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Monday, September 13, 2010

School Board Meeting This Wednesday

It's a rather light agenda for this week's School Board meeting and, in fact, I'd bet this one gets done in under two hours.

It's mostly pro forma work. they will be approving a "Capital Asset Preservation Program" as required by OSPI. This will create a plan for each school built after 1996 to protect it. The district must do this to continue to receive state funding for capital projects. There are also a couple of "placeholder" items for district construction at Ingraham and for school construction bonds.

The most interesting item are the new Board policies on "Fees for Damage" and "Restitution". The Board is going from a one-line policy (based on requirements from an RCW about fees for damage to school property) to two full policies on this issue. The district will require a deposit on some items and anything lost, stolen or unreturned will be charged at full cost to the student/parent or guardian. Basically, I think what spurred it are the STEM laptops. That's a big investment that the district wants to protect.

The other item of note is the one for the 2010-2011 contract with the Families and Education Levy. It's notable to me because what it would mean if it loses. If you look at the item, here's some of what the levy covers:

Family Support Workers - $2,540,009 (+ $200,000 Medicaid Match)
Middle School Support Program - $1,275,186
Middle School Out-of-School Time - $547,000
High School Academic Achievement Program - $1,158,135
Student Health/School Nurses - $738,496

That's just SOME of what the Families & Education levy gives our district. That levy directly impacts the classroom and students.

So why would it lose? I worry about voter fatigue. It is one thing to believe that voters in Seattle will continue to consistently support public education. However, we have the supplemental levy coming up this fall and then the F&E levy in fall of 2011. What if the economy is still stagnant? What if voters don't want to vote in the 4th school levy in 2 years? It would be far more devastating to lose the F&E levy than the supplemental. I'm not saying anyone has to chose which levy to vote for (hey, vote for both) but I think the timing for both may prove to be ill-fated for one or both.

10 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

Review the action items and count how few of them include any kind of community engagement whatsoever.

Unknown said...

Is this the levy many commenters on this blog are fighting against? If it is, well, now I really think the idea of fighting against this is ill advised. The things this levy funds are important.

If it's a different levy, I still think fighting against the current levy is ill-advised, but for different reasons. Only those voters who are hyper involved in school issues are going to be willing to take the time to educate themselves as to which school-related levies they should support, and which they should defeat. And most folks are looking for any excuse to defeat a spending measure. So if you do convince them to vote against this year's levy, good luck persuading them to support the next one.

Dorothy Neville said...

Rosie, there are clear links on this blog to more information about the Seattle School Supplemental Levy. THAT is the levy people are opposing.

The Family and Education Levy is a WONDERFUL levy. Even more wonderful because it is not run by the district. It operates with transparency and accountability.

Yes, some are concerned that if we fight the Supplemental Levy, we risk general levy backlash. What Melissa is trying to say here though, is that she worries that even having the Supplemental Levy on the ballot (third school levy in 2010) then people would be feeling levy fatigue next year when the Families and Education Levy come up for renewal.

Seattle is a highly educated city. I think we can be relied on being smarter than you suggest. And we are doing our best, with revising the flyer and in our educational information about the Supplemental Levy, to educate the voters how this specific levy should be opposed.

To answer your specific question: won't this hurt future levies? See this answer.

seattle citizen said...

Rosie writes,
"most folks are looking for any excuse to defeat a spending measure. So if you do convince them to vote against this year's levy, good luck persuading them to support the next one"

Well then, why even have a levy at all? Why not just assume that voters will, until given a reason not to, vote "yes!"? And so assuming a "yes," just reach into their wallets and pull out cash! Why vote at all? Carte blanche! Spend away! Don't let the voter know if anything is going right, because then they might vote "no," and having voted "no" might get used to it!

Rosie, it sounds as if you're advocating for keeping the public out of the loop (if we try "convincing them," or showing them "any excuse," they might choose "no")

I say we should put everything upfront and let the voters decide for themselves. Let the voters see where their money goes, and let them decide. I don't think counting on them voting "yes!" and keeping them uninformed to ensure that leads to any accountability at all.

Jan said...

The levy many posters here are against IS a different levy than the 2011 one. Might families be confused? You have a point. I suppose they could be. They might also be confused next year as to why they are being asked for more money if they just voted for extra money this fall. And in any case, isn't this a possible risk that the SSD should be weighing when they come to us this fall with hands out for this money -- knowing that the big levy comes up next fall?
And, if the levy passes, will the spin be "you know, we know we can't, and shouldn't, ever attribute levy results as a mandate on whether voters are happy with our administration, because we know they are all scared to death that if they ever vote no, the sky will fall" . . . ." No, the spin will be that a yes vote is a vote of confidence by Seattle parents and voters for the actions and direction of District management. And a signal that no one really cares about the audit.
And -- if they don't want us to use the levy to signal disapproval, how about some, ANY, meaningful community interaction and opportunities for feedback and participation OTHER than voting no on levies?
Why is it that only the parents/concerned citizens seem worried about the effects of bad levy votes, or asking too often, or misspent and squandered funds, on future levy results? I certainly haven't seen any evidence of any concern or angst on the part of MGJ's office.

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, Rosie, as I said the Families and Education levy is the City's education levy and that is NEXT fall. That's the one that I am worried about.

It is important for all voters to consider what they are voting for, no? School levies may be like Mom and apple pie to many people but it is still important to consider what the money will be used for and if you can trust the money will be accounted for to voters.

reader said...

School levies ARE motherhood and apple pie here in Seattle, even if all the money is flushed straight down the toilet. And a couple of bloggers out in left field will have 0 impact on that whatsoever.

Charlie Mas said...

reader is, of course, right about this.

It has been a long time since Seattle has rejected any school levy. The downtown establishment is in favor of it, so it will pass.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The fact that we continue on as a voice for people who feel voiceless (or unheard in other venues) makes us useful.

That we have SPS staff regularly checking into this site makes us powerful. (That a few staff have thanked me for the notes I take at meetings they can't attend - good to hear.)

That the Times continues their harangue against teachers (or worse, ignores their benefits as in their editorial about the SAT scores) and feels the need to have every Tom, Dick and Harry of the powers that be in this town sign their names to Times/Alliance written op-ed pieces because somehow, somewhere they feel worried or threatened or fear they are becoming more and more impotent? Priceless.

Jan said...

reader may be right -- but I am kind of enjoying the scenery out here in left field. It is quiet . . . and green . . . .and the skies are . . . the bluest I've ever seen . . . .! (Sorry, Sahila -- couldn't help myself :>)