Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Times Leads Its Readers on How to Think about Public Education

The Seattle Times is the major newspaper of record in our city and it really does fall to them to give the fullest picture in their reporting and then, if they must, lead their readers to a conclusion about that story (or write an editorial.)

The Times did both things recently.
First, there was a fairly good editorial about what newly re-elected Governor Inslee should do about education.
Inslee made education a centerpiece of his re-election campaign. And voters sent him back to Olympia for four more years. Now they and the Legislature need to hear Inslee’s voice and feel his leadership, through ideas and, when needed, political pressure.

To answer the McCleary ruling, the Legislature must end its reliance on locally raised taxes to pay for basic education — when it convenes in January.
And I love their acknowledgment about the role poverty plays:
Too many school children continue to drop out of school, get unequal education services because of their families’ economic situations and miss out on important career opportunities.
But then we get to this:
On the negotiation table is local levy reform, which might come with some pain for urban taxpayers, not to mention more money from another source, such as a new capital-gains tax. And most important, any new money or redistribution of existing dollars need to be spent on methods proven to improve the outcomes for Washington’s students.
I like that toss-off remark of "some pain for urban taxpayers" because that pain will be felt by schools.  I'm guessing they mean the levy cliff but since they are vague, it's hard to say.  But great that they believe there needs to be new money.

But that last sentence about "methods proven to improve," well, I'd like the Times to let us all know what they had in mind.  I agree that outcomes are currently not good for all children but that is the struggle of public education -finding ways to educate every child.

But the Times gets back to the good (bold mine):
Still under contempt of court, the governor and the Legislature need to pick the most fair and least painful financial solutions. They should not waste the 2017 legislative session arguing.

But lawmakers should take care of the education question first. The governor should increase the pressure by saying he will sign only education-related bills until the McCleary work is finished.

He also has an opportunity to turn the conversation toward solutions that would make lives better for kids, such as more money for quality preschool and a new approach to career and technical education with a science and technology bent.  
Also to know is that Washington's Paramount Duty recently submitted to Washington’s Supreme Court, a motion for clarification, in the McCleary case.
In the motion, WPD asked the Court to clarify whether the levy cliff must be addressed by the Legislature in order for the State to “demonstrate steady and measurable progress and to provide a complete plan” for amply funding basic education. The levy cliff will occur on January 1, 2018, when the State’s temporary 4 % increase in the levy lid and Local Effort Assistance (levy equalization) for local school districts expires.

These local levy revenues and levy equalization amounts do not supplant the requirement that the State amply fund basic education with regular and dependable State tax sources to amply fund basic education. However, school districts currently rely on these levies to cover their budgets until the State fully funds basic education.

With the automatic levy cliff scheduled to take effect nine months before the State has the obligation to fully fund public schools, the patient (the public school system) will be off life support (the local levies) before the new heart (regular and dependable State tax sources) is available for surgery.
Next, there was a story today in the Times on a study about Washington State public school teacher pay. The report was commissioned by the Legislature in order to do the McCleary work mandated by the Supreme Court.  (I will update this story when I read the report which is 148 pages.)

The biggest sticking issue is how much do districts pay teachers and where does that money come from?
The average K-12 base salary provided by the state is $52,308, according to the report. 

On top of that, local school districts use property tax levies to pay teachers on average an additional $13,846, according to the report.
Not just Seattle but many school districts do this.

But then reporter Joseph O'Sullivan has to go and spoil it by saying this:
Despite lawmakers’ pouring billions of dollars into K-12 education to address the McCleary decision, the court in 2014 found the state in contempt for not making enough progress toward a full funding plan. 
There is no specificity to how many billions were "poured" into education.  Nor is there an acknowledgment that not all those dollars were NEW dollars.   We had a recession, remember?  And districts had to cut, cut, cut because of that.  Many of those dollars are being used to put back in dollars taken out by those cuts.

But that might mar the Times' efforts to make it look like districts already get enough money.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

"I like that toss-off remark of 'some pain for urban taxpayers' because that pain will be felt by schools. I'm guessing they mean the levy cliff but since they are vague, it's hard to say."

It's not schools. If local levy funding is replaced by a state formula, it will mean more money coming from urban areas and going to rural ones. That's the pain they're talking about and it's an issue that many who want "full funding" aren't ready to deal with yet.

-SDD

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Anonymous said...

Melissa, I appreciate that you read the Times so I don't have to, but if last week taught us anything it's this: the media is selective.

Everyone has a story. Even you are selective in the telling. The people who encouraged youth to fear Trump, who mocked him and made fun of him, have only themselves to blame as they talk down kids who bought the hype, that the sky will fall. The only one who is suffering from a low ceiling is Clinton. All those donors and her without favors to settle the debt, yet she continues to blame everyone but herself. This character study applies to those who make demands without regard for students as a whole. If all students have what they need, the rationale for divide and conquer dries up.

Does your crystal ball see Inslee pushing an income tax? That's The Pain.

Westside

Melissa Westbrook said...

Westside, I do have a POV but I try very hard to give the complete picture before I get there. The Times seems to shape its reporting to its POV.

But good points (and no, I don't see an income tax..now.)

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Watching said...

Special thanks to the folks at Washington Paramount Duty.

My thoughts align with SDD. IMO, Seattle residents will see an increase in property taxes and a lower levy lid. As well, I believe the state will seek a B&O tax to fill the remaining gap.

Inslee has stated that an income tax is off the table.

I hope we don't see administrative staff asking for raises.

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