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Amid budget cuts in other school districts, Bethel hiring for dozens of new positions

Tour examines need for Bethel Schools bond

Prior to the Bethel School District passing its first construction bond in 13 years, a tour was led to demonstrate need on Jan. 15, 2019. On Tuesday, Republican leaders voted to maintain the 60 percent majority required to approve school bonds.
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Prior to the Bethel School District passing its first construction bond in 13 years, a tour was led to demonstrate need on Jan. 15, 2019. On Tuesday, Republican leaders voted to maintain the 60 percent majority required to approve school bonds.

Bethel School District will start the school year with 75 new positions, including 67 new teachers.

With school starting on Sept. 5, many positions are filled, but some are still seeking applicants, with 50 jobs open district-wide, from bus drivers to teachers.

For teachers, pay ranges from $40,000 to $100,000 per year.

Meanwhile, Tacoma Public Schools will start the school year with 156 fewer positions.

The Puyallup School District added 22 new K-3 grade teachers but lost about 50 teachers from fourth through 12th grade.

As surrounding districts face budget cuts from a loss of local levy funding, Bethel appears, in some ways, to be an outlier.

What gives?

The answer lies in enrollment.

The Bethel School District has the third-largest enrollment district in the state, behind Tacoma and Puyallup. It’s also one of the fastest-growing districts in Pierce County, enrollment-wise.

Bethel took in 1,000 students over the past two years, reaching 20,000 students served this year, according to Bethel Superintendent Tom Seigel.

“We have so many more kids, we have to hire more teachers,” Seigel said.

The 75 full-time equivalent positions include 53.8 basic education teachers and 6.6 special education teachers.

Bethel receives $8,563 per pupil in basic allocation from the state, or roughly $171 million for all its students. That breaks down to an increase of $8.5 million for 1,000 new students.

Between 2014 and 2018, Bethel grew by more than 1,500 students, according to OSPI data.

In comparison, Puyallup School District grew by 1,200 students, while Tacoma’s enrollment decreased by more than 200 students.

Bethel’s enrollment doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

“Forecasters are predicting there will be 400 new housing units per year in the district for the next 20 years,” the district wrote in a press release. “That means the number of staff will continue to grow alongside the incoming number of new students, which is already over 20,000.”

As of 2018, Bethel was the eighth largest employer in Pierce County at 2,028 employees, behind Puyallup (2,190) and Tacoma (3,333) school districts, according to the Economic Development Board Tacoma-Pierce County.

Bethel’s total costs for the 2019-20 school year increased by nearly $39 million from last school year, from $277 million to $316.8 million.

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