Thursday, January 29, 2015

HB 1860 - Bye, bye SPS

Well, it appears that the Seattle Weekly's statement that Reps. Pettigrew and Tomiko Santos wanting to divide up Seattle School district is true.  Meet HB 1860.

It opens with this:

AN ACT Relating to first-class school director districts for the purposes of dividing large districts and limiting their number of board of director members; adding a new section to chapter 28A.343 RCW; creating a new section; providing an effective date; providing an expiration date; and declaring an emergency. 

Okay, where's the fire?  If I had the time, I'd love to compare SPS to other mid-sized urban districts.  I'm not sure it would fall anywhere near the "emergency" label.


Effective September 1, 2018, no first-class school director district may comprise more than thirty-five thousand students or have more than five members of its board of directors.

Well, that would mean SPS not only would be divided BUT would no longer have seven members of the board. That would play well if Seattle's mayor was able to appoint two members of a five-member.

The superintendent of public instruction must submit a final report and recommendations to the governor and the education and fiscal committees of the legislature by December 1, 2015.

And the bill would go in effect by July 2015.  

Quite the throwdown by the ed reformers.  Nothing like going for broke.  

I will be talking to Tomiko Santos soon and I'm eager to hear what this is all about.


Robert Cruickshank said...

The Legislature has no standing to propose these kinds of changes to district governance while they are one step away from being held in contempt for violating the Constitution by refusing to properly fund K-12 education.

joanna said...

I would say those of us in the 37th need to let our Representatives know that we do not support this.

Anonymous said...

This district is nowhere near as good as it should be given the talent and wealth in the area. The biggest failings sit with at the midmanagement, executive and board level. Nothing changes year after year after year after year. Plus the legislature hates SPS. Sees the district as incompetent and inefficient. Gen ed is middling. Gifted and SPED are abysmal. Transportation is too expensive. Planning and building? A mess. Customer service bad. An albatross of a mortgage on our headquarters building. A city council an mayor that doesn't work in tandem with the schools. It will cost more to have two districts but the management of them can only get better.

Gotta love the 2 legislators for swinging a big bat.

'Divide away'

Anonymous said...

I would want to see how they suggest dividing the district. Given that the city has significant segregation, both racially and economically, the fireworks should start flying around when people see the proposed divisions!

Someone suggested that some districts are divided by grade, with secondary schools and elementary schools in different districts. Seattle is too large, both population-wise and geographically to make that work. The district would have to be split along north-south lines.


Anonymous said...

Seattle's Figure 8 shape with downtown in the middle means the only way to divide it is north and south. That puts the most diverse and the poorest areas of the city in the south. We would end up with two very different districts and a reinforcement of already difficult socioeconomic problems including crime rates, generational poverty, and disenfranchisement.

HB1860 might be well-meaning but it is also ill-advised.


joanna said...

Don't get me wrong appointment by the mayor is not a good idea. I too am getting in touch with Santos. From what I can tell our mayor has many issues that need his attention and have for some time. I am not sure why we would add schools to his list. It is divided into districts now, that is through the primary election. I have grown tired of 7 members who can vote for good and bad and ugly in my community and only one can be touched in the primary. The others cannot be touched until the general election. As long as they did not do bad and ugly to the schools in their area generally incumbents will not have strong challenges within their districts. This would mean fewer districts or 2 additional Board members. I do not like the idea of appointment by the mayor but would like to see some representation that is totally at-large.

Watching said...

Has there been any public engagement over dividing the district? There are A LOT of missing details, and there are enormous consequences to this bill.

This is the SECOND bill from Pettigrew that seems to come out of left field and without public engagement.

Lynn said...

He's just trying to fit in - all the cool kids are splitting things in two. Proposal to split Washington into two new states.

marcob said...

This reeks of the "reform" agenda who's goal is to turn public education into profit making companies on the NY Stock Exchange. Our mayor should concern himself with taking care of the physical infrastructure of our great city and keep city hall out of the Seattle Schools!!!!

Anonymous said...

35,000 student limit per school district? Where did that number come from?

The school district of my home town covers the entire county and has over 60,000 students. I'm sure there are others in the US that are at least as large.

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

You can comment on the bill online

at HB 1860

What is in the water down there this week - wowza


Anonymous said...

This bill is just 'Neighborhood Schools' with no transport for outside kids, writ large.
Not a peep when that vote went down.
Divide and conquer.

So Eric etc. thought they could take it a step farther and carve out some nice big chunks for the charter investors.

Under the Bus

Robert Cruickshank said...

SPS has its problems, but a lot of them stem from the lack of proper funding - and that rests with the state legislature itself. The other problems, particularly the mismanagement from JSCEE, should be fixed through the democratic process of electing new board members.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know how a north-south split looks in terms of population distribution? I would love to see some demographics of two districts divided by the cut. Since most of the north schools are currently full while many schools on the south end are not, I have a hard time imagining that such a division would solve capacity issues. Would it bring more resources to the south? Create a south charter district and a north traditional one?


Anonymous said...

The legislature should:

1) Adequately fund basic ed and spedial ed.

2) Tackle funding inequities between rich districts and poor districts. How to level out the inequity in facilities and spending between Bellevue and Yakima?

3) Then look at district size. Seems like the 35K number was chosen specifically to split Seattle(and not Tacoma?), rather than aiming towards a philosophically ideal size. Persoanlly, I would have chosen 20K on the basis of smaller districts are more nimble and democratic. But, maybe a few years of debating the concept before floating a law, right?


Anonymous said...

There are a number of population map products on the City's demographics page - all based on the 2010 Census however.

see Seattle's Population and Demographics


Melissa Westbrook said...

"...will cost more to have two districts but the management of them can only get better. "

And you base that "get better" on what? What solid evidence?

As for those asking, "how would they be dividied?" You know that answer; it would be north/south. Logistically it would not make sense to do it any other way. Two long skinny districts side-by-side?

Patrick said...

Big Money playbook. Keep making looney proposals that the grassroots will have to spend their time and energy opposing, so they won't have time to fight what the big money really hopes to pass.

A split along the Ship Canal would hurt the north more than the south. Both sides are already near their levy lid and the north needs new buildings desperately while the south has several schools with space. The south would have the high property values downtown to tax.

Anonymous said...

Are they thinking about two democratically board run, true public schools districts, or something like the painting the Garden of Earthly Delights, where there is Eden on one side, and a corporate reform hellscape on the other?


Greenwoody said...

NNNCr, you're making solid points here. First, your 1-2-3 step approach is sensible. Dividing the district might be worth examining at some point down the road, but not before some basic needs are met - including proper K-12 funding and equity between rich and poor communities. As to what these split districts would look like, NNNCr is right again. One would basically resemble Northshore or Lake Washington SD, the other would be our own version of Chicago - mass school closures, mass charter conversion, staffed by TFA, all testing all the time, lots of computer learning, and a fully appointed board controlled by the city and the ed reformers.

Pettigrew and his ed reform allies likely believe that a district split would make it easier for them because, in their eyes, it gets the more active and powerful north end parents out of their way. But they aren't reckoning with the enormous backlash that their policies will create in central, west, and south Seattle.

Anonymous said...

I don’t think this comes out of left field. Rep. Santos is outspoken about why she went into state politics in the first place: Her frustration with the Seattle school district (admin) and the way it treated her community’s attempts to identify and address specific concerns. And when the “reform crowd” talked about closing down broken schools a few years ago, her reply was maybe we ought to close down broken districts. … Actually I think it was more along the lines of “go after my schools and I’ll shut down SPS.”
I’m not a fan of the idea (realities of implementation and potential to exacerbate divides within the city), but it definitely redirects state attention from teachers to the central office. And it calls out that there is more to the issue of opportunity gaps than access to early learning. There are issues of race (and poverty, but also race all on its own) and cultural gaps. Santos is heavily invested in trying to improve bilingual education.
And anyone who lumps Santos into the reform crowd has NOT been following Olympia for the past 5 years.
- Ramona Hattendorf

Watching said...

I agree with Ramona, Santos can not be lumped into the usual cast of characters associated with corporate ed. reform crowd. I want to hear from Tomiko-Santos.

I've always thought it unfortunate that low-income children are tied to strings attached to dollars.

RTT. Great- right? Not until you consider the fact that these kids have their discipline records being released to third party entities.(!)

Tim Burgess, Ed Murray, and the Gates Foundation working to provide low income children with free pre-k. Fabulous- right?? Not until you consider that these children are part of a research problem called P20. Free prek in exchange for being part of a research project. Fabulous.

Gawd help-us and the victims of "free".

Anonymous said...

Balkanization is an absolutely terrible idea. Need proof? Look at the Balkans. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

I don't care what Tomiko-Santos's history is. A bad idea is a bad idea. "Give me what I want, or touch my stuff and I'll burn down the village" isn't leadership. It's petulance.

Another couple democrats trying to outdo the Tea Party. Just what we need.

Republicans are supposed to be the ones tearing apart government institutions and hollering about the evils of Big Gov'ment, not Democrats.

These folks don't even know who they are anymore.

These moves have nothing to do with improving SPS, and everything to do with making it easier to be taken over and infiltrated by corporate interests.


Mary G said...

I see these two pieces of legislation as shots over the bow for SPS, for the same reasons both Melissa and Charlie Mas, in particular have been articulating over the last several years: the district is unresponsive to families. Committees form in response to serious issues and as soon as the issue is no longer in the limelight, the district dismantles it. Communities have clamored for improved outcomes for their students, such as SpEd and African American and the district employs a tacttic of mollifying, dividing and conquoring while the "issues" continue to smolder, meaning students don't graduate and are sentenced to a life with far more circumscribed outcomes. This sounds like ed reform rhetoric, but it is not. This comes from the people themselves, not from any league without a league or coalition without a coalition. The administration in SPS is inert and unresponsive. What is the solution? I don't that this is the solution, but it is in response to what we all see. I also agree with those that say the legislature should fully fund McCleary before they meddle with SPS.

Anonymous said...

Not an EMERGENCY ? I think my family and others in SPED would not agree. This district is NOT functioning well for a large percentage of students. It's not for the lack of funds. SPS has the highest administrative cost per students of any district.

SPS was in double secret probation over the last three years and now there's a plan in place that looks like it might work. My understanding is after the split every employee will need to re-apply for their position and that's when the house cleaning begins.

Shuter down

Robert Cruickshank said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Cruickshank said...

(ack, needed to edit my previous comment)

Agree with WSDWG. This is an idea maybe worth considering at some point - but it's not a solution to the core problem, which is the Legislature's failure to properly fund our schools as well as to fund solutions to systemic racism and poverty. The problems at SPS cannot be separated from the lack of funding. Fix that first, then let's see what else needs to be done. Besides, there are plenty of smaller and well run districts that still struggle because they aren't properly funded.

I'm all for big changes to SPS management, but those changes involve cleaning house at JSCEE. That doesn't require splitting the district or changing how we pick board members - it just requires picking board members who make this a priority.

Anonymous said...

Phone: (360) 786-7944

Toll-free Hotline:
1-800-635-9993 (TTY)


Anonymous said...

"I'm all for big changes to SPS management, but those changes involve cleaning house at JSCEE. That doesn't require splitting the district or changing how we pick board members - it just requires picking board members who make this a priority."

Robert: I totally agree with you, but the Board doesn't have the power to clean up the inertia, outside of hiring an effective Superintendent. Remember all the Times' editorials about "micro-management?" There's a firewall between the Board and Staff, and only the SI has the access codes.

I don't know if a complete house-cleaning is required, but real leadership that changes the culture is an absolute necessity. Does Larry have it? Can Larry do it? Only time will tell, but that's what we need.


Mary G said...

WSDWG: Well said.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Watching said...

Tomiko Santos has very critical of SPS administration-- for years. I agree with Mary in that Tomiko-Santos must have reached her limit with SPS administration. I have respect for Tomiko-Santos, but she decided to take an alternate approach.

Unfortunately, I feel this move will only allow for charter eruption in the south-end.

We've seen top = level administrators receive $38K pay raises over the past 4 years. These individuals now have benefit packages and salary of $200K. Nyland and Wright cost the district $500K per year in salary and benefits. Imagine doing this- again- in another district. Oy.

Watching said...

oops, I meant to say:

Tomiko Santos has been very critical of SPS administration-- for years. I agree with Mary in that Tomiko-Santos must have reached her limit with SPS administration. I have respect for Tomiko-Santos, and she decided to take an alternate approach.

Anonymous said...

If Tomika Santos has been following the district for years, then how can she not expect two administrations not to double the problems? Same people drawn from the same sources and fields. Twice the problem, not a fix. WSDWG

joanna said...

I am hoping to have Representative Santos speak for herself.

disgusted said...

I've lost respect for Tomiko-Santos. The time for her to speak with her constituents was before she pulled this shenanigan.

Greenwoody said...

Many of us are tired of SPS administration as well. We have our own long list of grievances. But that doesn't mean we want to see our district split up, taken over, or have other things imposed on it that will just make matters worse. I'm with the others: this is not something you just spring on people. There needed to be public discussion before this was proposed.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the split can happen quickly and the mayor can purge the rats off the barge. I'm sure all solutions have been looked at and this is the most efficient way to cull the administrative heard, because god knows there has been no internal efforts I've seen to fix this administration.
Now there's a light, we just need to follow it.

kumbaya moment

Anonymous said...

Just heard that the new district is called Seattle Public School district #2. RFPs are being sent out for services related to the split.

But you didn't hear that from me.

Go Hawks

Anonymous said...

Wow this is fantastic news. When schools are closed for snow and it's clear and sunny at your school that's when you need to split a district.

I hope the above commenter is correct in they are going to clean house. The people I've had to interact with are not very efficient in the intellectual arena (trying to be PC).

Mom of4

Ed said...

Free West Seattle!!!!

Anonymous said...


I honestly think a smaller district would be better for EVERYONE. I hope it happens.

Mag mom

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ReallyMagMom said...

Yes, Mag mom, it is impossible to know which district you will be incorporated....;)

Worth noting that Chris Reykdal- Vice Chair of the Education Committee and charter school supporter Chad Mengendez supported HB 1860

Anonymous said...

United We Stand, Divided We Fall.

or maybe it was ...

A house divided against itself cannot stand?

These feel like things I learned somewhere in my education ...

signed: enough said

Anonymous said...

I don't care where magnolia ends up. I just think 2 smaller districts will be better for everyone. Honestly.

Mag mom

Charlie Mas said...

There is simply no legitimate rationale for splitting the district just as there is no legitimate rationale for mayoral appointment of school board directors. Both ideas fail to respond to the supposed problems.

Splitting the district won't help because the district's size is not the problem.

Mayoral appointment won't help because the problem is not a dearth of establishment type board directors who are unaccountable to the public.

Mr. Pettigrew thinks that Seattle Public Schools is failing. By what measure is the district failing? What other districts in the state are failing by the same measure? Why doesn't he propose mayoral control for all of those other failing districts as well?

Ms Tomiko-Santos thinks that Seattle Public Schools is failing. By what measure is the district failing? What other districts in the state are failing by the same measure? Why doesn't she propose splitting up all of those other districts as well?

If mayoral control or splitting a district is the solution for Seattle's failures - whatever they may be - then why are they not the solution for all of the other districts in the state that are failing in the same way?

The truth, of course, is that Seattle Public Schools isn't failing at all.

Anonymous said...

Seattle Public schools are failing NCLB, like it or not it's a fact. SPS is failing to provide services to special educational students like it or not it's a fact. APP parents claim SPS is failing to serve their students. South end schools are claiming they are being discriminated against. Every other month there's a steaming mess coming from Garfield high school. SPS passes out other students information like its the good news flyer. Other schools are forging student test results.

We don't care what other districts do or don't do, it's irrelevant.

Now do you understand what failing is?


Anonymous said...

NCLB is not a good measurement of failing schools, Michael. NCLB had the ridiculous unfunded mandate that 100% of kids would be at grade level by 2014. NCLB was based on ideology, not research, and relies on labels, arbitrary numbers, and punishment. SPS is not failing NCLB - NCLB has failed all schools in the U.S.
Congress failed all schools in the U.S. by kowtowing to the Bush admin and their market-based ideology and the rhetoric in NCLB.
The Feds have never fully funded IDEA the entire time it has been in existence.
Even if SPS could get its act together in the Sped stuff, they - and all other schools - are still stuck in a Federal system of unfunded mandates. I get that you have a big old beef with SPS, but not everything is their fault. There are definitely issues created by the system in which they have to work.


Anonymous said...

CT, Washington state passes the education for ALL act BEFORE IDEA even existed requiring equal educational opportunities for students with disabilities. That puts the FULL financial obligation for the education of disabled kids on the state not the federal government. SPED isn't an impossible unfunded mandate, any more than educating girls or African Americans is an unfunded mandate. The reality is that it is a basic civil rights issue, and comments like yours are unhelpful.

Sped Parent

Anonymous said...

I welcome the split. Honestly, I am very surprised that Melissa and Charlie are taking the position that SPS isn't currently failing. Seems to me you've been sounding the alarm for years. Something must change, and this seems a good start. Right now, neither portion of district is having needs met. Do it!

Old timer

Anonymous said...

Regardless, Sped Parent, reality is that the state does not, and Fed funds in IDEA part B supplement what the state does not cover. Thus districts are subject to the Fed regulations & the unfunded mandates that come with.
Estimates are that Fed funds make up about 13% of a district's budget, most of it to meet mandates in IDEA. State monies make up about 65% of a district's budget, with the remainder coming from local sources & reserves. Perhaps McCleary will change that reliance on Fed funds, which currently cover about 15% of a child's sped needs when the actual IDEA legislation called for it to fund 40%, and force the state to cover what they should be covering in Basic Education. Then perhaps the state can stop spending millions of dollars in worthless testing to meet the fed mandates so they can get the fed funding and spend it on sped kids and other education programs that have proven benefits to kids.


Anonymous said...

CT, neither NCLB nor IDEA are "unfunded" or "mandates." The state receives millions for dollars from the federal government to implement them --- although I could argue both are underfunded, as under funded as state Basic Education. And states are not required to implement either. A state can choose not to take the money and, therefore, not follow their requirements.

Furthermore, the state adopted laws supporting students with disabilities prior to IDEA (as Sped parent stated). The state also adopted laws requiring standards, assessments, and accountability prior to NCLB.

And finally, test-based accountability isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Congress may very possibly reauthorize ESEA/NCLB this year and maintain the annual state testing requirements and interventions based on the results.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

I'll swap out the unfunded for underfunded, but NCLB is most definitely a mandate if you receive federal funding.

Yes, a state or district could conceivably not take federal funding, but depending on where you are and what your local tax base is, that's not necessarily an option. If you were a small Vermont school district where federal funds made up less than 3% of your annual budget (approx $130,000) then yes, you could easily tell the Feds where to stick it. But if your state/district includes areas of high-poverty (like most of the southern states, or good portions of E Washington), or your district contains a state school/rehab center like Fircrest or Rainier, and the state doesn't cover enough of your funds, there's no way you're going to turn down that money. Thus the Feds have you over a barrel. It costs you x amount of money to meet these mandates to get you y amount of money.

There were states at one time who considered dumping NCLB, but when the economy tanked, they did not. Utah would have given up $117 million to dump NCLB at one time, which would not have affected the wealthier districts much, but would have killed some of the poorer and rural districts since the state did not intend to step up too much of its financial support. Other states also looked at it, including Vermont and Virginia.

Even now, the threats for not following Fed orders on testing exist - Duncan threatened to fine California at least $15 million if they did not administer the SBAC. Chicago has opted not to administer the PARCC in all their schools because they do not have the technology to do so (similar to many districts), and their state Supe recently received a letter from USDOE indicating that they could lose up to $1.2 billion in school funds for the state if the PARCC tests are not taken.

When states like WA first started the WASL testing regime, it was more of a dipstick, and occurred less frequently, and without the high stakes attached. It was mostly tolerable, home-grown, and actually prompted some good conversations about student learning. Prior to that, many districts had used the ITBS or the SAT-9 in a few different grades to see how kids were doing, and again no high stakes were attached to scores. NCLB ushered in the high-stakes and the narrow definition of failure and success solely based on test scores.

As for HB 90 - I'm quite aware of its existence and that it predates IDEA (and even was the scaffold for IDEA). My point is that the state is not fully funding sped, thus districts are forced to take the limited federal funding to make up for the shortfall, particularly when they have large special ed populations, subsequently they have to jump through all the IDEA hoops the Feds want them to. Some of those hoops are good, some are not so good, but they have no choice, regardless. If you are a small, rural school district with maybe 10 identified sped students, there again you can probably get by with turning down fed dollars. If you are a district with a large, complex special ed population, you can't turn down that funding - minimal as it is - and still provide for kids unless the state steps in with the funding it should. That has yet to happen. And when IDEA was first passed, Congress promised to pay for 40% of special education costs. They have yet to fund beyond 15%. Thus sped students get shortchanged both at the state and federal level.


Anonymous said...

CT, you raise very good points and these are contentious issues.

However, I'm confused by your statements that the USDOE is threatening to fine states/districts for not administering SBAC and/or PARCC. No state is required by the USDOE to administer these consortia assessments. States are required to administer annual accountability assessments but they can choose their own. Again, SBAC and PARCC are not required under NCLB.

--- swk