I see this in Councilman Tim Burgess who has made pre-K a key issue in his roster. He was even able to get the Times to print a "news" story today that has no real news in it as a way to remind people it's his issue. (I'm wondering why the Times felt compelled to print this story rather than allowing Burgess an op-ed.)
His latest newsletter is a litany of "composite" stories about kids who live in the north end and kids who live in the south end.
What I find fascinating about both stories is that he is a lot more evenhanded to the district in his newsletter but goes after the district in the Times. And, naturally, he doesn't even mention that the City itself had quite a role in allowing red-lining to go on, decade after decade, creating the conditions that have tended to isolate poor people.
In the Times' article he says that the district should be "horrified" at the opportunity gap. He is also reported to have said that "all of its best (elementaries) are located up north."
But in his newsletter, while speaking of the many Level 1 and Level 2 elementaries in the south end, he then acknowledges that "these same areas have Level 3 and 4 schools, too." So which is it - no good elementaries in the south end or just some?
He calls this gap "a systemic evil" almost as if the devil had something to do with it (if only - then we could just pray and make it go away.) In neither his newsletter nor the Times' article does he mention the role of the state and the slow enacting of McCleary.
But Burgess seems to think that this inequity, this "inequality of opportunity," is somehow all to be laid at the feet of public education. I just don't buy that. Public education is the best hope for bringing down barriers but it can't do it alone. (I'll note that if Burgess votes to allow developers to buy their way out of providing more low-income housing spots in new developers, then you should wonder about his real commitment to changing the situation.)
Here's what he says in his newsletter:
A strong public education system is supposed to be the great equalizer, the springboard to a successful life, the key strategic investment the public makes to give every child the strong and fair start they deserve.Again, the public school system as the "equalizer" for all the problems in our society that get foisted onto children. How can public education really solve all these problems especially without full-funding?
I absolutely support birth-five services and pre-K. But last fall, when I was talking with KC Ex Dow Constantine about his Best Starts levy for such services, I asked him about coordination/overlap/duplication with state and city services. He said he really didn't know. If this is all about getting it right for the largest number of kids, you'd think someone would be trying to find that out.
Burgess also still says that the Seattle Preschool Program is "high-quality." How he knows that is a mystery. Is it modeled - but not precisely - after other programs in the country that have had some success? It is but it is so early in the game, I'm not sure how he can call this a touchdown already.
Also, after the Mayor's Ed Summit, it seems like dead silence from his office.
Oh wait, remember when I wondered out loud why the messages and feedback from the many education conversation meetings wasn't reported out at the Summit? Well, I still can't tell you why that didn't happened there but the feedback is now at the Mayor's website.
As well, his Advisory Group is busy meeting. Here's where you can read the meeting minutes.
The first meeting in March had this interesting tidbit:
Several group members felt that there was no clearly stated objective for the Summit. It was difficult to decipher whether people were there to listen or engage in conversation. Regina Jones let the group know that the Summit is meant to educate the community on best practices, as well as, listen to their concerns and act as an extension of the community conversations.In May,
John previewed upcoming meetings. He talked about how some group members have expressed interest in having some discussion about a high-level vision for the work of the group.It's already May and there is no over-arching vision for their work?
Also, they discussed the feedback from the community conversations. It was noted there were nine themes.
- improving school climate (with one idea being to "plan for the growth of school capacity that is in line with the growth of the city")
- improving in-school instruction and programming (with a long list of suggestions)
- improving family/community engagement and partnerships (in the list of suggestions from community members was "pool all public school PTSA fundraising dollars (in some part0 to be distributed equally to all schools." That would be up to the PTSA, not the district or the Ctiy.
- supporting community and family needs
- strengthening post-secondary access and attainment
- school-city collaboration (interesting idea; more of the Families&Ed money going to more high-poverty schools), "encourage the state to fully fund schools and/or adopt a more progressive tax system," fund some school board positions to attract more candidates, mayoral control of schools or school board seats/the City should not get involved with running schools; more charter schools and the City could be an authorizer (legally, that's not possible under this new law)
- recruiting, supporting and retaining a diverse and high-quality educator workforce (the suggestions did not include the obvious which is to make housing affordable for Seattle teachers)
- expanding access to quality early learning (one suggestion - "move preschools out of school buildings to community centers or build preschool facilities")
The Advisory Group also had the following feedback:
- Early childhood adverse experiences: We need to reach back and reduce early childhood trauma. A group member stressed the need for going into the communities when a child is young and understanding childhood trauma.
- Youth Violence: It should be discussed more often. A group member talked about how their school lost 17 students in 18 months.
- Community healing: It should be discussed even before restorative justice.
- School communication: Need better school board and school communication.
- Glad to see that the diversity of school staff is on the summary. Teachers, administrators and staff don’t reflect the workforce.