Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Chris Jackins' Response to Proposed Closures

For those of you who didn't get the bright yellow hand-out at last Tuesday's meeting, below is the full text of Chris Jackins' response to the proposal. I do not agree with everything Chris has to say but, as usual, I find his research and perspective interesting and want to share it with others on this blog.

If you don't know Chris, he is behind the pink "stop school closures" that you see around the city. He also is a consistent watchdog on financial issues, particularly on capital projects. Chris got quite a bit of media coverage for his research on the building of the Stanford Center and the last round of closures.

From Chris Jackins, Coordinator, Seattle Committee to Save Schools, PO Box 84063, Seattle, WA 98124, 206-521-3288, 206-219-1687

The District's proposed school closures are not about immediate budget problems: the District has noted that closures probably won't help the District's budget next year. And school closures are not about better education; they are about serving the private sector instead of the public.

School closures will:
1) Transfer long-term public assets to the private sector.
2) Sell schools to cover up continuing construction cost overruns.
3) Reduce educational choices for families.

1) School closures are about transferring long-term public assets to the private sector.
The District is already selling properties at Allen, Crown Hill, Fauntleroy, and Webster: we have filed a lawsuit to try to stop these sales. Children were forced otu of Rainier View Elementary School to make way for a private school: Rainier View was closed and then rented to Muslim Youth Academy.

2) School closures are about selling schools to cover up continuing construction cost overruns.
Proceeds from school property sales will be put in the Capital Eligible Projects fund to help cover construction cost overruns. Rather than enforcing agreed-to Guaranteed Maximum Price lids, the District has incurred $45 million in construction cost overruns at Cleveland, Roosevelt, and Garfield; these projects are $7.6 million, $9.3 million, and $28.7 million, respectively, above their original budgets. [page 5, May 2008 Building Excellence II Monthly Status Report]

3) School closures are about reducing educational choice for families.

a) Closures harm enrollment: 20% of students at recently closed schools left the Seattle Public Schools entirely. [See 11/14/07 District report, "School Closure Update"] Closures create a downward spiral: "consolidate" schools, lose 20% of studnets; "consolidate" more schools, lose another 20% of students.

b) Closures harm families: School closures disrupt communities and make families travel farther, but are more convenient for downtown administrators. The aim seems to be to try to simplify the education picture for top administrators: they don't want to count up to 100 schools. But what about serving the public?

Also: Closure costs have been miscalculated: A recent "state" audit (actually outsourced to the private sector - Cotton & Co.) that supposedly buttressed school closures missed two big points:

a) Closure costs: The audit didn't count closure costs of over a million dollars ($927,364 plus an additional $500,000+ anticipated during fiscal year 2008). [11/14/07, "School Closure Update"]

b) Revenue losses: The audit didn't count the loss of per-pupil funding that occurred when 20% of students at closed schools chose to leave the Seattle Public Schools.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I agree with Beth; I may not always agree with Chris but he knows his stuff.

He's right about closing costs (and basic maintenance of closed buildings which also gets overlooked) and loss of students. We could lose students again this round.

I'm glad to see some numbers on the cost overruns at Cleveland, Roosevelt and Garfield. Yet again, in this Board meeting agenda, Facilities is asking for MORE money for Garfield. That's the next thing to look at. Money is swirling around BEX to the point where it is difficult to pinpoint how much was spent and where. And Chris is right; sales of buildings, leases, etc. - that money goes to the capital side. You'd think, great we can get more maintenance and upkeep done but not when you are paying off building bills of this size.

Unknown said...

SPS undoubtedly WILL lose students again this round - even if their schools ultimately remain open. I know lots of people who are already shopping. There is no trust in the district leadership.

Sue said...

I guess that I would say - why do you all seem to think that the district CARES if they lose students? Especially students that come from parents at every demographic and income level who want challenge for their children, all the bells and whistles such as art and music? These are the parents that will leave, and have always left SPS. Yet we are never asked WHY we are leaving - I know, I have left, with two kids, at two different times, and have never been asked why by anyone at the district. I think that the teachers care when we leave, and the schools do, from the standpoint that when we go we take money and volunteer hours with us, but I really do not believe that the administration at the Stanford Center cares at all. Then they can have a group of parents who will not fight them, who will not challenge them, and who will accept every decision the administraiton makes, from cirriculum to discipline. It is easier to run a district when you have fewer schools, with parents who don't challenge you constantly.

dan dempsey said...

couttersIf you really want to know what is going on in the SPS.....
ask Charlie Mas, Melissa Wesbrook, or Chris Jackins ... because the spin stops with these three. They have the facts. You may not agree with them but they have real data and real reasons for proposed actions.

I agree with Keepin'On. There are so many examples to support Keepin'On's statements.

Michael said...

In the post you say that the "state" audit was "actually outsourced to the private sector - Cotton & Co." This has been the case with all but one of their performance audits. Why is it a surprise that the state auditor contracted out for the audit? I don't see the reason for pointing this out.

One of the commenters says that the spin stops with certain people; namely, Charlie, Melissa, and Chris because they have the facts. I don't know about Charlie or Melissa, but if you think Chris has all the facts, and a rationale command of those facts, then you have been mislead. His intentions appear sincere, but saying that he has all the facts is laughable.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Michael,

Thanks for your thoughts.
I did not say I agreed with the conclusions drawn by Chris Jackins from the facts. I do believe that Mr. Jackins has the facts. He seems to be one of the few people that actually tracks the facilities spending on the remodeling done at SPS schools.

I would be happy to be enlightened about any data that Mr Jackins has presented that you believe is inaccurate.



snaffles said...

Closing costs go beyond the finances. The cost is involves students maturing socially and psychologically. Continually being moved, because your school closes, upsets friendships, and creates the chance to be teased as the newby from the closed school.

Students who are teased or bullied do not do well, and I would not want my child in a situation that creates this "new" school syndrom every year.

Students deserve stability. If the SPS actually was putting students first, the schools would be open and the students would remain with teachers and friends and in their own neighborhoods.