Sunday, June 01, 2008

Times' Front Page Article on Schools' Make-Up

I haven't had time to properly read through this article (although there is one glaring mistake) so no assessment but thought I would post so people could read it. Check further down when you get to this page; there are accompanying parent perspectives, a link to an interactive map, a place to register your thoughts and there will be a Q&A on Wednesday live with Harium Martin-Morris to which you can post a question in advance.

50 comments:

BullDogger said...

What struck me was how dealing with this problem isn’t helped by using the word “segregation” which implies forced separation of races and cultures. Our society dealt with forced segregation and covenants in previous decades yet we use the word to describe what, is now, something quite different. I don’t know what to call the present reality but given the extreme social and cultural baggage associated to the word “segregation” we need something new.

This is a complicated problem largely developed from personal wealth (or lack of wealth) and the resulting housing patterns. When parents value a child’s education the (respectable) tendency is to provide, within available means, the best location for that education. The high enrollments of private schools and in the perceived better public schools (more expensive neighborhoods) should be no surprise. This is not a forced migration but rather one driven by people with any spare resources who value education.

We need new language to achieve the important goal of diversity in public education while promoting strategies that enhance education itself. Framing this issue in the words and emotions of yesterday’s struggle is likely counterproductive. In today’s world, tasking a school district to use strategies like busing would serve to further alienate many families who value education, resulting in only less diversity. Today’s struggle is to focus on creating, evolving and nurturing great schools everywhere, even if some schools require more effort. If the language we use can keep the district from being distracted from its primary responsibility, a welcome diversity should follow.

Charlie Mas said...

I agree with bulldogger, that the language carries more significance than we intend. While the current situation in some Seattle schools matches, to an alarming extent, the dictionary definition of "segregation", there is none of active enforcement of Jim Crow laws or redlining that the word conjures. We need another word to serve as the antonym for diverse without touching such raw nerves. There is often no malice or racism intended in segregated housing patterns we see today. While even in Seattle these patterns may have had sinister roots, those could not be said to have direct application to the schoolchildren of today.

The best word I can think of now is "demographically overweighted". I hope there is better.

Similarly, the expression "institutionalized racism", gets people worked up and defensive while other language could carry the same meaning without creating barriers to understanding. "Ethno-centric" is as close as I have come so far. Again, I hope we can do better.

Ad Hoc said...

Forcing diversity (IE busing) doesn't work and can even get quite ugly. You begin to see things like children separating themselves in the lunchroom and on the playground. If forced it is not natural and may not be part of the culture of the school. And, as we see in the numbers, students of color that go north to white schools don't fare any better academically than they do in primarily black schools, in most cases.

I would rather have schools that have cultures that value and honor diversity, and that voluntarily and actively seek it. Schools can encourage diversity by creating a culture that is tolerant and welcoming to all. They can encourage diversity by marketing their programs and recruiting in diverse neighborhoods! All city transportation helps too, though I know that it's not economically feasible.

AS1 and Salmon Bay located up North, go into minority neighborhoods in the south end and hold open houses and actively try to recruit minority students. There is no reason other schools can't do this too, even if just within their own cluster. Many clusters are very diverse but you still find schools that are all black or all white, especially in the Central area.

Recruiting and PR may not work to broaden diversity for the very popular, over crowded schools, but it will work for the average school that has some extra space.

Meany is a great example of a school that is trying to create an inclusive, diverse community that is welcoming to all, while Madrona is an example of a school that is not. Meany is almost all black, but has been trying to broaden their diversity and have taken steps to make that happen. They have added attractive programs like a strong ALO, and are using PR and marketing to target more diverse (white) neighborhood families. They seem to be attracting a lot of attention!

And there are still some programs being used that I don't fully understand - like bus transportation from the South cluster to John Haye in Queen Anne that is only provided to black students. Are there other examples of these types of services that promote diversity in the district?

gT2gueJgwstHE2RBaZ7B0uw_AOo- said...

When you just look at schools in terms of race without considering resources or performance, you're missing half the story.

When my child first was getting to be of school age, I started looking at the stats for various SPS schools, and it became obvious pretty quickly that there was a big divide between schools, with ethnic makeup, socioeconomic status (at least as measured by free school lunches), and school performance seeming to be strongly correlated with each other. After actually visiting some schools, I saw that the differences were even bigger in physical plant and resources than they'd appeared on paper.

In other words, there are all kinds of rational reasons a parent might push to get their kid into one school and fight to avoid another, and the end result, in a racist society, looks like white flight or racism. But I don't think it is, necessarily.

I was also surprised that the article mentioned the African-American Academy without alluding in any way to the tragic underperformance of that school. That school was started with a noble purpose and some promising ideas, and it hasn't lived up to them. It's also one of the many schools where the district has seen fit to buy out the principal's contract (in 2004) at great expense, suggesting that things have gone very badly wrong.

I guess any serious look at the problems of SPS is a good thing, but this doesn't seem like a very promising angle of approach.
--APP Dad

Charlie Mas said...

I see that the language they are using is not "segregated" but "racially isolated". I think I like that better. At least it suggests a problem in which people on both sides are victims and no one is specifically to blame.

Now let's see the Times follow up this incendiary article series - it is a series - by publishing an analysis of the economic diversity in Seattle schools.

I've done that analysis; it takes less than an hour to do and shows that the distribution of concentration of poverty is bi-modal. The graph line isn't the "normal" distribution of a bell curve with more samples close to the average and fewer as you get away from it in either direction. Instead, it looks like the Golden Gate bridge, with a high number of schools with a lot of poverty and a high number of schools with almost no poverty, and very few schools close to the average. That's a real lack of diversity.

And then, perhaps, we can see a REAL analysis of ethnic diversity in which the multiple Asian and Pacific Islander cultures are not lumped together in a single category. Want to piss off a Hawaiian? Call them Samoan. Can't we distinguish between Japanese families and Hmong families? Let's see an analysis that doesn't lump together the divergent cultures of African immigrants. Afro-Carribeans and African-Americans. I don't know to what extent it is helpful to distinguish between various Latino and Chicano cultures, and I don't know to what extent it is possible to identify White cultures other than Gypsy (the only one the District now tracks), but that might be valuable as well.

And where is the analysis of religious diversity? Where is the analysis of the distribution of children with college-educated mothers? Where, in short, is the analysis of any other kind of diversity other than racial diversity?

By suggesting that race can serve as a proxy for culture, or for affluence, or for education, is a statement that I'm not ready to make and a statement that we don't need to make. I'm really not comfortable with the Black=poor assumption. Could this be one of the reasons that the District's market share may be worse among middle-class Blacks than among Upper-class Whites? We don't have to let this one statistic serve for all of these because we have the actual data for the others as well - or we could easily get it.

zb said...

"I've done that analysis; it takes less than an hour to do and shows that the distribution of concentration of poverty is bi-modal."

This is the real story, and the reason why we don't even need to talk about race (and all the ire it raises in folks who don't like thinking about it). Let's talk about the economic segregation of our schools (and then, we don't have to argue about whether the racial isolation we see now is caused by complex economic variables or how big a role the history of racial segregation -- most notably the restrictive covenants & "sundowner" laws that were in operation until just a generation ago).

My concern with the bimodal distribution (yes, I made the graph too, and I was shocked, honestly, to realize that the %free lunch ranged from 95% to 5% across our schools) is that I see no resolution to that bimodal distribution by any form of free choice. What parent is going to volunteer to send trade a slot in a high-performing/school with non-poor students for a slot in a low-performing school/poor students? None. The other solution is to some how make the low-performing/poor student schools into high-performing ones, but education is too tightly tied to economic level for that to be a feasible solution.

My conclusion: as long as there's bimodality, there can't be choice, because choice will always buttress the bimodality, not mitigate it.

So I'm back again, to argue in favor of neighborhood schools, with boundaries drawn to draw as much economic diversity into each reference area as possible, within geographic constraints.

And, we really don't need to talk about race -- we can agree to disagree on how important a role it plays, because in Seattle, they are fully confounded.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Wow Charlie. You have nailed it!

I live in the southend because I want the cultural and ethnic diversity this part of town has to offer. The problems I see in many of the southend schools can almost always be traced to socio-economic issues rather than race. I especially like Charlie's tongue-in-cheek comment about tracking by "college-educated mothers." We need to see WHO the people are who are being impacted, not what color they are.

In Seattle, people don't flee their neighborhood schools because of the color of the students. Instead we flee for a number of reasons, including: mediocre/bad principals, limited course offerings, high rates of discipline problems, lack of rigor, and a general dissatisfaction with SPS on the whole.

Ad Hoc's comments are also insightful:
"Meany is a great example of a school that is trying to create an inclusive, diverse community that is welcoming to all, while Madrona is an example of a school that is not. "

Will Rainier Beach High School welcome the middle and upper-income families who are becoming a bigger demographic in the neighborhood? The Southeast Initiative may change the school, but the existing population has got to accept and welcome the students and families who may be attracted by the offerings. Only time will tell us how that plays out.

TechyMom said...

Adding programs to low-income schools can help to balance that. Some examples of successfully attracting more affluent familes include APP at Garfield, Language Immersion at Beacon Hill, Montessori at Graham Hill (also at MLK and moved to T.T. Minor).

I'm white and upper-middle class, and I went to private schools myself. I'm considering both the montessori program at TT Minor and Language Immersion at Beacon hill for my daughter who's entering K in '09. I'm also considering TOPS and McGilvra, but not Madrona. I want both diversity of students and of subject matter.

My closest schools are Madrona and McGilvra. If Madrona were my only public choice, we'd go private. It just doesn't work to try to force families that have other options to go to a particular school.

Maureen said...

I wish they would do one piece on schools that have improved or maintained diversity (Graham Hill from the map, maybe Stevens?). I would like to know what has made that happen and how well it has worked.

Also some mention of the remnants of the old transportation and assignment policies (i.e., sibling preference; continued busing of south end kids to the north end; alt school and JSIS multi cluster busing) and how they impact some school populations would have been interesting (I wonder if some of the N end schools that didn't make the map as racially isolated are still being impacted by those historical policies).

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Maureen:
My daughter attended the Montessori program at Graham Hill (our neighborhood school) from the age of 3 (preschool) through 5th grade. Graham Hill has an odd aspect that impacts its enrollment in that it is smack dab in the middle of a large Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. Historically, those families do not chose ANY public school, so Graham had to reach far and wide to keep its enrollment up.

The Montessori program was established to help bump a very low enrollment. It did the job by attracting numerous middle/upper-income families and low-income families who were interested in Montessori--the PTA offer scholarships for the preschool which has a fee). Many of these families came from other reference schools (as far as Mount Baker).

Long story short: The steady influx of parents who were committed to their children's education AND had the means to put a ton of time, money and energy (unlike many of the low-income parents who may be committed but don't have the means) into the school. The result was a school that was diverse (though no longer so much in the Montessori...but in 1998 my white daughter was in the minority) and able to offer great support to ALL of the teachers in the way of funds and physical presence in ALL the classrooms.

Graham Hill has managed to survive a 5-year spate of principal problems and now has a great one plus two programs that attract a diverse group of families. It was recently named a "School of Distinction" by the state--quite ironic since the District tried to close it because of a perceived disparity between the performance of the students in the two programs (that could easily be attributed to the difference between students who had preschool and those who didn't...but that's another conversation).

More irony is that without the District's present plan of "choice" GH could not have drawn from so large a pool to create it's diverse mix.

Ad Hoc said...

Yup, techymom is right. Adding attractive programs to under enrolled schools is the way to increase enrollment and attract diversity! Families that would otherwise not choose these schools give them a second look when an attractive program is added.

This district could use an elementary and middle school IB program to feed into Sealth and Ingraham. It could also use a science/math focused school, a school of the performing arts, a music school, more language immersion programs, a middle school Montessori program, a Waldorf philosophy school. So many options....

What doesn't work is just letting struggling, under enrolled, under performing schools continue to limp along. When is the district going to get that?

Dorothy said...

I don't think Charlie was being tongue in cheek about any of his ideas for analysis. There are all sorts of ways to look at diversity and why not look at education levels of parents? IIRC, studies have shown that to be correlated with success. I am thinking Freakonomics, but we got it from the library so I don't have it available to doublecheck.

The bookstore where I used to work had a sign referring to a government study saying that the best predictor of childhood literacy was if the adults in the home read for pleasure (ie, not that the child was read to).

Michael Rice said...

Melissa

What is the glaring error in the article?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Michael, you got me to go back and look at the article that I read very quickly. I was wrong about thinking there was a glaring error. I had thought Ms. Shaw had written that the Supreme Court case said that race could no longer be used (wrong) but here's what she wrote:

"The court's decision made it clear that school districts can't discriminate based on race when placing students in schools. (The ruling covered voluntary desegregation efforts, not court-ordered plans still in place in a few hundred districts.)

The court said that diversity in the nation's public schools also is important. Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested other ways to accomplish it. Some districts now are looking at basing some school assignments on family income."

I thought the article had said you couldn't USE race but she said districts can't DISCRIMNATE based on race which, clearly, are two different things.

Justice Kennedy indeed left the door open for race to be used as part of an overall strategy but it's up to some brave district to figure that one out. I don't think SPS, because of past history, would be a good place to try it again. I think the issues that have been raised here about using socio-economic might be more useful.

I would disagree about saying that past housing discrimination has nothing to do with how housing patterns are today. However, how much of that is from past housing patterns (applied rightly or wrongly) and how much is it, as others have said, is that people like to live near people who look like them or have their children in schools with other children who look like them?

eliza.e.campbell said...

When we have clear patterns of enrollment, and schools that are 60% white or 90% African-American and Hispanic, it is absolutely an issue of segregation.

Yes, using language that might be considered volatile does stir up all kinds of feelings in people. But why shouldn't we be honest with ourselves? There is something fundamentally unfair here, and we need to get as many people involved in solving the problem as possible.

If you aren't willing to acknowledge that racism and segregation are still problems in our country, our city, and our society, then you need to take a look around you and acknowledge it, before it becomes too late.

Ad Hoc said...

Eliza what exactly is fundamentally unfair? Seattle has the choice system, and with the exception of a few over crowded schools, families can choose to send their kids to schools all across the district. My (bi racial) child goes to Bryant, one of the most sought after schools in the district, yet we do not live in their reference area. e can't afford to live in the reference area. How is that unfair? I think the opposite, I think it is MORE than fair.

If Seattle school are segregated it is by choice - families choice, and is no result of "the system". People like to be around people like themselves, or at least some people like themselves - it is not racism, rather it is human nature. The human need to feel like we belong and are accepted. That is not racism. I hear black families say they will NOT send their kids to APP at Lowell because it is to white. On the same note white families don't want to send their kids to all black schools. Affluent or middle class families don't send their kids to poor schools. If you offer choice, then you have to deal with choice. These are the families choices - not unfair district mandates.

We are a bi-racial family and when we look for a school we look for a diverse (ethnically and socio economically) environment. It is not our first criteria but it is on our list. Our criteria in order are academics and offerings, then philosophy/pedagogy, school culture, diversity. And with few exceptions, we truly have the entire city of schools to choose from.

Diversity can not be forced, it can not be accomplished by a court ruling, or top down mandate. Diversity has to be part of a schools culture, and make up - they have to seek it and be welcoming to it - otherwise it doesn't work.

If Seattle schools are segregated it is by choice, not due to the system or anything else. And in all fairness don't we have to honor families choices?

eliza.e.campbell said...

"Eliza what exactly is fundamentally unfair?"

It is fundamentally unfair that public schools with higher enrollment of minority students tend to have less funding and lower test scores.

Charlie Mas said...

[b]eliza.e.campbell[/b] wrote:
"[i]It is fundamentally unfair that public schools with higher enrollment of minority students tend to have less funding and lower test scores.[/i]"

The test scores are what they are, but this statement about funding is categorically and objectively false. In fact, the contrary is true. Seattle public schools with higher concentrations of non-White students have, on the whole, higher funding per student - from the District and in total - than schools with lower concentration of non-White students.

Anyone who reviews the school budgets will find plenty of data to support that statement. Can Ms Campbell direct us to data to support her statement about funding?

By all means, let's have a discussion about equity or test scores, or anything else, but let's not have any confusion or misinformation about the objective facts. The per student funding - from all sources - is greater for schools with more non-White students.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

I agree with Ad Hoc...but would like to take it even further—the segregation in Seattle is not because of race, but more by circumstance and pockets of socio-economic concentration.

In Seattle, people group more by who they are, then what they look like. We want to be with, and have our children taught by, people who share the same values as we do. We want to have common experiences with them, and yet, at least in Seattle, we welcome influences from other cultures.

At a school, we'd like the community to share a common value of education, philosophy of teaching style, idea of what constitutes appropriate behavior and level of rigor. All of those things can differ greatly from school to school, so we look for one that comes closest to our own. It is pretty natural that these would break down along socio-economic lines. And then geography comes into play. Though the Southend is becoming more diverse, it still has, along with Capitol Hill, large pockets of poverty that impact the schools here.

I chose to buy in the Southend when I moved to Seattle from Texas in 1993 because I preferred the diversity. I am 2nd generation Euro-American, as were most of the people I grew up with in Central New York. I am more at home in a melting pot than a homogenous society.

The Montessori program at Graham Hill gave us everything we wanted in a school—solid academics, a strong PTA, a great principal (Birgit McShane), a full-time music program with a great teacher, a computer lab, a diverse classroon—and it was less than 2 blocks away!

Unfortunately, over the years, the diversity in the Montessori program changed. We lost many of our families of color who were also middle income. A few Afican-American families moved to Renton for the better schools (middle & highschool). A few went on to Lowell, Many moved to private schools (St. George, St. Terese, Zion). None of these families wanted what SPS had to offer southend familiesfor middle or high school. They did not want their children to go to Aki Kurose or Rainier Beach.

It has little to do with color and more to do with socio-economic levels. Schools with high concentrations of children from low-income families have to work harder to educate many of those kids. Poverty equals hunger and lack of resources at home. Parental involvement can be sparse at best (because they're working 2-3 jobs) or non-existent (out of the picture). Parents might be unable to help with homework or read school notices because of ESL issues. It takes a great chunk of the school's resources to do the job. The District often gives more money per student to accommodate the variety of counselors and family support workers who are needed. Teacher's have to expend more energy to make up for what is lacking at home.

Since Seattle allows choice, parents who want the best education they can get for their children tend to stay away from schools that have a big percentage of high-needs students—unless there is a program to attract them, like the Montessori at Graham Hill. It's not about color, it's about making sure their children are surrounded by other children who are ready and able to learn without the baggage that often comes with poverty.

Please stop trying to make it seem like we don't want our children to go to school with children of color. We're just looking for the best school to serve our needs. My child would benefit greatly from the drama and music programs at Roosevelt, but she will never get in because we live so far south—even with choice. Is that fair?

The District needs to improve MOST of the schools in the city, no matter what color the students are. There are really just a handful of truly desirable high schools. A system that offered similar courses with equitable teachers and funding would be ideal, but the reality of poverty will always cause schools with less poverty to have an edge.

eliza.e.campbell said...

Charlie, where can I find information about budgets? I'm actually a senior at Nathan Hale, and writing a paper about racial tiebreakers in school selection. This discussion, and the information you cited, would really be good resources.

SolvayGirl1972, I might ask another question. Is it fair that a lot of focus and power on music and drama has become concentrated in one or two schools? I went to Roosevelt for two years, and even the shift to Hale was startling. I understand the frustration perfectly. When I was an eighth-grader choosing a high school, nothing seemed more important than ending up at Roosevelt so I could be part of a huge, well-funded music program. But now I realize the injustices that such a concentration of resources creates.

Maureen said...

One thing that does make the choice system less than fair is the fact that you have to register on time to get into the most popular programs. People who are isolated from the system or live more chaotic lives are penalized for that and their kids end up at the less successful (and/or farther away) schools. This leads to a higher concentration of poverty, or at least cluelessness, in the less successful schools.

Ad Hoc said...

I would imagine that there would have to be some sort of enrollment deadline to make a choice system work. Maureen what do you think the district could offer families who miss the enrollment deadline to make the system more fair?

Maureen said...

I have heard (at one of Tracy Libros' meetings) that the new assignment plan may leave some spaces open for kids who enroll late or move during the summer. I believe she mentioned the possibility of leaving more spaces open at schools in clusters that usually have a lot of late enrollment than in clusters where most enrollment was on time.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

In response to eliza.e.campbell:
I don't know if fair is the right word to use in describing the situation that causes Roosevelt to have a drama program that is far superior to the other schools. The same could be said of their music program (as well as Garfield's, etc.). Part of the problem is determining what makes the program so good? Is it just the teachers? Does the ability of the students make a difference? Do most of the kids in Roosevelt's programs or Garfield's bands get extra classes from their parents (private drama or music lessons). In the bands, do most of the students have quality instruments to play (provided by their parents)? Do they have parents who support their talent and enforce a strict practice schedule? I suspect the answer is yes for most of the kids.

How do they fund their programs? Do the kids hold fundraisers? The PTA? Does the bulk of the funding come from the school's budget? Does the school wholly support the program (i.e. make it easy for kids to participate)? I don't know the answers to those questions, but it would make a difference.

Certainly, the facility can make a difference, but Rainier Beach has had a marvelous facility for years that has gone unused. I realize the low enrollment there has meant they could not afford a dedicated drama teacher. But even if they get a real drama teacher (as opposed to say a language arts teacher who is dabbling in drama), they will be hard pressed to match the caliber of Roosevelt's teacher. How can it be made fair when the quality of teachers vary?

And with quality teachers comes a high rigor. Is it fair to kids who'd like to do drama or band but may not be an exceptional talent to have to compete with ├╝ber-kids or perform under a strict stress level. I know kids who quit band at Washington Middle School because they could not play up to the teacher's standards and were tired of getting Cs. How is that fair? Would it be better for them to just get to play and enjoy the art of performing music without worrying about the pressure of competitions?

It is a conundrum to be sure. That's why it is very difficult to try and compare schools and expect them to all be exactly the same when they are all serving different communities with different needs.

In all fairness,at the high school level, the stellar arts programs (drama/music/visual art/dance) should be concentrated in centralized magnet schools that are an all-city draw. Then the kids who would like to make the arts their career and have the drive and talent can benefit from the best teachers--no matter where they live in the city. I don't know how the District would go about determining who can attend, but there must be working models from other areas. Middle School Teacher recommendations, a resume, a portfolio, maybe even an audition (kids have to audition now for band at many schools) could all be utilized.

Having the arts in all elementary and middle schools would be a big help in giving every kid a taste of what's possible. I'd also still want to see arts programs in all high schools, but more for kids who want to practice them as a hobby, for the joy of creating something without having to worry about being a star or winning a competition. Drama can teach every student very valuable skills like confidence, poise and public speaking, but not everyone wants to be an actor. Music helps with math and can be a lifelong skill, but not everyone wants to be a professional musician.

For the District to really be fair about how they spread out the quality programs, they may have to consider moving popular programs to give more access. I don't think it would be easy to recreate Roosevelt's drama program or Garfield's band in every school. There are just too many factors that contribute to their success that the school District just doesn't have any control over.

Hopefully, students like you will be able to come up with better answers to these problems. I applaud your sense of justice and commitment to bettering education.

anonyms said...

Anyone who reviews the school budgets will find plenty of data to support that statement. Can Ms Campbell direct us to data to support her statement about funding?

Eliza, this is one of Charlie's (and other's) favorite red herrings. A school with a lot of special status students gets some extra dollars. Sometimes that might even amount to a few hundred thousand dollars (read 2 or 3 teachers). But then, the wealthy schools have auctions and other fundraisers amounting to the same ballpark.

So in the end, we get schools with rich kids, that have every advantage at home, getting the same dollars as some impoverished schools. Is that fair? Clearly the kids in those impoverished schools need a lot more, not just "about the same" as the super wealthy schools.

anne said...

" Maureen what do you think the district could offer families who miss the enrollment deadline to make the system more fair?"

Do the school that have large populations of families that do not enroll on time do anything to try to facilitate on-time enrollment? It seems like it would be a huge help if there were couselors that would work with these families to help them navigate the system and make good choices for their families during the enrollment period.

Charlie Mas said...

Ms Campbell, the data you are looking for is called the Blue Book. It can be found on the District web site. From the home page follow the links to About Us, Central Departments, Budget & Finance, Budget, School Funding, Weighted Student Formula by School. Or, you could just follow this link: Weighted Student Formula by School

Here you will find the District funding for each school. You will see that Loyal Heights, enrollment 379, for example, was funded with $1,763,417 ($4,653 per student) from the weighted student formula and that Loyal Heights was also funded through the District with another $70,702 in I-728 and compensatory education funds for a total of $4,840 per student. Highland Park, enrollment 410, received funding of $2,086,942 ($5,090 per student) through the weighted student formula and with another $378,121 in I-728 and compensatory education funding for a total of $6,012 per student.

You can check the total funding for each school on a school by school basis this way. You will see that, through the compensatory education funding, the District puts a great deal more money into the schools with high concentrations of FRE students. These schools tend to also have the highest concentration of minority students - although that is by no means a rule.

If you are going to make statements such as "It is fundamentally unfair that public schools with higher enrollment of minority students tend to have less funding" you would be wise to confirm your facts first. The opposite is true.

There are, of course, those famous six-figure fundraisers at a few schools. Such things do really exist at a very few locations. They are not as common as you might believe. Loyal Heights does not have six-figure fundraisers. Lafayette does not. Schmitz Park does not. Really only a handful of schools do. The $300,000compensatory education funding to Highland Park, however, isn't unusual at all. Concord gets $284,000, Emerson gets $382,000. Check any high minority, high poverty school you like. Please check the numbers for yourself.

The simple truth is that the low-income, high minority schools get more money from the District and more money total than the affluent schools with the six-figure fundraisers and a whole lot more money than the middle class schools with much more modest fundraising abilities and ambitions.

anonyms can try to dismiss such facts as "red herrings" but they are numbers that speak for themselves and are indisputable. anonyms is wrong to presume that such six-figure fundraisers are common. They are not. anonyms is, of course, right that students from low-income homes have educational needs that demand greater expenditures. But how much more? How will this money be used to make up the difference in home life? Could any amount of money do that? What does it cost to educate a student from a low-income home and what does it cost to educate a student from a middle class home?

As to the suggestion that a concentration of music and drama came to a few schools - as if it fell out of the sky onto them - is just insulting to the large number of people who have worked selflessly for years to build those programs. These schools were not chosen for these investments, they made these investments. They have watched them grow over the years and they add to them annually. Do you think that the District comes around and grants students at Roosevelt or Garfield musical skills? Those students worked hard for those skills. And there is absolutely nothing keeping the students at any other school from working just as hard to develop their skills and there is absolutely nothing to keep the staff and community at other schools from investing their time, effort, and commitment, to create similar programs at their schools. Nobody has been handed anything and nobody has any sort of monopoly on effort.

Just because someone else has something, that doesn't mean they acquired it through any unfair means. Just because they have it and you don't doesn't mean that the situation is unfair. If that were true then the only fair state would be for everyone to have the same regardless of personal effort or talent. Is that the plan that is being promoted as preferable?

Ad Hoc said...

In Shoreline middle school representatives go to all of the feeder elementary schools and provide each child with an enrollment package, children bring them home and get them filled out and then the representatives come back to collect them. Same for high school. The high school sends representatives to the middle school to pass out the enrollment packages and then they come back to collect them. Seattle could do this too, and it might make a difference for middle school and high school on time enrollment. They could also go to identified feeder pre-schools, peps groups, daycare centers, etc and do the same for elementary enrollment.

Ad Hoc said...

Charlie, I don't think it is unfair that Roosevelt or Garfield have a strong music program and other schools don't. You are right they worked hard to create and grow them, and they are seeing the fruits of their efforts. I think the issue is not that every school should offer the same high quality music program, but that there is fair access to the programs that exist. If you have a child who is a gifted, dedicated musician who happens to live in an area where no adults made the "effort" to create a strong music program, that child is just out of luck. And, that's what I think many people think is unfair. The same applies for other unique programs like the JSIS. It is amazing to me that we have had only one immersion school in the entire district and the enrollment is restricted to one neighborhood.

There is the other side of the coin too though. Roosevelt worked hard to make their music program a stellar program. Is it fair to them to limit their own access by opening the program to a wider draw? It almost seems like a penalty. Work hard to make your program stellar, and then have it taken away from your community for that very reason.

There is no easy solution.

zb said...

"If Seattle school are segregated it is by choice"

(and I'm interpreting choice as being choice in the sense that this is what the parents choose for their children, not what they get because of limited choices).

ad hoc, for two simple, and statistically verifiable reasons, this is simply not true: 1) transportation issues 2) the "on-time" enrollment, which both effect economically disadvantaged families disproportionately. The on-time enrollment stats always shock me when I hear about them (30% I think), and then I think about it and realize that it actually makes sense.

Furthermore, your example of Bryant is pretty flawed, now? given that no one outside of Bryant's reference area had access to the school this year (without the sibling preference). So, the "choice" that you were able to avail yourself of is no longer available.

If people use "choice" to flee economically disadvantaged schools, then "choice" becomes a state-sponsored means of enhancing disadvantage, rather than mitigating it.

(and I'm using economics because though I may have opinions about race, I have no desire to get into discussions about them, because I think it's unnecessary for making our decisions about school assignments).

seattle citizen said...

Comments:
"Choice" - some parents/guardians/families don't relish the idea of sending a student miles away to benefit from programs halfway across the city.

"People want to be with people like them" - My experience is that people want to be where they can AFFORD to be. I doubt that an immigrant, new to the country, CHOOSES to live where they are with people "like" them; most immigrants I know, and their children, are really, really hard at work trying to climb the economic ladder so they can move to Redmond or some such. Familie's interests start with their own economic position and security; where they can afford it, they then MIGHT choose to locate in a community of "similar" people.

"Moving to Renton for the schools..." - Or, economic realities again, moving to Renton, out of an area that used to be the red-lined "district" for African Americans (the CD), to Renton becuase a) the red-lines are gone and b) the house in the CD is now worth $600,000 and one can buy a house in Renton for $300,000.

Music and drama - diminishing enrollment = diminishing funding. Schools that are getting smaller lose "extra" stuff, like music (Cleveland, 1998) or drama (RB, great facility, no funding for dedicated drama teacher.)

Back to choice and demographics: It is disingeneous to think that families are free agents, able and willing to move around the city to be with who they want to be with. This is a luxury. Many families in the city live where they can, and many families (more so, lately) are poor: who can afford to live in Seattle, where the average house costs something like $450,000? So old-timer poor families move as their property increases in value, and new, wealthier families move in. These are the demographics to look at: What will the SES look like in ten years?

Ad Hoc said...

ZB, you use transportation as a barrier that blocks choice.

I don't agree. There are many schools within the same cluster that are either all black or all white. Especially in the more diverse areas like the Central Cluster. A family will get transportation to any school in that cluster. If there are no schools in your cluster that please you, you can still choose from a vast array of alternative schools with all city and multiple cluster transportation. Or you can try for Lowell/APP, or you can drive your child out of cluster. At high school all transportation arguments are moot, because kids now use public transit. So transportation is not as restricting as you make it seem. Families have a lot of options.

Then you said that the on time enrollment is a barrier to choice. Well, if you have a choice system you have to have an enrollment deadline. While the district can do more outreach in this area, they can't hold parents hands and lead them into the enrollment office. And, the parents who do not make on time enrollment, are not the parents researching the district for a good fit school for their kids. The system is not restricting these families choice, they are restricting it themselves. Place blame where blame is due.

And to Seattle Citizen - you say There really isn't choice because "some families don't relish the idea of sending their kids miles away to school" You are absolutely right, but that doesn't mean that they can't or don't have choice. Quite the opposite. They have the choice to send their kids across town, and CHOOSE not to do it. That's choice at it's best!

seattle citizen said...

(Ms. Campbell - welcome, and thank you for your studious efforts to learn about these issues, your contribution to these discussions, and your eloquence.)

ad hoc,

hmm, "choice at its best"...I suppose. But if one is arguing that there a diversity of programs, and parent/guardians can merely choose to send students to those programs...aren't the time factor and the neighborhood factors cogent? On one side we argue for increased parent/guardian participation, yet how is one to participate if Junior leaves the house at 5:30 am to get to school on time?

While I am a proponent of the Alt schools (and there's only one high school Alt, Summit, unless you count the newly designated "safety net" schools of South Lake, Interagency and Middle College), I don't think they should be used as a fall-back on transportation issues; they have unique curricula, etc, that might not be for everybody...And "try for Lowell/APP"? APP accepts students who score in the very tippy-top of percentile (I think it's in the top 3%) and is a speciallized program, again, not a "fall-back" to address transportation issues.

Ad Hoc said...

Seattle Citizen, I am not arguing with your "choice" not to send your child across town and get him up at 5:30 in the morning. You don't have to defend your position - I respect it. Surely though, you acknowledge and respect that different people make different "choices". Some people do "choose" to send their kids out of their neighborhoods to find schools that meet their needs. The choice system works fairly well for them, as it has worked for you.

Regarding HS - Summit is not the only Alt HS, Nova is another one, and I would consider the Center School an alt too. But I don't know why you are bringing them up anyway because by HS, kids are using PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, not yellow buses, so there is no transportation barrier/argument for you there.

And, BTW kids that score in the tippy top 3% that choose APP, count just as much as your child.

seattle citizen said...

Ad hoc,
of course they count as much (the APP) I was only suggesting that APP not be used as a default if a parent wanted to have his/her child go to a school other than the neighborhood school.

Of course! I forgot all about little ol' Nova, a wonderful place...It exemplifies "alternative" as described in the District-appointed Alt Committee in its twelve-point checklist...

Note that on the strategic plan the indication that SPS will take another look at its Alt schools, and see what's going on. I hope they take into account the committee work.

Maureen said...

I wish the Times series had had space (or inclination) to take a look at alternative schools. Their multi cluster draw areas can give them a chance to decrease racial isolation.

TOPS and Orca are two that seem (from the Times' data) to match the district (50-60% nonwhite), but they are able to do it because they are available to families from multiple clusters. TOPS is listed as being 56% non white while the Montlake reference area (which surrounds it) is only 23% nonwhite. If it lost its multi cluster draw area it could soon become another racially isolated school.

It sounds like (from the Times comments) most people value neighborhood schools over diversity, even so, there are many who do value it highly. I hope the District believes it is worth maintaining that possibility for families who think it is important. Many districts offer magnet programs that draw families with common interests from all over a city. The closest thing Seattle has to that is our alternative schools.

anonyms said...

And how well will "choice" be working when gas is $6.00 a gallon? What about $10.00? Won't it be even less equitable when groups of people can't afford to drive to far-flung schools. We've been operating with a "gas is free" mentality for a long time now. It simply isn't true any more and we need a little shift in our thinking. I paid $4.21 today, and summer isn't even here.

It seems to me that most neigborhoods ARE pretty diverse, and could be pretty good, if we didn't have so much "white flight". Let's just call it what it is, and suck up the little bit of pain it takes to say it.

seattle citizen said...

Not just "white flight" but "wealth flight." To Redmond. To the northend (tho' even southend property is becoming valuable, ergo bought by wealthier people). To private schools. To programs around the district that are a "better fit" for the kid.

I don't know about neighborhoods already being diverse, tho'...Let's see, a quick review:
Magnolia - wealthier (comparatively: ALL neighborhoods are become wealthier as fewer middle class people can afford this city (ah, the good old days, when Magnolia WAS middle-class...)
Southpark: poorer
Beacon Hill: "middle class" (but have your priced houses there, lately?)
Wedgewood: Upper-middle class (except where it intersects Lake City Way)
Lake City: Middle class and immigrant...
Fremont/Walligford/Greenlake: upper class
Greenwood/Phinney: Mid-to-upper class
Northgate: Middle class
North of Northgate: Mid-to-upper class
North Cap Hill: Upper-to-very wealthy
Madison Park: Wealthy
CD: Mid-to-upper
Madrona: Mid-to-upper
Mount Baker: East: wealthy; West; middle

What I'm seeing is not much economic diversity, and wht's there is disappearing rapidly. So maybe using SES is not a good idea, maybe we should plan for larger and larger influx of wealthier people and their children...

If we are using an SES model, public housing (Section 8, etc) tells us where the pockets of REAL low income are.

Here's a link:
http://www.seattlehousing.org/Housing/programs/liph/liphlocations.asp

Let's see...by number of units:
South of Ship Canal (excluding Queen Anne and Magnolia)

Downtown/1st Hill: 504
Rainier Beach: 89
Rainier Valley: 228
Beacon Hill: 107
ID: 99
Cap. Hill: 399
West Sea. : 274

=1700

Queen Anne and N. of Ship Canal:
Greenlake: 129
Greenwood: 80
Queen Anne (lower): 123
QA (Upper): 59
Ballard: 78
Lake City: 182
Bitter Lake: 86
U-District: 213

= 940

So neighborhood schools, as we know from years of conjecture, are probably wealthier north of the canal. Real estate trends tell us this will change, but we'll still, of course, have pockets of poor families and students throughout the city, mainly, at this point, in the south.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Anonyms says:
"It seems to me that most neigborhoods ARE pretty diverse, and could be pretty good, if we didn't have so much "white flight". Let's just call it what it is, and suck up the little bit of pain it takes to say it."

It is NOT "white flight" but middle-upper income flight. I live in a very diverse neighborhood and of the people I know, the majority of MIDDLE-UPPER INCOME families of ALL COLORS reject the poor performing, neglected by the District middle and high schools in our neighborhood.

We just want the same caliber of course offerings, rigor and quality of staff available to the families who live in the more affluent neighborhoods. Because the District allows us to choose, we choose the best school we can find within a reasonable distance.

It is not our fault that the District has neglected certain areas of the city for so long. But it is also not our job to sacrifice our children's education in the name of social justice. Friends and I personally sat down with Cheryl Chow two years ago and told her what we'd like to see at schools Like Rainier Beach. The Southeast Initiative is a step in that direction. It will be up to the District to execute that step in a manner that will prove to families like mine that they really will change the focus of the school and not just create a facade of "quality."

I am so tired of hearing that it's all about race. If you must, call it a class difference, but stop trying to paint some of us as racists who don't want to associate with people of color. I moved into South Seattle in 1993, long before housing became unaffordable. I could have bought in the northend, but chose the South because of its diversity.

As long as the District allows choice, parents will look for the best fit for their child. Bulldogger said it best in the first post: "This is not a forced migration but rather one driven by people with any spare resources who value education. "

Charlie Mas said...

This is not about race, but economics. Consider this: why do so many middle-class Black families choose predominantly Black private schools? It's not to escape Black children in the public schools. It is for the same reason that White, Asian, and Latino families don't choose those schools - to escape the low academic expectations, the dearth of quality programs, and the discipline problems.

This isn't about race - it is about poverty.

A few years ago I did an analysis of school popularity as measured by first choice for assignment. I found a very high inverse correlation between school popularity and the concentration of poverty at the school. The higher the percentage of FRE students, the less popular the school. The lower the percentage of FRE students, the more popular the school. The correlation was much stronger with poverty than with race.

Race doesn't drive choice - economics does. I refuse to regard the two as synonymous.

Ad Hoc said...

White, black, rich and poor families are not fleeing from TOPS, or Stevens. Rather the opposite - they are flocking to these schools resulting in long wait list every year. You see these very diverse schools are also high performing schools. That tells me that folks of all color and all socio economic backgrounds really just want a high performing schools. Why would ANYONE who valued education settle for under enrolled, under performing, under funded schools full of poverty, lack of rigor, and behavior problems? That is not white flight, or black flight, or middle class flight - it is common sense

anonyms said...

Ok. I get it. You don't like the term "white flight". You're sensitive. And there's some different races in the flight pattern. So, let's call it "disadvantaged flight". It's all the same people, but it doesn't rhyme.

zb said...

ad hoc:

you're conflating the "on time" enrollment issue. It doesn't (all) stem from parents who need to have their hands held. It stems from people having less stable addresses and moving more often. In order to avail yourself of choice in SPS you need to be living at your address in January before the year your child will attend school. If you move during the summer (or if you move during the school year, or just move a lot) on time enrollment is hard for you.

Choice has turned into an excuse for accepting inadequate schools in some neighborhoods.

Ad Hoc said...

Yup anonyms I'd go with "disadvantaged flight". If the majority of students at a school are disadvantaged (low income, homeless, ESL), that school will likely not perform as well (though there are exceptions like Maple and Beacon Hill). Why would anyone who valued education choose to send their kids to a predominantly disadvantaged school that may be under performing, may have more than their share of behavioral issues, and kids who may have a very different attitude toward and value for education than do kids with advantage? Most of those kids will be performing below grade level, which means instruction will be tailored to meet their needs - below grade level - there will be less rigor and opportunity for advanced learning. Not what I want for my child.

So, yes, I will be the first to admit it. I would not send my kid to a highly disadvantaged school. I would send them to a diverse school like Stevens, that has a balance of disadvantaged students along with students that have advantage, but not a predominantly disadvantaged school.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Exactly, Ad Hoc!
That's why schools like TOPS, Stevens and Graham Hill work. There is something that attracts and retains the "advantaged" who in turn balance the school and provide "ad hoc" support to the school staff.

In my experience, it takes about 1/3+ of the student population to help boost the school. The increased enrollment brings in additional cash from the District and the influx of parents with the time and means to volunteer in additional fundraising for enrichment.

At Graham Hill, the PTA wrote grants and raised funds to do a $400,000 playground makeover, turning a two-tiered mess of broken asphalt and weeds into a grass playfield and two play areas. We brought in artists in residence who worked with all of the kids to write a poem about the salmon life cycle. Then they created a variety of wall art in ceramics (marine life theme) to grace the retaining wall of the second level. We added raised planting beds filled with native plants. The kids plant bulbs in the fall for spring tulips. Later we paved an area on the upper level and put in raised beds that the students can plant--usually vegetables.

The PTA raised money (about $30,000+ per year--we're not talking big bucks) for field trip buses, assemblies, The Powerful Writers' Program, 4/5th grade camp, classroom supplies and more. They put on all-school parties (Fall Fest, Spring BBQ), arranged for after school programs and enrichment during early dismissal on Conference Week. They organize Scholastic Books sales and distribute 3 books per student per year as part of their RIF program. They staff a WAMU School Banking program. They raise funds to provide scholarships to the Montessori Preschool (fee-based thru kindergarten).

I only went on to show what parents who have the time and means can bring to a school. The majority of schools with a high percentage of disadvantaged families just don't get that additional help. I have friends at both Stevens and TOPS and both schools raise huge amounts of cash. The disadvantaged kids that attend there reap the benefits of the fundraising along with the advantaged kids.

I never resented the parents who couldn't participate (though I did resent a few of my peers who did not participate). I knew I had a luxury that they may not. There is much reward in seeing a group of kids of all kinds cheer the brand new playground equipment. Yeah...I did it for my kid for sure, but in the end I did it for them all.

I agree that watering all the schools down is not the way to go. Those who can will go elsewhere--remember Mercer Island is encouraging out-of-district attendees. The result will be even more schools tipped to the disadvantaged.

And, contrary to some beliefs, the school district cannot fix schools without families and communities to help. Since families that are disadvantaged are having a hard enough time just putting food on the table and gas in the tank, they cannot be expected to bear the brunt of that assistance. Hence, the school ends up being disadvantaged as well.

The sad reality is that city schools don't have the budgets to provide everything a school needs to truly thrive. As we read in these posts, they can barely support the programs they've got. PTAs make a huge difference--even at the high school level when they are more behind the scenes. Without a significant number of advantaged families, few schools can compete. It is about so much more than passing the WASL.

The District needs to find a way to entice families into those schools--neighborhood surveys could be a start. As Charlie asked "Did they ask anyone what they wanted at Rainier Beach?"

anonyms said...

But we're still ignoring the reality of sky-rocketing gas prices, in favor of the tititllating discussions on "flight" and "I'm not a racist". Gas price is going to have a huge impact on the "xxx-flight" and equity. People can be bused, at ever increasing cost, but there's all kinds of meetings and afterschool activities that will make those drives across town to school incredibily prohibitive because of cost. And that will simply mean, those with less means will have vastly diminished choice.

anonyms said...

But we're still ignoring the reality of sky-rocketing gas prices, in favor of the tititllating discussions on "flight" and "I'm not a racist". Gas price is going to have a huge impact on the "xxx-flight" and equity. People can be bused, at ever increasing cost, but there's all kinds of meetings and afterschool activities that will make those drives across town to school incredibily prohibitive because of cost. And that will simply mean, those with less means will have vastly diminished choice.

Charlie Mas said...

All labels aside, it comes to this: no student should be compelled to attend a school that does not meet that student's academic needs. Some of Seattle's schools are - at present - incapable of meeting the needs of a number of students. The District should continue to offer choice and people will continue to take advantage of that choice until those schools expand their range of service.

It is all well and good to say that families should just enroll their child at their reference school and the reference school should just serve all of the children who enroll, but the schools can't do it (this comes first), so the families won't do it.

It isn't about racism. It isn't about "birds of a feather", it isn't about classism. It is, fundamentally, about whether a school can meet a child's academic needs or not. I don't know anyone who wouldn't prefer it if their neighborhood school were able to meet their child's academic needs.

The travel "choice" may only be available to families of means (unless the District provides transportation), but that choice comes with a sacrifice - in time, effort, complexity, and, yes, fuel costs. Just as having a stay-at-home parent is a luxury, it is also a sacrifice. It carries a cost. My family made that choice knowing that it would cut our income in half. Please don't think that was an easy decision or one that hasn't cost us dearly.

anonyms is, of course, correct. Once a school is perceived as not serving affluent, high performing students, the affluent, high performing students start to disappear. The more they are absent, the less likely they are to come back. Consequently, some schools veer off in one direction, serving affluent high performing students, while other schools veer off in the other direction. We have all seen it happen. There is no doubt about it.

So what's to talk about?

The District has a new perspective. Whereas the former leadership used to allow schools to decline - putting a higher value on site-based decisionmaking than academic effectiveness - the new administration will not. The District leadership now says: "If your school does not offer a minimal standard of academic effectiveness, we will intervene to help you rise to the Standard. If you cannot rise to the Standard with our help, we will find someone else who can."

So now the question comes: will families trust the District to accomplish their goal? Will you trust that the District can and will make every school capable and willing to meet a broad range of academic needs? Can they convince you that your neighborhood school will adequately serve your child academically?

There will continue to be some families and students who need something outside the mainstream. So the District will continue to offer alternative schools and specialized programs to address those extraordinary needs. And, I suspect, there will also continue to be some families who will pursue "optimal" instead of "adequate". They will sacrifice the benefits of a neighborhood school to capture some incremental advantage at another location. That's fine, too.

Aside from these types of exceptions, however, do you believe that the District leadership can get your neighborhood school (no matter where you live) to adequately serve your child and - the $64,000 question - will you enroll your child in that neighborhood school?

If they can, they will reap a number of benefits. They will be able to reduce transportation costs, simplify their assignment plan, increase public satisfaction, increase their enrollment (and resources), increase their political capital (to capture more resources), and, yes, improve the diversity - racial, economic, cultural, and academic - at all schools.

But the whole thing keys off the District's ability to get schools to serve a broad range of students, and their ability to convince families that they can.

Ad Hoc said...

I believe DR MGJ's administration will effect change, or at least begin to effect change, but it will take time. Time my kids just don't have. In the meantime, while Dr MGJ is working on it, and until the change is in place - choice MUST remain.

Right now schools have unique focuses and vastly different offerings as a direct result of choice and the need to stay competitive. This has created a system that, at this point, requires choice. Until the system changes, and the field is leveled and all schools offer the same set of core offerings and become homogeneous - choice must remain.

But be careful what you wish for. If choice and all of the unique offerings that come with choice are taken away we won't have unique reference schools with Montessori, immersion, aviation focus, large (strong) Spectrum programs, same sex classrooms, uniforms, etc. We may see things like no more pay for k which of course results schools offering only 1/2 day k. We may see things like elementary band eliminated (if all schools can't have a good band no schools should). In other words you may get much less with homogeneous schools than you get now - with choice.

On top of all of this a school has to offer a certain amount of diversity. That would include ethnic, socio economic, philosophical and cultural diversity. Until our schools are truly diverse - change must stay in effect.

I hope change happens, and as promised all of our schools are good schools. I would love to send my child to the school on the corner with all of his friends, and have his needs met. In fact I would love nothing more.

TechyMom said...

This may be different in the less-dense north end, but in the CD, all these schools are within a couple miles of each other. commuting costs are going to be similar to several schools for us. I think that may be true in other places as well.

Our "school on the corner" (MLK) was closed. McGilvra and Madrona are both about a mile away, with hills and busy streets. Walking distance for an adult, not for a Kindergardner. [Madrona is just under a mile, so I'd be driving, McGilvra is just over, so we'd get bus service]. TT Minor is a few blocks farther, in a different direction. Lowell and TOPS are both within 2 miles. The only school we're considering that's far away at all is Beacon Hill's immersion program. If there were one closer, I'd be all over it.

I feel lucky that all of these very different options exist in in the central district. I don't want to see them go away. I would like to see something at Madrona that would draw families like mine and increase the diversity of that school, and I'd like to see language immersion closer than Beacon Hill (I've posted on this before).

The clusters are pretty small. Within a cluster, I'm not sure the gas costs are that big a deal. I also suspect that many people have 2 or 3 schools that are about the same distance away. I'd like to see the same array alternative programs available in each cluster. Remember that these can be co-housed with a general ed program to fill space at a less popular school.

As a side note, if the yellow school buses are too expensive, then lets look into organizing walking school busses to get kids to schools that are nearby, but not necessarily their nearest school. I've heard there's one on queen anne.

http://www.walkingschoolbus.org/