This article appeared in Crosscut today. It is probably the more thoughtful of articles on the levies although Mr. Lilly does make a few assumptions. Also the title, "Seattle school levies; thoroughly hated and extremely effective" is over the top. Yes, we hate them because they are work to pass AND the recognition that our state won't pay for basic education. But extremely effective? He'd have to prove that. I give the district a lot of credit for the amount of renovations done but it has steadily slipped from a high of BEX I at about 37 projects to BEX III with about 6 major projects and a few minor. We're doing less with more money. And, of course, then not keeping up the maintenance on these major investments. Yes, that makes perfect sense.
From the article:
"Not surprisingly, school boards choose the classroom over maintenance pretty much every time. This year Seattle will spend only 0.3 percent of its operating budget on upkeep. That’s typical, hence the $500 million backlog."
I had some testy parent throw this at me at a Schools First presentation. But, like Mr. Lilly, that guy could not in any way prove the money went into the classroom. It might have, we might wish it had but then again, it could have gone for consultants or administrators salaries. There is no way of knowing because the district isn't telling (and I asked).
Second, "hence the $500M backlog". Well, that's an easily tossed off bon mot. You don't get to $500M just like that. It takes years of deferring and ignoring maintenance. Geez. (And keep in mind, Lilly's a former Board member and someone who kept this process of keeping the maintenance budget low.)
It's funny how so many in leadership understand this problem (he cites Michael DeBell and Betty Hoagland) and yet want to do nothing about it. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson hasn't uttered a peep (but I guess clearing out a maintenance backlog certainly doesn't polish the resume like opening schools). We can certainly limp along but there will be a critical point where we can't.
What will leadership do then?