Friday, December 14, 2012

Reporting from Education Leadership Team Meeting

The Mayor had organized an Education Leadership Team awhile back and I finally got to attend a meeting today. 

The Team is made up of City staff, SPS staff, UW staff, community college reps, business reps and labor reps.  It's quite a diverse group (well, in what they do - not so much diversity in what they look like).  SPS staff there today included Pegi McEvoy, Duggan Harman and the Superintendent.

Most of the meeting was about the legislative agenda for each group.

The overwhelming talk was of McCleary and its enactment.  Basically it was stated that the McCleary decision said:

- not spending enough on K-12 education
- the way the dollars are received is structurally unsound
- the outcomes are not good enough to create good citizens and a sound economy

The final meeting for the legislative taskforce is Monday morning but no one is expecting any great news or outcomes.  What was suggested is the levy swap PLUS a tax so that NO district loses money.  Interesting idea (like a bottling tax or something).

However, it was suggested that to make a tax palatable to Republicans that there would have to be real and direct measures for state intervention for schools that are persistently underperforming.  

LEV's person said that the ruling on 1053 is due and they believe they will win. 

I did some Tweets (follow me @WestbrookMel) but here's a general roundup:
  • Mayor McGinn was there for about half the meeting but left to make a statement on the school shootings today in Conn.  It was a sober note to open on.
  • Duggan Harman, in talking about the SPS Legislative agenda, said that adjustments to state building formulas need changes.  The State seems to think SPS has capacity for 83K students and he said they are having trouble fitting 50K.  He said SPS has "portable farms."  They would also like to see a rise in the per sq foot funding from $189 to $250 (I need to check the latter number as he might have said $205 but I don't think $6 a sq foot would help.  He noted they are still seeking - with OSPI blessing - money for a Skills Center for the south end.  One interesting note on the academic side is that a review of the LAP funding shows no real results and SPS generally agrees.
  • UW, speaking for higher ed, mentioned trying to get the Legislature to see the bigger picture of Pre-K to higher education rather than just focusing on the McCleary decision.  (You could take that a couple of ways but with the cuts to higher ed, I'm sure they don't like seeing all the dollars that might flow just to K-12.)  
  • For community colleges, it's how the tuition impacts their students who can't even think beyond the CC years.  
  • The Chamber of Commerce person distributed a handout detailing their leg concerns over transportation, "advance critical education reforms and funding" and improving the business climate.  Under "ed reform?"  "Provide a voice for business on the implementation of charter schools in Washington State." 
  • King County had a bit of good news.  Their revenues are slightly up and they want to invest in early education.  They want to work with several districts including SPS.  
  • Pegi McEvoy ran through BEX which included this notation (but she didn't mention it in the slightest until I brought it up) - "planning for a downtown school". I asked about this and she said it wasn't on the map list because it "wasn't a structure."  I asked her - pointblank - if there was to be a downtown school opening for school year 2013-2014 and she said no.
*There were notes from a previous City meeting in June (not ELT) that indicated - fairly clearly - that a downtown school would be opening in 2013-2014. 

I had been quite surprised to read this and asked Ms. McEvoy via e-mail about it.  She hadn't gotten back to me so I asked her at this meeting since it again is on BEX IV.

I have to wonder if BEX IV passes, then magically room will be found at a downtown location (but only for a short period of time, mind you) and the district will HAVE to take them up on it.  We will then divert BEX IV money to fix up whatever that space is (plus the time and effort to organize it) and voila! a downtown school for 2013-2014. 

That's what my Spidey sense is telling me.  

8 comments:

Jan said...

I think your Spidey sense may be right on. I wish, if the downtown folks want this so badly, the business crowd would just fund the whole thing (not just provide a space to build and demand the money) -- do the whole thing, building, equipment, etc. If all the school district had to do was staff it, that would change the landscape a great deal. Otherwise -- no BEX IV dollars for a downtown school. They just don't get to a higher priority than the flaming problems already on the BEX IV list.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The problem too is this idea that $5M to "plan" it will cover everything. It won't and I honestly thing it is wrong to divert any more money - from anywhere within SPS - for this effort.

mirmac1 said...

Yesterday's Times article about SLU residents opposed to more zoning concessions for bulkier taller buildings, again pointedly avoids mention of developers providing space or funding for a facility, a school, that would make their housing units more attractive to buyers. WE get to bear the burden to increase their profit margin. Like usual, WE are the ones with the deep pockets for sports palaces, "amenities" for developers, ubiquitious art glass museums, street cars to nowhere ad nauseaum.

Anonymous said...

The South End Skills Center is an incredibly way-over-due great idea. Hope that truly happens - Seattle is so far behind the rest of the state in developing a skills center to serve so many students currently being missed under the premise that everybody is going to college.

*Go Skills Center*

Anonymous said...

"However, it was suggested that to make a tax palatable to Republicans that there would have to be real and direct measures for state intervention for schools that are persistently underperforming."

State intervention? My arse. Since when do Republicans think "the government" can do anything as well as the private sector? Answer: Never. It's not in their blood.

They want a window of opportunity they will then exploit to manufacture as many "crises" as they can in order to create the need to privatize.

Mark my words. Hell, chisel them in stone.

What was the EDM adoption but a gift to enemies of public education? It was either gross incompetence by SPS and the prior business friendly board, or corruption by design. I'll continue to assume the former, based on the mountain of evidence of the same I've compiled in my 9 years in SPS, but it's hard not to wonder at what point deliberately detrimental decisions might be made to grease the wheels for privatization or outside influences of venture philanthropists.

They WANT schools to underperform and will recruit their easily-duped allies in DFER, LEV and elsewhere, to justify turning them over to the business community to run them "like a business."

Have we forgotten 2008 and MGJ's reign already? We shouldn't. We'll be paying millions for it for years to come.

Don't close your eyes for a second with this stuff. The enemies are watching and waiting for their opportunity to strike. WSDWG

Louise M said...

I will vote no on BEX IV and encourage everyone I know to also vote no if there is any mention of a downtown school on the list. It's absolutely asinine.

mirmac1 said...

You know what bugs the hell out of me, a Schools First representative came to our PTSA meeting and had a handout that said the O&M Levy would got towards, among other things, special education. This feeds the disinformation spread by Michael Debell, that somehow extraordinary sources are needed for special education. Why doesn't the literature say that $85M of the O&M levy would cover basic education for all? Perhaps because that's considered okie-dokie, not extraordinary, no biggie. But that our kids, who have a right to a basic education too, are requiring over and above what anyone and anything would require.

n said...

Not sure I'm reading you right when you say LAP has few or no results. I taught LAP years ago and it targets the really, really low kids. These kids frequently have learning disorders that are way beyond the reach of even school-trained spec ed/comp ed teachers. These kids need extraordinary and targeted help - usually one to one. The District simply does not have programs that can reach these kids.

Capturing students in the middle ranges would yield better results. They need help getting over the wall. Children in the <24% range are usually victims of extreme dyslexia or other serious disorder.

I could be wrong but this was my experience. I've had training with dyslexic children at Hamlin Robinson and they have a very specific way of teaching to very few kids at a time.