This is what I gleaned from today's article in the PI, "At Rainier Beach High School, 'we're fighting for our lives'."
- Private money is evil.
- Any proposal that does not follow the current Seattle Public School model is wrong, and should not even be considered or discussed.
- The district has not supported Rainier Beach High School appropriately in the past.
- The district does a rotten job with communicating new ideas and getting public involvement.
I totally get #3 and #4, and completely agree. But I have serious problems with #1 and #2.
Based on discussions and testimony over the last year, I have also learned that:
- Many people do not trust the superintendent or district staff to do what is right for all children in Seattle, particularly children of color.
- Many people do not think the School Board has demonstrated adequate leadership, resulting in many students, especially children of color, being inadequately served.
- The district, and the state, are woefully under-funded.
So, if I were to put both sets of these statements together, we would end up with the following conclusions:
- More public money for Seattle Public Schools would be good, but private money, no matter how it is received would be bad, and proposals involving it should not be considered or explored. Philanthropists and non-profits with money to give should go elsewhere.
- The district has not been successful in helping all children be successful, especially children of color. But proposals for change from private foundations, educational non-profits, and educational research organizations should be rejected. The only route to success is to stay with current educational models and work within the current education system, despite the belief that it is broken.
I don't believe the school district should enter into public/private partnerships where the details are hidden from the public. And I have some serious concerns about the risks of such ventures. (See Public-Private Partnerships with Seattle Schools?)
But I think it is absurd and incredibly short-sighted to close the door to all public-private partnerships out of fear of the possible negative consequences. Let's keep the goal of high quality education for all students in focus, and explore all options that have the potential to improve education for students in Seattle Public Schools.
Why not explore public-private partnerships but require transparency? What about working to establish guidelines for what types of public-private partnerships would be acceptable, and which ones would not?
And finally, returning to the TAF proposal specifically, what exactly would success look like and what would it mean? The original proposal for Rainier Beach to become a TAF Academy, replacing existing programming, received strong opposition and has been dropped. The current proposal is for a co-location of a TAF Academy and the existing education program at Rainier Beach High School.
According to community activists, it sounds like "success" would be the rejection of this co-location proposal as well. That leads us to a scenario where we would rejoice over the rejection of an innovative educational program designed to help children of color, which would have also brought additional resources into the school. I find that hard to celebrate.