Teachers struggle to pay for supplies as students return to the classroom

Seattle Public School budget allocations affect school

Zoe Isett, Copy Editor

According to the document “Seattle Public Schools 2021-2022 Adopted Budget,” Ballard High School will receive a total of $14,156,305 to support the financial needs of students and staff. This funding is supposed to account for general education, special education, bilingual education, state learning assistance and other grants.

In his introductory letter to the SPS Adopted Budget, Interim Superintendent Brent Jones explained how the district has carefully considered the effects of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic on Seattle families.

“The budget reflects the continued uncertainties created by the global health crisis caused by COVID-19 and the impact it has had on our community and students over the past year,” Jones wrote. 

Karen Kazanjian, Ballard High School’s Fiscal Specialist, explains how it is up to staff members to use the budget correctly and efficiently.

“There is a Budget Committee held every spring and we get the numbers that come in from the district telling us how much money we receive based on projected enrollment,” Kazanjian said.

The Budget Committee is composed of department heads, members of the Building Leadership Team, members of the Instructional Committee, as well as parents and students.

“So, based on projected student enrollment for the next fall, the district will say that Ballard can have a certain amount of teachers, and then it’s up to the committee to figure out the rest,” Kazanjian said. 

“Sometimes we have to cut one full-time employee, which is really hard, but if it’s a year where our enrollment is high, we [the budget committee] have a lot more fun,” Kazanjian said.

Another part of the Budget Committee’s job is to manage funding for school materials and supplies, including paper.

“I think we spend, in a normal year pre-COVID, up to $16,000 a year just on paper,” Kazanjian said.

Despite this seemingly large amount of funding, chemistry teacher Melissa Povey must rely on donations from Ballard families to support her class needs.

“My understanding is that the Science Department receives no funding in the budget, assuming that families will provide some support in the form of donations,” Povey said. 

This donation is a one-time request for $50 sent home with all students at the beginning of the school year, but it is in no way mandatory. 

Because the chemistry classes, especially AP Chemistry, need specialized supplies and equipment that tend to be more expensive, Povey estimates a high cost for her curriculum.

“I can spend $3000 just for supplies and things for the chem lab,” Povey said.

To cover any additional needs that donations cannot fill, the Science Department turns to the Parent Teacher Student Association, or the PTSA.

“I also write some grant requests to the PTSA because they’re very generous,” Povey said.

When in-person learning returned in fall 2021, Povey requested funds for sterilizer cabinets in all BHS science classes.

“Every middle and high school should have a couple of these sterilizer cabinets already, this is not unusual safety equipment because we share our goggles,” Povey said. “I think they were $750 each, so I asked for $2000 rounded.” 

Povey’s request was initially denied.

“I was told there was no money for that in the budget. Instead, Principal Wynkoop has funds that the PTSA had given him and he agreed to pay for one sterilizer cabinet out of PTSA money,” Povey said. 

These funding issues within the Science Department connect to wider national issues of budgeting education, but thanks to a hardworking BHS community and PTSA, teachers like Povey have been able to get the supplies they need.