I am sorry, truly, for the parents who have students in SPS. Not because we don't have some good things happening, we do, but because between the continuing district mismanagement AND the poor economy AND more budget cuts from the Legislature, it is going to likely be a terrible couple of years.
I have some links here to recapping what did and didn't happen in the Legislature. One thing that didn't happen is that the state did not take levy equalization away from poorer districts. From the Horsesass blog (a very profane and funny take from a liberal who also does his homework, David Goldstein), an explanation of what that is. Basically, districts who have a better (higher) property base generally do better in asking voters for more money from levies. Districts that are small tend to be rural (and more conservative) with lower property values and cannot ask voters for more. The state equalizes that by giving smaller districts levy equalization money.
It is more nuanced than that but that's it in a nutshell. What seems like a fair thing for smaller, poor districts has to also be pointed out as supporting voters who refuse, in good times and bad, to raise their taxes to support their schools. So money flows to them even as larger districts have to go to voters time and time again to supplement the lack of money from the state.
Rep. Reuven Carlyle also wrote about the terrible dilemma on Saturday in a heartfelt blog thread. Like him or not, he cares about public education and is willing to have a civil dialog. He also makes the attempt to know what the hell he is talking about which is a lot more than other legislators.
From his thread:
We cut spending in relative proportion to the breakdown of categories of state government spending. K-12 education, higher education, health care, human services, natural resource were all included.
And yet when we look deeper, it is clear that some programs are more equal than others, with apologies to George Orwell. It is, by nature, the essence of democratic institutions.
In Seattle it will result in about 58 teachers in K-3 being laid off next year if the school district’s reserves and local dollars aren’t used to backfill the state reduction. (Teachers are under contract for the year so the district has no choice but to spend reserves for the current school year–otherwise the layoffs would have been immediate). And what of those districts statewide with no reserve?
Yes ‘we all need to sacrifice’ and yes ‘everything must be on the table.’ But this program is figuratively and symbolically the moral equivalent of the politically untouchable levy equalization for property poor (primarily rural) school districts.
Translation: We automatically, instantly and without hesitation cut the one program that is a subsidy of Seattle and other property rich districts but left untouched, unspoken and totally off the table the sacrosanct levy equalization–the subsidy program for rural, property poor districts.
My point here is not to argue for reductions in levy equalization as I’m not trying to punish students in property poor districts. My point is deeper, more philosophical and political as to argue for a courageously honest dialogue about the moral inconsistency of taking levy equalization off the table without even so much as a discussion.
KUOW had a discussion today on The Conversation on the cuts. They spoke with Mary Fertakis, the newly elected head of the Washington State School directors' Association and a member of the Tukwila School Board. It was sobering listening.
Seattle will be losing $9.1M. Losing the class size money (I assume they were speaking of I-728 money) won't have a direct impact until Feb. and the class size increase, should they come, will be more visible next school year. Money for diagnostic assessments is going to be cut.
Next month, the Legislature will still have to cut more. Districts would like to be part of those discussions.
Is there an upside? Well, I would say yes, if you share the viewpoint that we are not getting much from the assessments we use like MAP. Frankly, what I would like to see is more direct intervention services for struggling students. I believe that would help both student and teacher.
State Slashes Budget, Landslide Advice, And Redeveloping Yesler Terrace is the link to The Conversation discussion. It is about the first 7 minutes of the discussion before they move onto other topics.