Thursday, December 01, 2016

Understanding the Dire State of SPS' 2017-2018 Budget

Update 3: partial from letter sent to families that has new information:

Next Steps

Between Dec. 5, 2016 and Jan. 4, 2017 we will continue to solicit feedback on budget priorities from staff, families, and community partners. I would like to thank the Seattle Council PTSA for hosting three regional meetings for families to provide feedback on budget priorities. 

Community Budget Gap Meetings
Tues., Dec. 13, 6:30 - 8 p.m. Ballard High School
1418 NW 65th St.

Thurs., Dec. 15, 6:30 - 8 p.m. South Shore PreK-8 School
4800 S Henderson St.

Tues., Jan. 3, 6:30 - 8 p.m. Franklin High School
3013 S Mt Baker Blvd.

Interpretation will be available. To request interpretation please contact with your requested needs. 

Additional details regarding the budget deficit, budget development timeline, and actions you can take will be posted to the 2017-18 budget webpage by tomorrow, Dec. 2. 

If you have specific questions or concerns about the budget shortfall please email the Budget Office at

end of update

Update 2: at the end of this thread is the district's press release about this issue.  It has no new information.

end of update

Update 1: the Times now has a story on this issue and the district is talking about lay-offs.  A message went out to teachers on Wednesday from Superintendent Nyland. 
....Nyland said the problem is based primarily on a $23M increase in labor costs and the fact that the district could lose about $31M under the so-called "levy cliff.

The budget gap is the largest the district has faced since the 1970s, Nyland wrote in his message.
Information is to be sent to families today, according to the Times.  As well, from the Superintendent's letter to teachers:
Additional details regarding budget development and actions you can take will be posted to the 2017-18 budget webpage by the end of the week.
But here's what legislative wonk (and all-around smart guy) Robert Cruickshank says in the comments to my story:
It is important to keep in mind this is a fake budget gap. SPS does not have to cut a dime. The legislature cannot push districts over the levy cliff - doing so would be unconstitutional and the state Supreme Court would reject it. The legislature also promised in the 2016 budget to either provide new money to replace the lost levy authority OR extend levy authority for another year. That's a promise and not a law but it suggests that SPS will not actually have to cut anything.

So what should SPS do? Nothing.

SPS staff should NOT be planning for cuts. They should NOT be asking parents to fight amongst each other to decide which programs and teachers stay or go. They should NOT be preparing layoff notices.

Why? Doesn't SPS have to plan in case they lose state money?

No, because again, it's not actually possible for the district to lose that money. Whether through legislative action or court action, SPS will get the money they need.

We must insist that SPS - staff and board - refuse to undertake a divisive, unnecessary, and unconstitutional exercise of planning for a budget cut that is legally and juridically impossible to actually happen.
end of update

Here's some information on what the levy cliff is and what you can do to try to head it off before our district falls off that cliff.

I do note that I'm not sure how much of the $71-74M deficit projected by staff is due to the levy cliff.  All? Part? If so, how much?  I'll have to ask.

From John Freeman at the Washington's Paramount Duty Facebook page (editor's note - I rearranged some of the information):

Robert Eagle Staff Community Meetings

I attended the community meeting for Robert Eagle Staff  Middle School on Tuesday night.  There were maybe 5 parents there including one father with his daughter.  Marni Campbell gave the presentation with Executive Director, Jon Halfaker, in attendance.  There were no handouts.

She led with the phrase "dream ambitiously."  She also referenced the heritage of the Wilson Pacific site that SPS wants to honor. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Garfield's Report Card Conferences

I actually don't really want to write about this subject because it's pretty tiresome. I've done some research and frankly, I'm appalled at one big issue.

According to the GHS website:
  • All meetings will take place in the Library, and student (sic) are not required to participate. GHS counselors have been invited to attend.
  • Volunteers will not view any students’ report card or records. 
  • The school district is sponsoring this partnership. Aki Kurose and Denny Middle School have had very successful Report Card Conferences in the past and we are planning on the same result!
I'll just get a couple of lesser issues out of the way first. 
  • I think that this phrase "professional members of the community" sounds a bit snobby.  Would a parent or community member who is a plumber or a homemaker not be allowed to come and talk with students? 
  • And, is five minutes enough for people who are not counseling professionals to:
"...engage students in a conversation about their goals and then ask them to reflect on their current course performance (the student will have a copy of their first quarter grades), self-reflect, ask for assistance, and set goals."
  • Also, if you were a volunteer, wouldn't you ask the student to see their copy of their first quarter grades?  It might be info you need in order to provide counseling.  And yet, there would be privacy issues with that.  
So what is my big issue?  Safety and the lack of concern of Board policies around safety.  Here's what the GHS website says and what SPS Communications told me:

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday Open Thread

OSPI had (seemingly) been rushing to submit its plan to the US Department of Education for the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which is the NCLB replacement.  They announced yesterday that they are allowing 60 more days for public comment.  From Superintendent Dorn:
After consultation with Superintendent-elect Chris Reykdal, Deputy Superintendent Gil Mendoza, Gov. Jay Inslee and various stakeholder groups, I am delaying the submission of the Every Student Succeeds Act Consolidated Plan to the U.S. Department of Education.
Here's a link to OSPI's ESSA page including a summary document in seven languages and a link so you can make your comment.  OSPI did have a listening tour but that happened last week.

In something of an oddity, there is this call for volunteers at Garfield to go over report cards with students.  I'll have to ask the district about this because it would seem to me there are privacy issues here especially if parents don't know that their child is sharing their report card info without the parent's knowledge. 

There's a new book out - “Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence” by Megan E. Tompkins-Stange, about the power and influence of four major foundations in education-reform policy in recent years.  Reading the interview with the author, it should be stunning reading. From the Washington Post:
The reason was that Duncan’s staff appointments were often either former Gates officials or former Gates grantees. One respondent noted, “Once Obama was elected, I mean, Gates literally had people sitting at the Department of Education both formally and informally.”

Another respondent, a professor and former Ford [Foundation] grantee, jokingly related an anecdote: “A counsel for the education department came to talk about administrative policy. At one point he slipped and said, “The Gates Administration. He really did! Everybody just fell on the floor.” 
 Great piece on NPR on bilingual education - there's a lot of meaty reading in this one.
In studies covering six states and 37 districts, they have found that, compared with students in English-only classrooms or in one-way immersion, dual-language students have somewhat higher test scores and also seem to be happier in school. Attendance is better, behavioral problems fewer, parent involvement higher.
Just heard a fun fact on KUOW this morning - there are fewer native-born Washington kids than there are kids moving to Washington.  (For the record, one of mine was born out of state and the other was born in Washington.)

What's on your mind?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Nathan Hale's Basketball Team Looks Super

The Times had an article yesterday about the new head boys basketball coach at Hale and what looks to be a very competitive team - as in competitive at both the state and national level.  Hale is now ranked as 22nd in the nation.  Two of Hale's games this year will be televised nationally.  Sixty students tried out and 14 made the team.

I had reported earlier this year that former NBA All-Star Brandon Roy was taking the head coaching job at Hale.  He receives $6,000 a year for his work, just like all the other SPS coaches.  Roy had wanted to coach at UW but chose to coach at Hale.

Coach Roy appears to have made his presence at Hale known to top high school boys basketball prospects and got one of the most highly-sought after high school players in the country, Michael Porter, Jr., from Missouri.  Porter's brother, Jontay, is also playing on the team.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Seattle Schools, Week of Nov. 28-Dec 3, 2016

Monday, November 28th
Student Assignment Plan Community Meeting
Franklin High School from 6:30-7:30 pm

Tuesday, November 29th
Robert Eagle Staff Middle School Family and Community Planning Meeting
Loyal Heights Elementary at Marshall  from 6:00-7:00 pm

Meeting Interpreters provided: contact

Wednesday, November 30th
Student Assignment Plan Community Meeting
Nathan Hale High School from 6:30-7:30 pm

Thursday, December 1st
Early registration for Kindergarten, webpage

Board Executive Committee meeting from 8:30-10:30 am, JSCEE. No agenda yet available.

Student Assignment Plan Community Meeting
Ingraham High School from 6:30-7:30 pm

Saturday, December 3rd
No Board community meetings; the Board is having a retreat from 10 am-3 pm at JSCEE.  No agenda yet available.

Robert Eagle Staff Middle School Family and Community Planning Meeting
Northgate Elementary from 11 am to 12:30 pm

Meeting Interpreters provided: contact

Friday, November 25, 2016

Friday Open Thread

The natural explanation for the lateness of this thread is, of course, discombobulation from too much turkey.

Spokane School District suspends more kindergarteners and first graders than high school students.  From the Spokesman-Review:

Seattle Schools Posts Info On 20-Minute Added School Day

This story was put out sometime on Wednesday. (partial)
To improve K-12 students’ academic access and achievement, the Seattle Education Association (SEA) and Seattle Public Schools (SPS) agreed to add 20 minutes of core instructional time to the school day starting in the 2017-18 school year. This action also brings our instructional hours into alignment with other districts in the region.

In addition, SEA and SPS agreed to add teacher collaboration time into the work day to support common planning time and improved student outcomes.
Your input and feedback is valued.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Just When You Learn Rhee Won't be Secretary of Ed, Trump Goes One Worse

Trump has selected Betsy DeVos of Michigan as his pick for the next Secretary of Education.  Who is she?  Well, for one, not an educator. 

Updates on Growth Boundaries

Over at the Soup for Teachers Facebook page there was some unhappiness over what info is available at the SPS website around the Growth Boundaries.   Apparently some parents received an email about them but it had no link to the webpage (which means you would have had to search for it yourself.)  And here is the link.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tuesday Open Thread

From Soup for Teachers:
The Center School's Model United Nations team just won the prize for Best Large Delegation and nine Center School students won awards. There were 720 students at the conference from schools all over the Northwest, including lots of private schools, a number of which have MUN as a daily class. At Center, MUN is a student run group (with an amazing advisor teacher, Mr Bell) and is currently funded by parents.
I'm putting up this notice from SPS but I would tell you not to bother.  The district is seeking members for the SPS Nutrition Services Policies Task Force.  I say don't bother because the district has ignored a very good report (that they paid for) put out earlier this year on the state of Nutrition Services in SPS and what could be done to make it better and continue successes in it.  Why have a taskforce when that work is already done?  As well, neither the Board nor the district ever act on taskforce recommendations so again, why bother?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Calling It For Reykdal

I'm calling it for Chris Reykdal for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.  The vote count is under 28,000 votes and Erin Jones has never closed that gap since election day.

The vote margin will end up being less than 1% and a difference of about 28,000 votes.

I think both candidates had good campaigns.