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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Money (That's What I Want)

Money can’t fix everything, but isn’t it painfully obvious that additional state funding would alleviate at least a few of the problems of the Seattle School District, and probably those of other districts around the state? I’m not just talking about smaller class sizes, more money for books, teacher training, better enrollment staff and computers, etc. I'm envisioning money that could help move us from a siege and crisis reality to a rational blueprint for meaningful progress on those lofty educational and social equity goals that are as common as Halloween candy.

If you are one of those people that think that school closures, choice restriction, and private funding should be last resort financing schemes, now is the time to start agitating for real money from the people who are actually tasked with the job of slicing up the public pie.

This is the time to match education vision with specific proposals.

With Democrats nicely padding their seat margins in the Legislature in the recent election, I think it is safe to say that the climate for better funding hasn’t looked this good in a long time. And yes, I know we need a lot more than money (e.g. leadership, vision, smart people), but without it I think we are bound to spend a lot of time in screaming matches.

This week there are a couple of events of note for public education junkies. First, the Washington Learns Education Summit takes place on Monday. Details here. A final report is to be released and, if some of the preliminary materials available on their website are any indication, mighty winds will blow. Worth paying attention to, and commenting on as necessary, but I have some doubts as to the shelf life of this particular well-intentioned effort.

On Tuesday night, there is a Legislative Roundtable at Eckstein Middle School, sponsored by the Seattle Council of PTSA. Details here.

I received the following about what to expect:

This annual pre-legislative session event is an opportunity for PTA members and other constituents to share their advocacy and legislative priorities with their legislators. It is also an opportunity for legislators to share their objectives with their constituents, hence laying the foundation for the 2006 legislative session.

On a personal note, my family attended the Ruth Parker math presentation at Mercer Middle School on Thursday night, an excellent and probably more inspiring event than the one at Rainier Beach the same evening. Also attending was Washington Rep. Ross Hunter, a whip-smart Eastside Democrat who is deep on education issues. I was pleased that he was chatting with Carla Santorno and inviting her to lunch. But shouldn’t our District and Board officials be proposing lunch dates with powerful guys like Ross, and not the other way around? Maybe they are, but just out of the spotlight? I hope so!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes! Thanks for your post, Johnny.

I will definitely be at the Legislative Roundtable on Tuesday night.

Don't think it's a glorified PTA meeting - it's legislators and constituents of all kinds, talking face-to-face about what's on our minds, and if like last year, closed with a panel of all of the legislators taking questions from the audience.

Eckstein Middle School
6-9 pm
3003 NE 75th St

Last year it was at Franklin, and I sat at a table with Rep. Helen Sommers (chairman of the House appropriations committee which has much power in funding K-12 public schools); Rep. Mary Jean Dickerson, and Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (a member of Gov Gregoire's Washington Learns steering cmte and the chairman of the Senate's education cmte.) While they were attentive to people's concern about funding, it was much too easy for them to talk about the money Seattle chooses to spend on "capacity" i.e., buildings.

This year, they can't say that - and Washington Learns will have announced its final report on Monday that, if like the draft, will say Washington needs to benchmark itself in education funding against the top Global Challenge states (which at least a few months ago had much higher $/child funding than Washington.)

They have budget challenges I'm sure we can't fathom (prisons, pensions, health care) and a finite revenue source - but they need to hear from us about K-12 public education. Johnny's points (and the woman's who characterized us as fighting like crabs in a bucket - so true!) are right on.

See which legislators are yours at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder/pugetsound.aspx - and if you can, give them a call to tell them you're coming Tuesday night.

The Ruth Parker session last Thursday night was right on, too - she gets people excited about mathematics and the ways it can be taught, blows right by the curriculum/method warriors, and - because she's on board with SPS - gives us hope that good things are happening and will continue to happen with mathematics - and maybe with all of the teaching and learning strategy, which has seemed a little wobbly of late (because that takes money, too?)

That her sessions are sponsored by a multitude of stakeholders (no one squabbling about turf or coming to a standstill over strategy) is also reason for hope - the Alliance, the PTA, UW Dept of Education, MESA, AND SPS.

Here Comes the Sun? Maybe?

Beth Bakeman said...

I agree, Johnny, that it would be great if we could expand the funding pie, rather than fighting over pieces of a shrinking pie.

Anonymous said...

The Mayor said today, on KUOW, that the Board should support his suggestion of allowing Mayor Rice to become interim superintendent (he said they were drifting). It was not clear if he meant for a period longer than a year. I would support 1-2 years. The Mayor continued by saying that the Legislature might perceive that the Board isn't listening and therefore might not want to further fund education.

That was really unfair as the Board HAS tackled school closures (which was said to be a sticking point with the Legislature as to why the district was keeping undercapacity schools open). So now, it's follow the Mayor's advice or we won't fully fund education. They can't keep finding excuses to not fund education (and, by the way, Seattle is not the only district in the state so using us as an excuse not to fund the whole state is wrong).

Anonymous said...

The mayor really rubs me the wrong way - I have disliked politicians before, but I've never felt this level of discomfort/lack of trust. I voted for him, and have not had these feelings until the past year or so - I feel like he's a big bully who wants total control of everything.

This is in response to Melissa's post.