Friday, January 02, 2015

The Times and "Wishful Thinking"

The Times starts off the year with their "headlines we'd like to see" contest.  Funny thing, their editorial doesn't even give the top reader winners' headlines but only the ones the Times wants to see.  (None of were about public education except for "No U.S. school shootings in 2015" which won first place.)

The Times calls their own headlines "wishful thinking" and they certainly are. Hey, look at that - four of them are about public education. 
- Legislature funds McCleary education ruling and leaves Olympia on-time (I think we can all agree on this one but, of course, where's the money coming from?)

- Mayor takes over Seattle Public Schools.  Well, they are nothing if not direct.

As I have opined before, the Mayor will take a HUGE political risk doing this (and that goes for if he were to succeed or fail).  Let's tally up the reasons.

One, just saying out loud that he wants to do this is risky.  He would have to articulate several good reasons.  He would have to either diss our current Board or try to make them sound like dim-witted do-gooders who are less-than-effective.  He would likely have to promise change in all district leadership - both hired and elected because otherwise, it would look like a power grab by him against an elected school board. 

Two, he has been in office less than two years.  What makes him and his staff believe they have the bandwidth and expertise to do this? There's some chutzpah to this thinking.  The new "Department of Education" has just taken on preschool (albeit in a limited fashion).  I have e-mails showing that they know the costs just to do that will rise and the worry they have over finding the money.  And now they want to take on running a school district?

Or would this just be about appointing both a Board and a superintendent that the Mayor could control (with a little help from some powerful and wealthy friends)?

Three, where in this country has mayoral control of an urban school district truly led to better outcomes?

Four, the Mayor taking over the district would mean that he thinks voters aren't bright enough to vote in good people for the Board, then how are we bright enough to vote for, say, mayor?

Five, I concede the Mayor his vast knowledge of the Legislature, its members and how it works.  The 500-lb gorilla in the room?  Local control and how this move would look to conservative legislators who might get in hot water with school boards in their regions who do NOT want this to happen to them.  Go down this road with Seattle and then watch mayors around the state start eyeing their districts. 

- State Legislature suspends I-1351.  Two problems here.  First, the Legislature cannot do that for two years.  They can, like the Governor appears to want to do, ignore it for two years and THEN suspend it.

Second, so any close vote on an initiative can be challenged by the Legislature? Just like I-1240, the charter law.  Either it's the will of the people or not.  Also, when voters enact an initiative that doesn't have money, I think the vote means "enact AND you find the money because that's what we elected you to do."

- Achievement gap closing statewide; graduation rates reach 100 percent.  The first half of that headline is fine AND could be done.  The second?  Honestly, let's be realistic.  In one year the Times wishes the graduation rates in Washington State would go to 100%?  Yes, and I wanted a pony for Christmas.

There's no state in the U.S. anywhere near 100%.  Steady process is happening, the pace does need to pick up but there are many reasons that you will never get to 100% and the Times knows that.

But clearly folks, you are going to see some real action happening this year on these fronts.  The Times may be sitting in a room, beating their own off-beat drumbeat but there are those, with power, who want it to be so.

It would be a good idea to let the Mayor (and the City Council) know you will not support this effort. The City Council should be reminded that every single seat is up for election next November where I predict that public education will be a central issue.

I'll have another thread on how the School Board races may play out. 


Eric B said...

I think the biggest reason the Mayor doesn't want to do a takeover is that every mayoral election thereafter will be about schools. No matter what he/she does, it will tick some people off. Some programs (SpEd for one) will never be good enough. That will give any opponent to the incumbent a base of support and volunteers. I sure as heck wouldn't want that if I were in his shoes.

I've heard good things about Boston schools, and I think they're mayor-controlled.

Anonymous said...

"Some programs (SpEd for one) will never be good enough."

Tell us how you really feel.


Anonymous said...

The current state of SPS's administration is unacceptable.

The list of problems simply continues to grow.

SPS SPED issues now threaten all SPS federal funding.

The Board hasn't proven they can control the superintendent and no superintendent has proven they can control the district.

The district's leadership has not communicated that they intend to change their behaviors, so it's time to try something NEW. It doesn't have to be forever, but we can't let SPS continue unchecked.


mirmac1 said...

Murray is arrogant as all get out. He's like a prima donna with an entourage, yelling "off with her head" to staffers who don't grovel enough.

The latest non-profit that professes to be unaffiliated with the Alliance, yet shares board members and staff and will take Alliance money, is as insulting as he is. They say they want to "train" future school board candidates. They propose to recruit them too because "we need smart" directors. Oh, and they would like small donations from lots of people to make it look like they aren't owned by Gates and his Philanthropic Partners for Public Education. Kinda like the fake "Our Schools" Coalition.

Mary G said...

Gee looks Lynne Varner never really left. Reading the article reminded me of Valerie Strauss' column about a tweet from Arne Duncan a few days ago which the twitterverse took up with the hashtag #whatif and made their own in a way Arne probably didn't imagine: What if every district committed both to identifying what made their 5 best schools successful & providing those opps to all their students?" The #whatif tweets are pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Eventually we will have to ask "Why are we paying two state employees combined salary of over $4 million dollars a year?"

Why not limit the top salary to of 10 times the lowest salary?

Why shouldn't all seats in our public universities go to in state students first? How could we allow foreigners to attend over US citizens.

I'm against any additional funding for UW and WSU until these issues are resolved.


Anonymous said...

If Murray goes down the mayoral control of schools road, he will be a one-term mayor.
While the rich people like Gates & Co don't want democracy and would prefer to cut out the average person (as in Chicago), the bulk of the populace prefers local control for a number of reasons, not the least of which is lack of trust in big government.
There are few to no truly successful examples of mayoral control of schools. Those that claim they are successful are most likely in the ruling class, while kids/teachers/parents have another view. Chicago is the poster child for what goes wrong when the school board is appointed rather than elected, and the mayor is in control of schools - closing schools in the low income areas, converting them to charters where the majority of the neighborhood kids are not welcome, board members reaping the benefits of exclusive technology deals, corrupt charter deals (UNO), firing hundreds of experienced teachers and replacing them with wealthy, white, entitled Teach-For-Awhiles, playing games with teacher pensions, etc.
If Murray and his A4Ed & DFER pals want to go after mayoral control of schools, I say bring it on. His downfall will come even faster than Susan Hutchison's did.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I'll do a fuller thread on mayoral control because there is quite a spectrum of types plus no real agreement on outcomes.

How could we allow foreigners to attend over US citizens.

Michael, that's quite the simplistic view. It's not "foreigners" taking seats from U.S. citizens. We allow it for many reasons including the fact that most of those people pay full freight that helps pay to run the university.

Anonymous said...

So, how is Seattle school district an example of successful district with an elected school board?


Anonymous said...

No "foreigners" do not pay the full cost! I don't pay taxes so "foreigners" can come here and take seats from our local students. "foreigners" did not build the UW "foreigners" did purchase the land the UW sits on. "foreigners" do not pay the yearly tax payer subsidization needed to run the school.

Whatever the reasons are that "foreigners" are taking seats away from our local students need to stop! That time is long gone and if people cant see

Many "foreigners" have benefited from the US tax payers generosity, but enough is enough and its time to start taking care of our own first, then if there's something left over we can talk "foreigners".


Eric B said...

SpEd will never be good enough because by its nature SpEd can never be good enough. What would it take to truly provide for the needs of every SpEd student in Seattle? Near-infinite resources. Those don't exist, so some kids will not get everything that they need. Getting everything that they are legally entitled to would be a nice large step forward, but the law doesn't cover everything SpEd students need or could use.

I'm not trying to slight SpEd students, I'm acknowledging the vast unmet need out there.

Anonymous said...

@Eric B, it doesn't take Near-infinite resources, come on that's a myth. I would argue SPS spends more dollars avoiding following the law than it would cost to follow it. Apparently someone at SPS has determined it cost around $56,000 per student to provide special education. I reach this conclusion because each year SPS pays NWSOIL $902,000 to teach 16 students, or maybe the magic number is $126,000 per student based on the one student they pay for to attend school in Utah.

It's definitely somewhere between 0 and $126,000 and that's not NEAR-infinite.


Anonymous said...

@ Eric B: Ditto that for general ed, English language learners and gifted ed. The need is great for all areas of our students. None of those groups is getting all they need. One of the reasons SPED in Seattle will never be good enough is the lack of recognition from the loudest voices that there are deep problems in meeting the needs of pretty much all of our kids. It ain't just SPED that is hurting. And those watching education know it, so SPED will never get the total mindshare parents want and is mostly valid for SPED. Because for all of our kids the programs aren't there. The money isn't there. The infrastructure isn't there. The management isn't there. It could be a lot worse but it sure could be a lot better for everyone. Not enough time resources or public will to change it either.


Anonymous said...

Right. And Second Grade will never be good enough either. Yet, somehow it's fine and dandy to rag on kids with disabilities as some sort of collective hogs at the trough. The "vast unmet needs of the disabled" would be improved if SPS stopped using special ed as gigantic piggy bank. Let's list a few non-controversial actions, that would both improve learning for Sped Students, AND stop the rampant pillaging of sped funding.

1. Stop using Special educators as Subs. Happens everyday, everywhere. And it robs students of instruction.

2. Stop using Sped Staff for non sped work. Hall monitors, lunchroom, recess monitors, bus duty, before, after, and during school. All this done by sped staff, robbing students instruction. Lots of it.

3. Stop Sped teachers from teaching Gen ed classes.

4. Stop excessive administrative hiring, esp when those administrators have almost no experience in sped. This is money down the toilet.

5. Stop hiring consultants who don't even pretend to solve the actual problems for the actual students.

There. I just found literally millions of special ed money, walking out the door.


4. Hire required staff at the beginning of the year. This year, tons of related service providers failed to materialize for students until Nov.

Greenwoody said...

SPS has real problems with its central staff. But do not think for a moment that Ed Murray or Tim Burgess or Holly Miller want to take over SPS in order to solve those problems. No, their goal is to override the elected school board so that they can convert public schools to charter schools, tie teacher evaluations to test scores and turn our classrooms into test prep, and put unqualified and inexperienced teachers into the classroom.

They will focus on those things, and leave the current SPS management structure - and the people filling those roles - in place. The only thing that changes is the loss of an elected school board, currently the only lever that parents have to force any improvement in SPS practices.

So for those of you upset about SpEd, or data breaches, or the lack of capacity planning, or Title IX, or disciplinary problems, and so on: those problems will remain, and perhaps get worse, under a City takeover. The City is not interested in solving those issues. We must fix them ourselves, starting with replacing all four school board members up for re-election this year with people who have a mandate to clean house at JSCEE.

Anonymous said...

"those problems will remain, and perhaps get worse, under a City takeover."
You statement is pure speculation!

Stick to facts:

SPS has continued systemic problems.
SPS board has not forced any superintendents to manage the district administrators.
SPS superintendents have not forced district administrators to follow the laws.
SPS superintendents have not fired a single district administrator over the current issues plaguing the district.

SPS has the highest administrative cost per student of any US public school district.

Now tell me again why the change to allow the Mayor over site of SPS administration is bad.


Watching said...

Eric, You are wrong. Murray has high ambitions and he would love to please his financial backers; the same ones that want charter schools. These same financial backers would help propel Murray into higher levels of government and Murray wouldn't care if he were a one time mayor. Let's remember, Murray is the one that drafted BERTHA legislation and why would he want to stick around and clean-up that mess?

Has anyone been "watching" the city's claim regarding the administrative level for their Education Department, which will be staffed with 42 individuals? It has become impossible to discern the difference between Health and Human Services and numbers of individuals within the Education Department.

Bill Gates is behind the looming prek issue through-out the state, and this effort began five years ago.

I'm confident the discussion regarding mayoral control is starting and will become increasingly loud.

I continue to feel a sense of concern about the city transitioning governing systems via the prek initiative. The city/district already wants to loop prek and k teachers. Thus, the city inserting themselves into K-5 hiring and alignment. The board would be smart to keep the city OUT of K-5 operations.

Nyland is the city's guy. Will he help the city? Where does Charles Wright fit into the picture?

Watching said...

"That will give any opponent to the incumbent a base of support and volunteers. I sure as heck wouldn't want that if I were in his shoes"

Did you watch the $11M dollars that flew into the charter school initiative? These guys don't need dollars and/ or people to pound the pavement.

Anonymous said...

I've had very good service by the City of Seattle government employees. Sometimes it's hard to find the right person, but generally speaking they fix the problem quickly.

SPS best attribute is delay. They can't do it now because of Christmas break. Oh they cant do it now because of winter break then it's spring break and finally summer vacation.

Maybe next year, no wait we have to study whether or not we can tell you, which is code for "if we delay long enough your kid should be out of SPS and not our problem".

Super Murray

Gads said...

"Why shouldn't all seats in our public universities go to in state students first? How could we allow foreigners to attend over US citizens."

Michael, Please stop, you are embarrassing yourself. Have you not noticed that "foreigners" pay higher rates of tuition and universities rely on these higher rates of tuition?

Anonymous said...

Here's a simple fix, UW should stop taking tax dollars! Lets see non-resident students support the full cost of running the UW.

The only people who should be embarrassed are those who support the ridiculous practice of "foreigners" displacing local students.


Lia R. said...

Perhaps Super Murray has never tried getting information from the city. Or, how about the fact that the city decided to provide charter schools with funding; funding that should not have been made available to charter schools?

Greenwoody is correct. The city will want to hire the superintendent, hire TfA, silence voters, and control the majority of the school board, promote charter schools etc. The structure would stay in place, but run by the city.

Oh Please said...

I suspect Super Murray is a charter school supporter.

Perhaps Super Murray should consider the increased gun violence in Seattle. Or, how about the recent stabbing in a gas station:

Perhaps we should talk about city finances.

It is debatable whether or not an individual can get information from the city, but they are not the most transparent organization that I've seen.

Oh Please said...

How about the robbery and brutal attack in Rainier Valley that left an individual in the hospital.

Murray isn't taking care of the city and citizens of SEattle. There is no reason to believe that Murray and/or an appointed school board would be effective.

Patrick said...

Michael, you're embarrassing yourself about UW. Out-of-state students pay the full cost and then some. For this quarter, resident full-time undergrads pay $4,131 while out-of-state students pay $11,171.

Anonymous said...

Go through the UW these days and it's half Chinese. Nothing against those students. They qualify to get in.

By charging full fare for international kids the UW might be keeping tuition down for kids from this state but the number of state kids getting in has to have gone down hugely. It's a direct result of the crap support of state legislature and voters for higher education.


Anonymous said...

Aghast, most of those Chinese students you see are not international students. UW's undergrad population is about 14% international--and they don't all come from China. Most of "those students" you see--my own Chinese American child included--are not international students.

Yes, UW has increased the number of international students admitted, as this is a way to help subsidize the cost of education for everyone else. Without the influx of foreign money--and the triple tuition such students pay--everyone else would pay more, or have less.

I'm not saying this is right or wrong, or what the optimal level of international students is. But as the parent of one of "those Chinese" students you can visibly see on on campus, the tone of your comment was offensive. Not to mention that your facts are wrong.

Half Full

Anonymous said...

Half full, you are fighting an uphill battle there. You can be 4th gen with a grandpa who fought in the 442nd and have family members whose careers have been in the service of this country and your children will still be a "foreigner" to some. Hard to change that type of mindset.

small world

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed that the things people used to be ashamed and embarrassed to THINK, they now shout it out loud on the interwebz. I also wonder how far people who are always screaming "MY TAX DOLLARS" think the few thousands they pay goes to cover all the services they receive. We don't even have a state income tax! If "MY TAX DOLLARS" were actually anywhere near sufficient to pay for all our services, our country wouldn't be owning China gazillions in DEBT!

Want better funded schools and fewer out of state/out of US students? Demand a State, County and City income tax! Demand big corporations and wealthy people pay their share in taxes!

CCA, feeling queasy!

Anonymous said...

When you look at the UW budget numbers the delta revenue between the resident and non-resident numbers are a drop in the bucket.

Every single seat should go to state resident students, so whats really going on?


Anonymous said...

"Every single seat should go to state resident students, so whats really going on?"

Geez. I've lived, and paid taxes, in a whole lot of states over the years. Does that means my kids should get stuck only being able to attend college in my current state--unless they are somehow able to go to a private school? That's crazy.

And do we really want a UW that lacks diversity, and that is populated by students with lower credentials than elsewhere? UW isn't admitted a bunch of underqualified out-of-staters, just to get the extra tuition. These out-of-state applicants are generally more highly qualified. UW's reputation and appeal would drop if it were a WA-only school. No thanks.

Half Full

Anonymous said...

"And do we really want a UW that lacks diversity, and that is populated by students with lower credentials than elsewhere?"

I guess you are referring to Seattle Public school grads in your dig.

Washington state has every ethnicity represented, so what type of diversity are you talking about?

I don't care what other states do or don't do because it's irrelevant and BTW US non-resident students would come second before non US resident students.

I believe grad school can be more open, but certainly not undergrad.

I want ALL Washington state high school students to be able to attend the UW or WSU and if that mean there's no room for non-resident students so be it.


Anonymous said...

Michael, it's not intended as a dig at SPS or any other WA students. It's just reality--if the pool of students from which UW draws is WA residents only, it's going to be a weaker pool than if it were also drawing the best and the brightest from other states. And those who apply and get in from out of state tend to have very strong applications--stronger than many of those in-state students who don't get accepted.

Half Full

Anonymous said...

Right. UW would draw a weaker student pool. Simply meaning different than the people it currently draws. But, so what? It would be better serving the citizens that do actually live in Washington. The fact that UW serves " the best and the brightest" doesn't help you much if you don't get in. It ain't Harvard. It's a public school. And right. Serving more state residents would mean tuition would go up for in state residents, or maybe we'd prioritize out some nonproductive research areas.

Reader 48

Josh Hayes said...

"nonproductive research areas"? Where do you think funding comes from for research at UW and WSU? Hint: it ain't from state taxpayers. Nearly all of that research, in every department, is funded externally, by grants from federal agencies (NSF, NIH, etc.) and/or foundations (Ford, MacArthur, etc.).

These universities, the flagships, are filling exactly the role they are intended to fill: they are research institutions which also offer an excellent educational opportunity for the students who are enrolled there. Some of the readers here seem to disapprove of that role; by all means, petition the state to change what these universities are about. I have taught at "open enrollment" schools - where any high school graduate from the state was entitled to enroll - and sure, they all got in as freshmen, and 90% of them flunked out by the end of that year. How does this help those students? How does this help that institution? Does that really "serve the citizens that [sic] do actually live in Washington"? I think not.

Anonymous said...

As a UW graduate, I can say that for freshman and sophomores, the education sucks. It isn't until you get into your major that you start having classes where they aren't trying to weed you out. Freshman and Sophomore year are like cattle calls with classrooms of 300 students. Very few of the professors care if you pass or not or even learn anything. You will get a much better education at North Seattle College for your first two years.


Anonymous said...

I don't think your statistics could possibly be correct. 90% failure rate seems like an exaggeration.

No one is suggesting all students should be allowed to attend. There should be reasonable entrance criteria and reasonable cost.

What I'm saying is all in state eligible students should fill open seats before non-resident students.

We should set the expectation that Washington state high schools should be able to prepare students for the UW or WSU, that should be the goal and purpose of high schools. I'm not saying every student will reach the goal, but it worth trying.


Josh Hayes said...

All right, I'll cop to the hyperbole, but I'm not going to identify the two different state universities where I saw this; certainly a majority of those students had no business being at what was supposed to be the flagship university for their respective states.

But that said, it seems like you're moving multiple goalposts at once here. I would suggest that UW/WSU are already applying "reasonable criteria" for admission, and the fact is, those are very high bars. There's no shame in not meeting those criteria, and I bet anybody from UW Admissions would argue that they are filling open seats with eligible in-state students, it's just that there aren't all that many who are eligible. Are you suggesting that the out-of-state students who earn admission are not as good? Not as well-qualified?

It seems to me you have to either argue that they ARE letting in unqualified out-of-state students (and I think here the burden of proof would be on you), or that they should relax the criteria for in-state students (but not out-of-state ones, apparently). I can't speak for either university, of course, but it seems to me that an excellent university with world-class research facilities located in one of the most beautiful cities in the world (sorry, Pullman - I mean Seattle :-) ) inevitably will attract truly excellent prospective students from all corners of the nation, and the globe. Would you enforce provinciality? An important aspect of the college experience is exposure to people other than the ones you already know. You seem to think that this is not a desirable goal.

Heck, my own kids may well not get into UW or WSU. That won't be because they somehow should have gotten in but had their seat stolen by some student from [your personal bugbear here]. It'll be because these are tremendous institutions and they have, and they should have, quite stringent entrance requirements. I wouldn't want it any other way.

Anonymous said...

Josh. That's ridiculous. Why should the institutions have such high expectations that they keep out most in-state residents, who have done fine in state high schools? Yes. We get it. That's what those supposedly elite universities are designed to do. That's what I object to. Tremendous state institutions should serve state. If we want Harvard - then build a Harvard. Privately. That isn't UW. Josh brings up diversity. I'm sorry - we've got plenty here already. And right. We're all for letting others in - so long as our own kids get educated. I'm totally 100% fine with having higher requirements for out of state than in state. How not?

Furthermore, the "research" itself might be funded elsewhere - but it's the state that provides the institution that allows it to happen in the first place. And the infrastructure. What? Those grantors would spring for a backyard research consortium to get similar grants. NOT. Get real.

Reader 48

Anonymous said...

My out of state niece was able to get into the UW with less than stellar grades and an adequate SAT score while in state boys we knew who were 4.0 GPA, very high SAT scores, captain of the swim team and Eagle Scouts did not make it in. I think they have a quota for how many in state students and they fill the rest with high paying out of staters. WSU is much easier for in state students to get into. Also, in many programs, WWU offers a better education than UW. UW is a research university and the focus is on research which means graduate students working for slave wages and professors spending almost all their time pursuing grants.