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Saturday, December 13, 2008

PI's Saturday Snark Column Includes SPS

Every Saturday the editorial board at the PI have a weekly snark on things they find objectionable or off. Here was part of it this week:

SCHOOLS' AGENDA?

The state constitution says public schools are important for Olympia's lawmakers. The constitution puts it this way (which has probably had legislators laughing about the crumbs they get away with giving schools for decades): "It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders." Yet, while school boards grumble endlessly, they never seem to mount the kind of effective public-relations and lobbying effort the environmental community has learned to coordinate. Consider Seattle Public Schools, where leaders have been saying for years how they were going to work with Olympia for better treatment of education. A check at the SPS Web site shows the School Board had a government relations committee but it's kaputt. Its agenda for legislative action is dated 2006. You snooze, you lose? The board does have a 2009 agenda, as do various boards and groups, including the Washington State School Directors Association. And the nonprofit League of Education Voters is a positive force. But 2009 could be an utterly disastrous year in Olympia for education -- public schools and colleges -- if education itself doesn't work together on a more coordinated, vocal telling of its story -- and its constitutional supremacy.

-- Joe Copeland

Ouch! But is he wrong? We don't have marketing for our district (at all including just asking people, when exiting schools, WHY they are leaving) and apparently not much is happening via the Board or the district at the Legislative level. Even the state PTA has a state lobbyist (you did know this, right? PTA is valuable on many levels).

Joe Copeland's last sentence gave me the shivers because of what may lie ahead for our district.

8 comments:

Sue said...

I hate to say it, but he has a point. They have not lobbied effectively, because working together seems to be a basic concept beyond their grasp. And, as the state budget devotes 40% to public education in Washington state, I don't realistically see how much more they can be expected to pony up. I think that any legislator will tell you that the real problem is, HOW the districts are spending the money. Especially Seattle. Bizarre free transportation plans, a punitive SEA contract that rewards incompetence, excessive central administrative staff, I-728 money NOT being used to reduce class size, instead being used for professional development, high salaries for superintendents and henchmen and women - gee - I don't think I would give us any more money either.

But why don't I tell you how I really feel. ;-)

Sahila said...

Gregoire is standing on the sidelines with her hands already out for billions of dollars from the Obama infrastructure initiative (set to roll out in the first quarter of 2009), to clear the UW and SU deferred maintenance backlog....

If she's willing to spend on that, then she ought also to be willing to spend on the SPS deferred maintenance backlog and to help carry some of the $37 million budget deficit... for which favour, we would be more than happy to cut administrative costs, starting with salary and position realignment(pay cuts and job losses) at senior management level in the District Office - see report previously quoted on another thread about SPS being top heavy in senior personnel, to the tune of about $2million - wow, now what percentage is that of the $3.6million in supposed savings we are going to achieve by closing schools and programmes???

Oh that's right - we dont want adults to have to adjust their lives to the 'economic reality' - that's one of the lessons we are teaching our children - pick on the poor, vulnerable, voiceless ones first!

Getting back to my point...which injection of funds would result in some of our buildings and programmes not having to close immediately, giving us time to redraw the boundaries according to geographic need, redo the assignment plan, complete the alternative schools' audit and come up with an educational best practice, coherent and co-ordinated closure plan, which also causes the least disruption to the greatest number of children and provides the best quality and choice in education options, while at the same time resolving issues of equity and diversity...

There, simple (LOL).... where there's a (political) will, there's a way!!! Yeah, right!

David said...

Will more lobbying cause the legislature and governor to increase funding for schools through the only practical way of doing it, i.e., through new taxes?

You never know, but I'm not optimistic.

My guess is that the only way to force the legislature and governor to fund education properly is through the court.

Charlie Mas said...

You will recall that Governor Gregoire, immediately upon her election (the first time) launched a committee, Washington Learns - that she personally chaired - to revise and update education funding in Washington State. There was a lot of hoopla about this committee when it was launched. The primary duty was to devise a new way to fund education.

All of the productive talk about education funding was deferred for two years as we waited to hear recommendations from this committee. All efforts to discuss education funding were deferred.

When Washington Learns finally reported out... drumroll please... they had no recommendations for changing education funding in Washington State. Instead, they recommended forming ANOTHER blue ribbon committee to study it and make recommendations in two years.

Now that committee is just about due to report out.

All of this happening while a lawsuit is wending its way through the Courts as a number of school districts (not Seattle) are suing the State to fulfill the paramount duty.

Washington State has no political leadership at all. The legislature holds nearly all of the power and they are set up to do nothing. They only meet for two months a year and it is about 100 times easier to block a bill than to pass one. That's why we have so much government by referendum - to fill the void left by the electeds.

Governor Gregoire has been a HUGE disappointment on education issues because her Washington Learns Committee failed so utterly to complete - or even really tackle - its assignment. And the committee failed under her direct leadership.

David said...

My understanding is that the Basic Education Finance Task force voted to recommend an extension of the sales tax to fund education. The new sales taxes would cover things like doctor's visits and financial advice. Gregoire apparently favors putting the proposal before the voters as a referendum. The new sales taxes are supposed to raise $2-3 billion over two years.

In the meantime, there is the pending lawsuit that Charlie Mas mentioned.

For more on this issue, see The Seattle Times.

Anonymous said...

Washington State ranks between 11th and 13th in the country in wealth depending on your preferred measure and between 42nd and 46th on every key education spending measure. There is no state in the country with anything like a similar gap.

The reason is obvious: the lack of an income tax makes it impossible to raise the revenue necessary to fulfill the state's basic needs.

In this economic climate, it would be politically unsellable and substantively unwise to initiate a general income tax, but why aren't the people rising up collectively to demand a 1% income tax on incomes over $500,000 (or some similar plan) to provide functioning public schools for the state?

Sahila said...

I dont think there is any other first world country that doesnt have some kind of income tax to support public services, such as health, education, housing etc...

Washington's educational and legislative leaders talk a lot about the absolute need to enable the delivery of the highest quality education to the state's future tax-paying citizens, but they dont walk the talk... kinda short-sighted, if you ask me, even from the most basic economics standpoint without getting into the issues of human rights and overall societal health...

And I too, am flummoxed by the lack of public outcry about this... but then, as with the issue of public transportation for example, there seems to be this attitude amongst people that if it doesnt directly affect/benefit them, they dont want to pay/contribute...

So much for a community-centred, civic-minded population...

SolvayGirl said...

Seattle loves regressive tax systems. It is absurd that we do not have a modest income tax on those with high incomes (I like the $500,000 cut-off for now).

And Sahila, the country as a whole does have an income tax (though many wealthy Americans and corporations easily get around paying their fair share). Our state could certainly step up to the plate on this one.