Election Day: vote “Yes” on Seattle School levies

Today is election day in Seattle, with Seattle School District operations and capital levies on the ballot. Our friend Stefan over at (un)Sound Politics wants you to vote “no” on both:

I’m voting NO on both levies for a very simple reason. The school district is in crisis, and the only foreseeable spur for meaningful change is a cataclysmic event such as a levy defeat. And meanwhile, “for the children” rhetoric or not, the grown-ups running the School District haven’t convinced me they’ll do a particularly good job of spending my money.

Yeah, well, I’m guessing Stefan doesn’t have any children in the Seattle public schools, and thus the cataclysmic event he wishes for is purely theoretical as far as his own family’s experience. However, for the children who do attend the city’s public schools, the cataclysm of their school suddenly losing twenty-five percent of its funding would be very, very real.

In fact, voting against the operations levy would be downright immoral.

Stefan says that the district is “in crisis,” and while I agree that the district has significant financial, management and leadership problems that need to be turned around, it is far from the crisis experienced by many big city school districts elsewhere in the nation. And, um, even if you believe the district is in crisis… how does slashing funding by twenty-five percent solve the problem?

The fact is, a “cataclysmic event” is exactly what Stefan and other righties want, for they simply don’t believe in public education as the great equalizer in American society, and apparently, they’re willing to sacrifice a generation of students to make a political point.

But I’m not. So as angry as I still am at the district and school board over what I learned during the school closure process, I’ll be voting for both levies today. The operations levy is a no-brainer — you might as well just shut down the district without it.

The capital levy, well, there’s no question that the district’s capital spending needs to be reprioritized and better managed, but we’re so far into a multi-phase capital improvement plan that it just isn’t fair to the schools that have patiently waited for their turn to suddenly cut the money off. A few weeks back I met with former CAC member Melissa Westbrook — who is urging a “no” vote on the capital levy. We had a long conversation about the district’s capital plans, and I agree with many of her concerns. But there are many more deserving projects in the upcoming phase than there are those that should be eliminated or scaled back, so I don’t believe that this levy vote is the proper outlet for sending a message… especially since so few voters understand the details of the capital plan they would be sending a message about.

That’s why I urge you to vote “yes” on both the operations and capital levies… and then work harder over the next two years to help move our school district forward in the right direction. Don’t just get angry; get involved.

Comments

  1. 1

    Thomas Trainwinder spews:

    Very well stated.

    What’s even more maddening is Stefan only has to convince 40.00001% of the voters to agree with him. Their “No” votes count significantly more than your “Yes” votes.

    That’s just undemocratic and unfair in every sense.

  2. 2

    conservativewhacko spews:

    So Stephan’s reason for voting no is the same reason liberal and democrat congresspeople want to vote to cut off funding for the war. Why are you bashing him for doing something you should be applauding? He doesn’t think the people that are in charge are doing a good job in any way shape or form. He thinks they are mismanaging the district. Not being prudent w/ the money, etc.

    All the same reasons we have lib and dem legislators grandstanding in the national media against funding for the conflict in Iraq.

  3. 3

    spews:

    Whacko @2,

    The purpose of cutting off funding to the Iraq war is to get our servicemen out of Iraq. Likewise, cutting off education funding is a great way to get our kids out of the public schools. In fact, that’s kinda the purpose.

  4. 4

    Right Stuff spews:

    I don’t know all the details here…..and don’t live in Seattle…..HOWEVER, the perception is that the Seattle school district is mis-managed and isn’t serving the students now..So why continue to fund it blindly… again I don’t know the details, but what is the School district plan for improvements to justify a new levy….Voters always like to know what they are paying for.. More than just “this money is to educate our children”.

  5. 5

    YOS LIB BRO spews:

    the perception

    YEAH THE PERCEPTION IS COMING FROM BRAINWASHED RIGHT WINGERS.

    IS THE DISTRICT MISMANAGED – SOMEWHT BUT NOT REALLY. THE DISTRICT IS IN GOOD FINANCIAL SHAPE DUE TO MANHAS’ MANAGEMENT. MORE MONEY WOULD HELP BUT IT’S NOT AVAILABLE.

    WHERE MANHAS WENT WRONG WAS IN THE WAY HE WENT ABOUT SCHOOL CLOSURES. HE MADE ONE BAD MISTAKE OTHERWISE HE’S A DECENT GUY.

    Voters always like to know what they are paying for

    HOW STUPID IS THIS REMARK? YOU THINK VOTERS CAN’T READ A VOTERS PAMPHLET?

    I HAVE KIDS IN THE SCHOOLS AND I’M VOTING YES!

  6. 6

    Libertarian spews:

    I think the problem state-wide is that administrators in education are paid far too much money while rank-and-file teachers aren’t paid as well. Those salaries should be cut by 50%.

    I’d also like to see good teachers rewarded and bad teachers removed from the system.

  7. 7

    rhp6033 spews:

    I heard a “throw away” comment on last night’s news, at the tail end of the levy story, where the anchor said “Opponants say that voting for school levies only encourage a disfunctional school-closing process”.

    (Or at least, that’s as best as I can remember the quote).

    Which immediately gave me one of those UHHHHHH?????? moments.

    It seemed to me that some opponant of the Seattle Public Schools wanted to catch onto the parents who were upset over the school closures, and make them think that their vote against the levies would somehow either keep the schools open, or send a “protest message” which would have the same result?

    I sincerely hope the Seattle voters are much, much, smarter than that. I, too, have some genuine concerns that some of our public school money could be better spent, with an emphasis on class size reduction (especially in the lower grades). But that requires more money, not less, so if I lived in Seattle I would vote for the levies, and focus my complaints about priorities in a more useful fashion.

    And this isn’t a problem just in Seattle, or in public schools generally. It’s just that the public schools get more scrutiny of their finances. Private schools don’t have to reveal a thing about how they spend their money, so they avoid the nit-picking which we perform upon public schools.

  8. 8

    rhp6033 spews:

    And by the way, for all those who think public schools are inherently inferior to private schools:

    Bow down to the Univ. of Washington Law School, who’s students just placed FIRST in the National Moot Court competition held this year in New York. Too bad they didn’t go to a private school such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford- perhaps they could have done better???????

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/.....w06ww.html

  9. 9

    YOS LIB BRO spews:

    for all those who think public schools are inherently inferior to private schools:

    HEH. ALL THOSE BRAINWASHED WINGNUTS WHO FLING POO HERE.

  10. 10

    conservativewhacko spews:

    Goldy @ 3:
    It was more tongue in cheek than anything. The comparisons to the arguments in DC about the war and this were just to easy. Along with some of the arguments I’ve seen posted here on this thread I had to post.

    Me personally I don’t live in the Seattle school district but regardless of how I feel about what is going on administratively in my home district I always vote for the levies because our kids are worth it.

    But really ,,, to get our servicemen and women out of Iraq? That’s BS. It is purely to garner political favor for the next election cycle. I have no doubt that a very few legislators have that single alltruistic goal but the rest???? heh; just read their statements over the past few years. Even going back before Bush was Pres. I can’t believe you typed that with a straight keyboard : )

  11. 11

    Right Stuff spews:

    @5 obviously you flunked typing.
    Did you go to Seattle schools?

    And no. I don’t think a majority of people read the voter pamphlet. They voted Democrat

    Last I checked Seattle Schools will fail 44% of the graduating class of 08-09 in math and 61% in science.
    Hope you are teaching your kids those subjects at home because they aren’t effectively taught in the Seattle Schools.

  12. 12

    John Barelli spews:

    Libertarian said:

    “I think the problem state-wide is that administrators in education are paid far too much money while rank-and-file teachers aren’t paid as well. Those salaries should be cut by 50%.

    I will admit that I’m having a bit of difficulty in finding hard data to either refute or corroborate this statement. The salary schedules are easily available at: http://www.seattleschools.org/.....salary.xml , but that just gives the range, not the actual salaries or the jobs attached to those salaries.

    Anyone have a better reference? Without average salary figures for administrators, including job titles and responsibilities, I can’t decide whether this is really a problem, or is just more bloviating.

  13. 13

    YOS LIB BRO spews:

    Did you go to Seattle schools?

    NO. I MOVED HERE.

    Hope you are teaching your kids

    MY KIDS WILL PASS MATH AND SCIENCE BECAUSE I TELL THEM THEY MUST DO SO. I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER OTHER PARENTS. SO FAR I’M SATISFIED WITH THE CURRICULUM AND THE LEVEL OF TEACHING. IT’S PRETTY MUCH THE SAME OR BETTER THAN I HAD AND I PASSED.

    SO TAKE YOUR RIGHT WING BLATHER ELSEWHERE.

  14. 15

    Michael Caine spews:

    If you don’t like the leadership of the Seattle School District then vote to change the School Board, cutting funding is like saying I don’t Bank of America so I am only going to pay 1/2 of my mortgage payment to them.

  15. 16

    westello spews:

    The operating levy has to pass; we’re all agreed.

    David and I did sit down and discuss the capital bond measure and I appreciated the time he spent. But his rationalization for voting for the bond measure leaves a lot to be desired.
    1) Vote for it because it is a multi-phase plan? No, not really. You see they went overbudget by $34M in the last capital plan and had to take from some projects (actually eliminating some of them) and give to others (whose School Design Teams refused to scale back at all) in order to meet those overruns. (To be fair, the costs of construction have gone up – a lot – but that doesn’t explain it all.) One project, the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center, asked NOT to be on this list because they didn’t trust they’d get the money (their money will alleged come from the sale of some building). There is no well-thought out plan for facilities renovation/rebuild.

    New School K-8 is trying to sell the idea that they got bumped last time. NOT TRUE. They weren’t even in existence when we last voted in 2001. The levy language was to reconfigure a building and now we are building 2 new buildings (one for New School and one for South Lake, a re-entry high school). That’s quite the 180. There are many other schools in worse condition AND who have been waiting far longer than New School. So why are they there? They are part of a public/private partnership that pumps $1M+ into their program every year. Great and I have no problem with it except the foundation that supports them put pressure on the district to get a new building. Once you go down this road of allowing one private entity to pressure the district to bow to their wishes, you will have the next one and the next one.

    The initial rationale was needed middle school capacity in the southeast region until I pointed out that their two middle schools are under enrolled by at least 300 students each. The already existing K-8 in that area, in a relatively new building, is chronically underenrolled. Which brings me to my most important reason to be against this list (and voting against the bond measure),

    2) Safety – There have been identified – by an outside contractor – 7 schools with severe seismic problems. Only one, Hale High School – is being addressed. (Interestingly, the choices given to the Board to address Hale problem were a $1M shoring up or a $77M renovation. By the way, it cost $100M for the Roosevelt rebuild and it will last 50 years. We are, according to district staff, renovating Hale and Sealth at a cost of $80-90M each for 25 years. Where’s the bang for our buck?) Now the Board is saying instead of safety being the priority issue for capital projects, it is safety, building condition and academic improvement equally (and thus why, New School gets on the list under academic improvement). So they are bypassing 6 seismically challenged schools. Ironically, this week. the district is having training sessions for building leadership because the district states that they believe there may be a major earthquake in the next 10 years and staff needs to be trained.

    This is not quibbling. This is not a gentlemen’s disagreement over what projects deserve to be on the list. This is first and foremost about safety. There is no training on earth that will help if we do have a major earthquake and buildings collapse and hurt students. There will be nowhere for the district to hide, no words that will comfort parents. There will just be an abiding sadness that we knew what had to be done to protect kids and didn’t do it.

    That’s why I’m voting against this bond measure.

  16. 17

    spews:

    Right Stuff said:

    @12 try this
    I googled “washington state employee salary
    http://www.lbloom.net/

    Thanks. I went from there to the Seattle Public Schools section at: http://lbloom.net/zse04.html , and while the latest data he has is 2004, I found it helpful.

    The vast majority of salaries over $50,000 in 2004 went to School Principals, although a disturbingly high number of the upper end salaries went to something called “Other District Admin”. There may be good reason for those near (and occasionally over) six-figure salaries, but I can’t tell from the data.

    Even so, the vast majority of salaries appeared to be pretty reasonable, even for the admin types. I doubt that we could get many qualified applicants for any executive-level positions for much less money.

    As in any large organization, I’m sure that there is some waste, and there are probably a few folks that would be productively replaced by a vacancy, but I didn’t see much of that in the numbers.

    Unless someone has additional data, I’m going to have to take a line from my son’s favorite TV show, and say that as far as being able to save significant amounts from the school budget by cutting administrators salaries, that myth is busted.

  17. 18

    Paddy Mac spews:

    ‘The fact is, a “cataclysmic event” is exactly what Stefan and other righties want, for they simply don’t believe in public education as the great equalizer in American society, and apparently, they’re willing to sacrifice a generation of students to make a political point.’

    They DO believe that public education works as a great equalizer; hence, their implacable opposition to it. Conservatism has declined over the past forty years because it has lost all of the admirable qualities (Sen. Goldwater wrote a tirade against religion in politics, and said that “abortion is not a conservative issue”), and kept the racism and comfy ignorance epitomized by Sen. Lott. The modern conservative movement is racist, loves class differences, and wants to re-subjugate women’s bodies. High-quality, comprehensive public education will destroy those “ideals”, and they know it.

    Or, for the benefit of Sound Bigoted and their ilk who might be reading, we’ll formulate it in a sound bite for you: if a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged, a liberal is an educated child of a conservative. That last idea scares conservatives like nothing else.

  18. 20

    William Crim spews:

    Education is the great equalizer. Public education is a government provided service, with all the stupendous efficiency that implies.

    I haven’t found public schools to be especially poorly managed, so I don’t begrudge them money if they need it. However, as a general rule, “for the children” carries no weight for me. It is a cop-out by polititians who don’t want to answer for their actions. Just because you are wasting money on children, doesn’t mean it isn’t a waste.

    In general, I find it useful to oppose tax increases right out of the gate. Tax increases are NEVER a polititians last resort, more like they are #2 out of 10. I the districts can provide a good, solid plan, for how they will be spent, I would vote for it next year.

  19. 21

    jsa on commercial drive spews:

    RightStuff @ 11:

    Last I checked Seattle Schools will fail 44% of the graduating class of 08-09 in math and 61% in science.
    Hope you are teaching your kids those subjects at home because they aren’t effectively taught in the Seattle Schools.

    I’m going to let you in on a little secret that they don’t teach you in school.

    Poor people screw up test scores.

    No. I have nothing against poor people. Unfortunately, there are all these “soft” things that don’t get measured (what is the student’s home environment, how much do the students parents value an education, what recourses does a student who is underperforming have), and one hard metric that does get measured: what percentage of a school (or district’s) students are so poor that they’re getting a free lunch. Not all poor students are academic underperformers. Not all wealthy students do well. However, give me a large sample size and I’ll tell you that’s the way to bet.

    Here’s a fun game with numbers to play.

    Go to the OSPI website:

    http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/

    Now, click on the “Compare my School” tool.

    Let’s pick a school in Bellevue. Bellevue is one of the best districts in the nation. Lots of National Merit Scholars, 3, count ‘em 3 high schools in Newsweek’s top 500 list. Nobody rings their hands about the Bellevue School District failing its students.

    Pick Lake Hills Elementary.

    Now, flip over to Seattle Public Schools.

    Pick Maple Elementary.

    Both of these schools have a lot in common. Both have large first-generation immigrant populations (transitional bilingual at about 33% for both schools), both have a lot of poor students. (60% at Lake Hills vs 65% at Maple)

    Only one has disaster-area test scores. Here’s a hint: it’s not the Seattle school.

    That’s a snarky comparison, but that’s not my point.

    Bellevue, considered by many to be one of the best districts in the nation, has a handful of schools where the majority of the students are poor. If you look at the test scores for ANY of those schools, you would conclude the students were not being well served.

    In Seattle, the vast majority of the schools have demographics like this. The schools with a comparatively well-off student body don’t have these sort of test issues. Why? Middle-class parents beat their kids’ asses and hire tutors if they still don’t perform.

    Worse, from the point of view of a liberal like me, throwing money at the problem doesn’t make things much better.

    While you still have the School Report Card website up, take a look at T.T. Minor Elementary. This is one of the worst schools in Washington State in almost any measure you want to take. Unlike most bad schools, Stuart Sloan, of QFC fame, plowed some pretty major quantities of cash into this school to pay for support staff, bring class size down, and a bunch of other reasonably worthy stuff.

    The cost? $13,000/student/year. The results? A school that was a complete disaster area is now merely underperforming.

    So money DOES help, but the costs are politically unacceptable. If $13,000/year turns casualty case students into underperformers, maybe $16,000/year would get them all the way up to average. There is no way on God’s green Earth that sort of money is going towards schools in Seattle or anyplace else.

    We can’t do much about the number of poor students in our schools. We have to do our best to educate them, and not snipe too much about the test scores in the process.

  20. 23

    Puddybud spews:

    Paddy Mac said: ‘The fact is, a “cataclysmic event” is exactly what Stefan and other righties want, for they simply don’t believe in public education as the great equalizer in American society, and apparently, they’re willing to sacrifice a generation of students to make a political point.’

    Kind of reminds me of how many libtards here want a cataclysmic event like a small nuke to go off and kill many people while GWB is still in office. Not one libtard here has “officially” refuted it.

    So is this one of those “ever increasing investments” the Moonbat!s continue to cry for? Where is the accountability? are the cost controls? Where is the give and take? It is always give me mo money even though we sucked at your last hand out!

    This is another prime example of the political WEA and their Seattle cronies looking out for themselves and only when it becomes a catastrophic situation of “cataclysmic proportions” do they think of the children.

  21. 24

    Paddy Mac spews:

    Paddy Mac said: ‘The fact is, a “cataclysmic event” is exactly what Stefan and other righties want, for they simply don’t believe in public education as the great equalizer in American society, and apparently, they’re willing to sacrifice a generation of students to make a political point.’

    The quote is actually verbatim, from Goldy himself. I didn’t write a word of it. (I wish I had.)

    ‘Kind of reminds me of how many libtards here want a cataclysmic event like a small nuke to go off and kill many people while GWB is still in office. Not one libtard here has “officially” refuted it.’

    Got evidence that some liberal actually said it? If not, then why do you demand that someone refute something she has not said? (Revs. Falwell & Robertson did “blame America first” for 9/11; is that what you’re recalling?) Thanks to GWB’s “leadership”, we already have lost the World Trade Center; we don’t need more death and destruction to convince us that he’s unfit to lead. Maybe you do.