It's Getting a Little Loud
This levy campaign, whichever way you fall on the ballot, is certainly interesting. (I have to wonder how much more attention it would get if it was the only item on the ballot. This is such a crowded ballot that members of our Committee have gotten blank stares, "What school levy?" or "Didn't we already do that?") The endorsements are certainly all over the place.
I would say I find that the League of Women Voters (who have taken the position of "no position") had the most anguished answer. Here's what they had to say:
"The League of Women Voters decided to take "no position" on the Seattle Public School Proposition was approved. The League of Women Voters of Seattle endorsed the February 2010 Seattle Public Schools Levies but at the time expressed concerns about authentic engagement with the community and the continuing lack of adequate state funding. With the 2010 audit results this summer, we are additionally concerned about responsible, transparent use of the Seattle Public School's resources for the benefit of children in the classroom and accountability to the voters. While our positions state that "all levels of government are responsible for schools" we also "oppose the use of special levies and private funding for basic services, operation and maintenance." It is for these reasons that we are taking no position on the current levy."
They say a lot in a short bit of writing. Engagement, lack of adequate state funding, audit, transparency, accountability, levies. This group seems to get a lot of what others miss.
But now it seems more personal (in terms of wording, not direct attacks although I guess you could take it that way if you weren't used to it). In the Schools First piece in The Stranger Slog, Sharon Rodgers says, "I am appalled that there are individuals actively working to bring down Prop. 1, the Seattle School Levy. I can only assume that they just don't get how horrific state cuts to education have been and will continue to be."
Appalled? A school levy is a levy which is a tax. So no one can ever speak out publicly against a school levy? I'm appalled at anyone in democracy who says that during an election season, a voter doesn't have the right to publicly speak their mind. The first line of defense in any democracy is the voter and you don't have to wait for the "right time" to use your vote.
I do know how bad the cuts are because (1) our district chose to take cuts at the school level while (2) NOT freezing the travel budget (as they said they would) or taking other cuts at the headquarters. (No, they did NOT cut 80+ jobs as they love to say they did. They reclassified many of them.) Mayor McGinn took a pay cut; what about the Superintendent? I also know from a recent conversation with a state legislator that there is some irritation that the district is complaining so loudly when many other state departments and programs took far worse cuts while education was largely shielded. We are all in this together, you know. If I saw that the district was running lean and mean, I'd believe this argument.
I also like the argument that the district wants to fund "priority" items like textbooks. Yes, but how come they've waited so long? Why, if textbooks are a priority, do we need a supplemental levy to buy them? Why is there no line item in the budget (as Director Martin-Morris asks)?
As for the audit, it seems like many are dismissing it or saying that the district has a plan to address it so all is well. (I have sat at Audit Committee meetings and yes, they are working on it but the jury is waaay out.) Peter Maier, despite his voting for the Board Resolution, seems to be saying it is all some accounting errors. That's the stance of LEV as well.
"Aside from the simple accounting problems, the lack of transparency is crazy making. It must be resolved and now."
Simple accounting errors? That's probably a comfort to those parents of Native American students who have been waiting for someone at the district to make sure their federal grant dollars are used properly.
Here's what President DeBell had to say at tonight's Board meeting on the subject of the audit response:
"We need to have high ethical conduct and compliance in Seattle Public Schools in serving children and spending tax dollars." Agreed. So, I'm thinking if they have to create an Ethics board and have an Ethics officer, then there's something more than simple accounting errors.
What does LEV's Chris Korsmo have to say to open her endorsement article?
Deep breath. Pull out my thick skin and put on my big girl pants. Here it comes haters and doubters.
Again, if you speak out again a school levy, you're a hater? Also, what are big girl pants?) I have never said anything like that to anyone at Schools First. Let's see what she says about AFTER we vote in the levy:
I'm still voting yes. I'm still holding out faith. I respectfully request accountability in return."
Just ask and ye shall receive. And this is precisely what Schools First and LEV and all the other apologists and enablers (hey, I didn't call them haters) say every - single - time. "Just let's pass this levy and I promise, we'll hold their feet to the fire." It never happens or if it does their version of "feet to the fire" doesn't work.
That it's getting louder may mean that some are feeling the heat, hearing the teachers and parents who are frustrated and tired of waiting for change that never comes.
I know, some of you will say, "What if the levy fails and the district STILL doesn't listen?" Well, that's a possibility but I suspect they will be getting a LOT of pressure from around the city if that happens. Pressure that all the parents in SPS could never bring to bear. Look at what the Board and the Superintendent tried to do - in the face of a vote of no-confidence that they have never publicly acknowledged - they tried to sneak a Teach for America item on their Board agenda. No discussion with parents, with the SEA, just hey, let's do this even though it could very well look like the district and the Board are thumbing their nose at teachers. ("Vote no confidence? Fine, we'll bring in new teachers and show you.)
It is getting more and more crucial to send a strong message to the district now.