Mayor Bruce Harrell's $10 million proposal for “mental health support and school safety” in response to the tragic shooting at Garfield amounts to a budget cut as the City fails to free up the bureaucracy-bungled $20 million that students won in 2023 to prevent future tragedy after the last time a student shot and killed another student at Ingraham High School. 

“It’s a disappointment and doesn’t follow through on [the City’s] commitment to better serve youth and communities like in Reach Out Seattle,” said Chetan Soni, a representative for the Seattle Student Union, a group of local high school students that lobbies for gun safety legislation and mental health care in schools. 

After a 14-year-old shot and killed another child at Ingraham High School in November 2022, the Seattle Student Union demanded that the Seattle City Council reroute $9 million from the Seattle Police Department to pay for mental health counselors in schools, which they believed would better prevent gun violence. 

That year, the council unanimously approved a joint proposal by the Mayor and then-Council Member Teresa Mosqueda to increase funding for mental health resources in K-12 schools by $4 million over the 2022-2023 biennium. That money came from a mix of JumpStart and levy funds. 

In 2023, the council narrowly passed (5-4) then-Council Member Kshama Sawant’s bill to raise JumpStart less than one-twentieth of one percent to pay for $20 million worth of mental health counselors in schools. While the City began collecting the increased tax rate at the beginning of the year, the council must pass another law to authorize the Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) to spend it, according to the Mayor’s office. That’s because mental health counselors fall outside the purposely restricted use for JumpStart revenue: Affordable housing, Green New Deal initiatives, economic development, and a little bit to administer the tax. 

But gun violence continued as the City sat on the money. 

On June 6, 17-year-old Amarr Murphy-Paine was shot and killed in the school parking lot while attempting to break up a fight. The Seattle Student Union posted a statement on Instagram, demanding Harrell and the City of Seattle release the $20 million they won in 2023 by the upcoming school year this fall. 

“I'm just thinking, like, if this money were implemented quicker, would this have happened?” Soni said in a phone interview. “I don't know.” 

The Stranger asked the Mayor’s office more than once if he will support changing JumpStart to allow DEEL to spend the $20 million the council approved in 2023. Mayoral spokesperson Callie Craighead said, “It is not feasible for the City to stand up a $20 million program in six months” due to a “national shortage of psychiatrists and mental health workers.” Craighead repeated the Mayor’s commitment to seek $10 million from JumpStart in the mid-year supplemental budget, which will include $2.4 million for telehealth services and $2 million toward violence prevention. This move will serve 2,000 students—“a number determined by [City] research of students considered medium to high risk,” she said.

The Mayor’s $10 million investment still requires approval from the city council to spend, Craighead said. 

The city council doesn’t seem motivated to set the full $20 million loose, either. In a budget committee meeting last week, Council Member Maritza Rivera—who used the tragedy at her kids’ school, Ingraham, to propel her campaign— expressed skepticism about the funding. Budget Chair Dan Strauss did not respond directly when The Stranger asked if he would act to free up the revenue generated by Sawant’s 2023 JumpStart hike. 

“We are assessing what needs to be changed and how to get dollars out the door quickly to support student's mental health,” Strauss said in a text to The Stranger.

One could argue that to propose $10 million and ignore a previous commitment of $20 million amounts to cuts to mental health resources for students. Soni speculated that the Mayor is trying to use the DEEL money as a “sneaky” way to balance the $250 million budget shortfall in 2025. He pointed to Rivera’s universally condemned amendment to freeze up funding to Equitable Development Initiatives as another possible attempt from the City to use JumpStart funds to fill the deficit, something big business seems to be lobbying for.

The Mayor’s office did not address accusations of withholding the funds to balance the budget in an email exchange with The Stranger. The Mayor’s office also did not respond to a request for comment about the characterization of their $10 million investment as a cut to the promised $20 million.