Parents, teachers, students make pleas for special programs funding at Spokane Public Schools board meeting

April 25, 2019 GMT

Parents, teachers and students voiced their concerns to the Spokane Public Schools board of directors Wednesday night. It was the first time the board heard from the public after announcing cuts to address a $31 million deficit.

Cutting trade skills programs and special education programs brought the most backlash.

Grant Avila, student at the Newtech Skill Center, said he was worried that next year he won’t have the Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing program, in which he’s learning skills to fuel his career aspirations. The Newtech Skill Center is a target in the cuts.

Avila, who deals with a written expression disorder and dyslexia, said he doesn’t belong in the general education setting and he sees his future in engineering.

“This skills center has changed my life,” he said. “This is the first year I’ve had an above-average life for myself. This is my future on the line.”

Parent Mery Smith stressed the importance of special education.

Smith, who has a son with autism and Down’s syndrome, said his teacher was laid off from Jefferson Elementary School. Now she’s worried he won’t get the support he needs.

“For kids on the spectrum, this is incredibly painful,” she said. “It’s like when you’re on a mountain … and someone pushes you off and you have to start all over again.”

“The stress is heavy on everyone,” said board member Brian Newberry. “I don’t know if our district has ever faced anything like this.”

The board will set up special forums to get more public input in the coming months, said Brian Coddington, spokesman for Spokane Public Schools.