The Mayor always talks as "we" meaning his team at City Hall. So he started by saying what "we" have been doing. It's a pretty long list:
- doubled the Families&Education Levy and helped support its passage
- launched a successful attendance campaign (with private companies and local celeb support)
- launched an Education Leadership Group, believing that many groups/entities are on the same education road. It includes Superintendent Banda, reps from our community colleges as well as UW, a Labor Council rep, someone from the Gates Foundation, the Seattle Foundation, and United Way among others.
- worked on creating programs for pathways to careers, summer jobs and summer food programs
- listened to Superintendent Banda's presentation on the district's new Strategic Plan and then went to City departments and asked how they could support student academic achievement. He said the City had found that many kids and families weren't aware of supports out there (like homework help at our libraries) for struggling/at-risk students and wants to enable that communication.
- created subsidies for more Early Learning slots through the F&E levy as well as an emphasis on teaching providers how to get those children ready for K
- did a study on how to fund universal pre-K (I'm waiting on a copy of this study) - He said he had asked for a meeting with Councilman Tim Burgess who is also pushing hard for this.
- offered help to the district in demography and city permitting for school building renovation
- when City realized more money from the Chihuly Museum and waterfront ferris wheel, decided that money would go to K-12 arts education. I reported on this here.
- Also helped to create the Read and Rise program to partner with parents to prepare kids for school.
- Also, somewhat peripheral to public education is his support for more and safe bike routes. With a neighborhood school plan, more students are likely to bike.
We got down to some brass tacks and I asked the Mayor about the governance of Seattle Schools. He and I had this same discussion the first time he ran but the circumstances are certainly different. He said the first time he ran that people were surprised he would talk about public education because "it's not the mayor's job" but this time around, it came up at every primary forum. He said the public has driven this issue at or near the top of the issues pile.
He said that no mayor could ignore the issue. He said it was an important issue for Seattle because he has heard, from different people representing different groups/businesses, that the SPS reputation is holding back growth.
I asked him about what he thought might be a good way forward in governance. Would he support some kind of mayoral input? He, like Senator Murray, was very quick to say that he himself would do nothing. But, if there were enough stakeholders who wanted to come to the table and have a discussion about supporting the district in a different governance structure, he was willing to have that conversation.
I asked him what he thought the City could do for the district. He said he felt they could lend more expertise. He said he didn't want to "lean in" and tell the district what or where to build but to ask how the City could give support or expertise or leverage to the district's plans.
I asked about a downtown school and he said he supported the idea and the City had certainly done some serious looking around at the possibility. He said it is being pushed by the DSA and the Chamber of Commerce but he also understood the district's capacity management issues as they stand today. He said what the City could likely offer is - again - that kind of connection between companies and the district and see if room could be found somewhere.
I asked him about policing and how the City could support school safety. He said they had increased the violence emphasis patrols around "hot spots" like Rainier and Henderson. He said they put up the reviled (but apparently effective) speed cameras around schools. He said that they expanded the Seattle Youth Violence initiative that has street teams (with leaders who came from street life) and work in partnership with SPD. He also said they are looking at other issues like career bridges for ex-cons and young adults who "age out" of some youth initiatives.
He pointed to the fact that his administration came in when voters were trying to decide on voting funds for a new county jail. He said his administration had worked with the County, did not build the jail and increased money for education.
He pointed to the need for support for our schools as a way to support our city's economy. He wants to see growth in high-tech jobs, not more (and lower paying) service jobs. He said that Seattle is a diverse and multi-cultural city and believes education could be the great unifier. Not that race doesn't matter and there are still hard conversations to have but education could be a place to start.
He said his top goals were to deal with the rising inequality in our city and how education could change that, recognizing Seattle's diversity and making that a plus for our city and global warming.
The Mayor seemed at ease and very happy to be talking about public education. He believes he has learned much in his four years - and readily admits a learning curve - but is enthused and ready to continue on.
I repeated to him what I said to Senator Murray on the issue of any kind of nudge from a mayor about SPS governance - I might trust you but not the next mayor and that would be my worry. He said that any changes, if there were any, would come from a real city-wide discussion. Neither man criticized either the School Board or Superintendent directly.
His list of accomplishments/efforts in Seattle public education is fairly long and widespread. It is clear he cares about this issue. (And for the record, he has one Hale grad, another student there and another student at Salmon Bay.)
I look forward to hearing both the Mayor and Senator Murray at debates on this and other concerns facing our city.