Sunday, June 11, 2017

Tomorrow's City Council Vote on Two-Tier Transportation

Final Update (for today):  The City Council voted, 5-3, to hold on the vote for funding two-tiers from the Families and Education levy.


Notable:
- CM Gonzalez was the only member not present.
- Harrell said they will move the vote to Wednesday, the 14th, at 4 pm.
- Harrell said he is still opposed to using levy funds for this effort.  He said they want to help get to two-tiers but not thru "public funds." By that I believe he means, not the levy but would support taking the money from elsewhere.  He said he felt it important "to send a message" to parents, teachers, district, etc. about the use of levy dollars.
 - There was much back and forth about what it all meant.
- There was no mention of the crossing guard dollars and I'm unsure about what is happening on that front.

End of update.

Seattle City Council Insight update:

A spokesperson for the City Council tells me that Johnson’s bill will be held without a vote this afternoon, and that Burgess and Harrell are working on alternative legislation — presumably based on their notion of using transportation funds. They are working on scheduling an additional Full Council meeting on Wednesday to take up the matter again.

So unclear to me what will happen today but will report back as soon as I can.


Update:

1) Not able to be there in person but I will live blog from watching on tv.

2) Big news - CM Johnson has put forth an amendment to the bill, taking out the crossing guard costs.  In doing so, it makes the bill NOT a budget issue so they don't need seven votes to pass it.  Apparently, President Harrell is not happy about this.

From Seattle City Council Insight:

Harrell made clear that we was not accusing Johnson of offering the amendment for that purpose (and Johnson denied he was doing so) but voiced unhappiness — bordering on anger — over the net effect if the amendment were to pass.

Additionally,
Johnson’s amendment may have another problem: it changes the bill substantially enough to make the title no longer accurate. That may require re-introducing the legislation, which would add another week, at least, to the timeline for passing the bill and push it past the June 15th deadline.

Burgess has circulated a memo laying out his opposition to redirecting the levy funds, which quotes extensively from the Families and Education Levy itself as it was put in front of voters in 2011. But Burgess also offered an alternative path to funding the schedule switch: redirecting transportation funds, rather than levy funds. Since the money would go to pay for school buses, he felt that would be a more appropriate use of funds if the Council saw this as a priority. He and Harrell are circulating draft language of a proviso that would accomplish that — though it’s also doubtful whether that can get passed this week without some significant legislative sleight-of-hand. 

The full City Council will hear the legislation tomorrow about the City paying for a two-tier bus system for school year 2017-2018 from Families and Education levy funds.  Here is the agenda and here is the Summary and Fiscal Note.

According to the agenda, this item will come up in the first third of the meeting which starts at 2 pm at City Hall in City Council chambers.

Of interest from the Summary and Fiscal Note:
Summary: 
This legislation, if approved, would authorize the Department of Education and Early Learning to provide a one-time, $2.3 million payment to Seattle Public Schools (SPS) for a transportation realignment to a two-tier system and would appropriate funds to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to fund school crossing guards.
From Background:
The Seattle School Traffic Safety Committee (a team including representatives from SDOT, Cascade Bicycle Club, Seattle Police Department, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, Seattle Public Schools Transportation Department) recommends one or more crossing guards at 107 school locations in order to provide safe routes for students walking to and from school. Due to the current funding levels from the State and the resulting strain on the SPS budget, SPS is unable to fund the crossing guard program as it is focusing all available resources into classrooms. This legislation would use funds from the School Safety Traffic and Pedestrian Improvement Fund to support the crossing guard program.
Please describe any perceived implication for the principles of the Race and Social Justice Initiative. Does this legislation impact vulnerable or historically disadvantaged communities?

SPS reports that the “flipped” bell schedule, which began in the 2016-17 school year, has resulted in favorable results for secondary students, including more sleep and fewer incidences of teacher disciplining of ethnic minority students. However, having three different start times is proving to be challenging for families with children in multiple grades. Currently, first-tier elementary schools start earlier at 7:55 while third-tier schools start at 9:35 am. Most middle and high schools now start at 8:45 am. Providing funding for crossing guards supports the safety of all students.
My understanding is that CM Gonzalez will not be at the meeting.  We know that Burgess is definitely a no vote and Harrell leans that way (I'm hearing he's getting many calls on this issue.)

One interesting group who has spoken up on the two-tiers issue is the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition. 
The Families and Education Levy is overseen by the Levy Oversight Committee (LOC). The LOC voted 4 opposed, 3 in favor to fund the request. Erin Okuno, Executive Director of SESEC, was one of the members opposed.
They are looking at this purely thru a racial equity lens (although I find some of their statements conflicting:

On the one hand:
 SESEC is also opposed to using levy funds to pay for buses and has shared these views with the City Council.
One the other hand:
We are not opposed to shifting to a two-tier start time if other appropriate and sustainable funding source could be found.  
Their reasoning:
Divesting funds originally dedicated to supporting students of color and shifting them to a race neutral strategy allows institutional racism to happen. Funding buses across the school district is equality (giving all students the same), not racial equity.
I'm a little unclear how you could plan a transportation system for thousands of students across the district based on racial equity but I'm open to hearing about it.
Decision making for racial equity requires us, especially policy makers, to slow down and engage with communities, families, and students of color. Communities of color were not asked how they would we like to see $2.3-million in levy funds used to close persistent and damaging racialized opportunity and achievement gaps.
Well, no one really gets asked how they would like to see levy dollars spent except the Committee.  

We question the use of levy funding on paying for buses when transportation has traditionally been part of basic education formula paid for by the state. Levy funding is meant to supplement, not supplant basic education dollars. 

Sure, that's basically true except that the State is NOT paying enough for basic education, hence the need for extra dollars. And, it's for one year.

While we understand many community members are asking for this to be funded, we are taking a principled stand on saying we oppose using levy dollars for this item.

This is what we first heard when the vote was taken by the members of the Committee; they didn't want to spent F&E levy dollars but were not opposed to the City spending the money from some other fund.   I'd have to go back and look but the F&E levy dollars go for all kinds of things - some of which are for under-served, at-risk kids and others for the general SPS population.

I may have to try to pop down to City Hall tomorrow and see how this all comes out.

17 comments:

ODAP: One Durn Annoyed Parent said...

I will forever hold a grudge against Tim Burgess on this issue. If he ever runs for something again, I will work against it. It's so myopic and silly of him, particularly when his vote alone could shoot down a bill that the majority of council members actually support. I'll hold a grudge against Gonzalez too, frankly: I don't know why she's not present for an important vote, but she has no business holding an at-large seat on the council if she can't representing the city when it's urgently needed! This is an issue that affects tens of thousands of people in Seattle, not just the 50,000 kids in the schools but parents and caregivers and extended families as well. It affects scheduling and staffing at local businesses, it affects traffic and pollution, it impacts the hours people can work, it affects the hours employers can expect people to arrive at work, it affects daycare and before-/aftercare, it affects sleep patterns, child development, it affects brothers and sisters being able to spend time under the same roof for more than a couple hours a day, it affects test scores, it affects tardies (dramatically increased on three tiers!), and it prevents little kids from simply having enough time to eat a proper breakfast. We pay taxes to the city, we pay taxes to the school district. It's money all from the same Bank of Us. Let our bank serve us! Away with Burgess, away with Gonazalez, away with Harrell if he doesn't switch his vote.

Bus Kids said...

I'm surprised there's any debate at all about how school start and end times have inequitable impacts and children based on socioeconomic status (SES). If a kid's school bus pickup time is 45 minutes before school starts, a family with a reliable car and an available adult to drive can generally make it to the school in 15 minutes. Many higher SES families whose kids have long bus rides to school just opt to drive the kid instead of busing it. You can save your kid at least an hour a day (half an hour each way) doing this. But only if you have the car and the grownup available to chauffeur.

So, If you're on tier one and you have a parent who can drive you, you won't have to get onto a bus at 6:55 a.m. next year. You could have up to an extra 1/2 hour at home. You could use that time to get more sleep or eat a good breakfast. Things that will make it easier for your to learn. Next year's crazy even-earlier-tier-one-start-time disproportionately impacts children who need to rely on school buses to get to school.

Having a crazy-early start time also inequitably disadvantages lower SES kids, because they are less likely to have a quiet bedroom of their own to fall asleep in at the crazy-early time little kids need to go to sleep to get up for tier one.

Having tier one start even earlier next year would exacerbate already existing SES-based inequities. The early start time makes it disproportionately harder for lower SES kids to come to school well rested, fed and ready to learn. And that will not close the gap.

Grouchy Parent said...

If two tiers doesn't pass the city council, I predict the popularity of teachers will dip. When the tier one kids have to come to school even earlier next year just so teachers can have their professional time during the school day on Wednesday afternoons, this is going to make kids sleepier and less able to focus and more poorly behaved. It is also going to make teachers a very convenient scapegoat for grumpy-frazzled-early-morning-parents.

Many tier 3 families will have to arrange for (yet again) and pay for BOTH before care AND after care. And I predict teachers will be a convenient scapegoat for why all these little kids have to get out of school at 4:05 p.m. (AFTER the time that so many MS/HS parents have been bellyaching is way too late for their children to get out).

We parents love teachers, but many of us are annoyed that our district gives you a seat at the bargaining table for what school hours should be but not the students' families. Why do families have no say? Why does the district ask us what we want and then do the opposite.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Bus Kids, so the question then is what tier is better for which SES kids? Because one way or another, kids are affected by what time they get to school. And, as well, there will be 20 minutes added to the day no matter what they do so those bus times will change.

Anonymous said...

I read that letter as saying Erin Okuno wants to personally maintain as much control over Levy funds as she possibly can. Clearly she isn't aware of the actual impacts of the current tiers and bus schedules on families of color. Nor does she know that the tiers have adversely affected the afterschool programs funded by the Levy. She seems like a purveyor of fake equity - the idea that words are more important than the actual lived experiences of families of color in Seattle.

Two Tiers

Anonymous said...

Looks like an online survey has over 1,000 signatures and is growing rapidly to object a 3:50 pm dismissal time for high school students. It is sad that both options are not good options for a large population of families.

NE Mom of 3

Bus Kids said...

My opinion is that the start times that best fit children's biological/developmental needs (which motivated the flip in the first place) are probably generally best for lower SES kids. Families with more limited means likely have less capacity to cushion their kids from the aspects of a schedule that are difficult or inconvenient. It's hard to put a 5 to 7 year old to bed early enough for them to be well rested for tier one (especially if it moves earlier next year) if you're living in tight quarters and the other members of the household are staying awake later, for example. The homeless kids at my elementary school have long bus rides. They get bused from wherever their temporary housing is, and it's not usually very close to the school.

I think it makes the most sense especially for the most vulnerable children and the families with the fewest resources to adopt a two-tiered system and to align the tiers with what's healthiest in terms of sleep as possible. To even out the extremes of the current system (earliness of tier one and lateness of tier three, which are scheduled to become even more extreme next year).

Wealthier families with more flex time can make the extremes of tier 1 or tier 3 work. They did this year. At significant cost to many. They were able to do it because they have the option of driving, which is much faster than busing, and can pay for whatever combination of childcare they need to make the system work in a child-friendly way for their family. But lower SES families don't always have as many options or resources or as much flexibility. The system should be set up so that families don't have to go to extreme lengths to life-hack a solution every fall as their children age up through the system.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for finding ways to make the district's policies and services more equitable, but keeping SPS on a 3 tier schedule does not logically seem like an area that will address that. As others have noted, kids with parents who have less flexibility to drive them to school vs. taking a very early bus will be the among the ones who will suffer the most with 7:40am first bell times at most elementary schools.

Just because the funding and resulting schedule change would be district wide doesn't mean that our students of color wouldn't be benefitted more by the change. It seems to be that because parents have a strong opinion about this district wide and there would be a perceived benefit across all our kids that it's being assumed that this is a cause not worthy of the levy dollars.

I'm really disheartened by that stance and it seems like we are losing sight of the forest for the trees here just for the sake of having a voice about it.

Has there been an attempt at actually surveying SPS families of color about what schedule they would prefer?

That's the data I would find most compelling, especially if that is a driving reason for those who are opposed to approving the funding on the council.

NESeattleMom said...

I am personally trying to help two different SPS moms, both of who are immigrants with limited means and single. The first one, who has a 7 year old, said that because she missed the deadline for before/after school care this past school year, she couldn't work this year because she had to be at the bus stop to pick up so early. The other is a refugee with a next-year kindergartner. She is so worried about the bus times and the before/after care since she is working and has an inflexible schedule. It is a real stressor for people with limited flexibility. There may be no easy solutions, but the stress can be so heavy that someone may make the wrong decision due to stress, with no easy way to recover.

Shimla said...

OMG, the stress is killing me! Will my eight year old finish school around 2:30 next year with his younger siblings or will the eight year old have to be in school later than all the middle and high school students??? I'm dying here with all the maneuverings!!! Gah!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm with you! I'm in disbelief high school parents find 3:50 completely objectionable, but 4:05 is just fine for elementary kids. Wow.

Mag mom

Anonymous said...

My family, and many others with middle and high school students are in a difficult position. I support two tiers for all, but it is too much of a late start/release for all high school students, athletes or not. Mine are not participating in school athletics but music, drama and after school tech programs and programs and study time will suffer.

It would be beneficial if there were some ideas about compromise. So with a three tier system tier 1 families would be starting at 7:35 next year, right? Could there be some benefit to a two tier system with tier one starting at 7:45 (not later, but not earlier) and high school at 8:45? Or having high school start at 8:30 and elementary schools starting at 9:30 (Plenty of sleep for the young ones)? Please don't think all high school parents who oppose the late release aren't thinking about elementary kids. High school and middle school families have ALL HAD elementary kids, many of whom have had start times fluctuate during their early years and understand. It would be nice to hear some elementary parents stop blaming parents of older kids and be willing to find a way to meet in the middle. It feels like elementary parents are sticking with 8am as the only scenario they are happy with. High school and middle school families are half of SPS kids, and their needs are important, too.

Not just athletes

Prosleep Mom said...

Not just athletes- thanks for thinking through what some alternatives are, and not just complaining. This is a big system problem and you have to think about how it effects kids and families across the system. It's a whack a mole problem- you fix it one place and a problem pops up somewhere else.

With 3 tiers, next year elementary would start at 7:45, not 7:35. Their buses would arrive at 7:30; first kids on the route would be picked up at 6:45. Personally, I think that is crazy early. It would also put all 27,000 elementary students arriving at school before sunrise five more weeks than the current schedule, which could be avoided with a two tier system. That is a significant safety issue in my mind.

Your alternative of having high school at 8:30 and elementary at 9:30 could work in the morning, but because of the different length of school days between elementary and secondary, the buses could not be used twice in the afternoon and this would be hugely expensive. With an 8:30 high school start, afternoon buses would leave at 3:30; elementary buses would leave at 4:10; this 40 minute gap is not enough to use the buses twice; transportation says they need a 60 minute gap. It also gets elementary students home very late in the day.

I agree it's not ideal for HS to get out at 3:50; I know my high schooler is not happy about this prospect either. But when I balance a non-optimal schedule for extra curricular activities with 27,000 elementary kids going to school in the dark many weeks of the year, and the bussed students (often lower income with many challenges already) having to get up very very early, I have to prioritize the safety of the younger kids. There is no way to get a schedule that works perfectly for everything; compromise is necessary.

I think when you look at the whole system, two tiers is clearly better than three and I really hope the City will help us make this transformation back to two tiers.

Another View said...

Aren't we just talking about a bridge loan? The city is collecting MILLIONS of dollars from cars going beyond the speed limit in school zones. Is anyone talking about using these dollars to pay for crossing guards?

The city will try and hold-on to any penny it gets.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see crossing guards, sidewalks, overpasses, and more or improved traffic lights around schools adjacent to busy streets and highways. I would also like the city to guarantee safety and clean up assistance if they place a homeless camp/housing with drugs permitted right next to new schools.

Fix AL

Melissa Westbrook said...

Another View, it's not a loan; the City would be paying for one year.

The funds from the speed limit fines is apparently all going to other things. It's still unclear to me where the crossing guards would get funding.

I did find it odd that Burgess said the district was treating the City like a bank when it's the City getting free space for pre-K with services. Maybe he needs to be reminded of that.

Anonymous said...

The council in a unanimous vote approved the funding for Two Tiers today. The monies will come from SDOT vs. the Family and Education Levy.

http://council.seattle.gov/2017/06/14/councilmember-johnson-on-funding-seattle-public-schools-bell-times-switch/

-StepJ