evergreen and Tacoma laid off.  

What a mess.  The legislature raises taxes for schools (again), and young teachers end up getting laid off.  The only common thread is that the WEA union appears to be calling the shots, using its considerable political clout to enhance its own money and power at the expense of teachers and programs for students.

Look for more strike threats this fall, and for higher local taxes starting early next year.  Expect the tax-increases-plus-lay-offs pattern to continue until students, parents and lawmakers join together to reduce the power of the WEA union holds over the education of children in our state.