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Monday, October 31, 2011

Families and Education Levy

There's a story about it in the Seattle Times this morning and boy, are the comments angry.   The arguments against seem to fall in three categories:
  • mismanagement of the district and accompanying scandals
  • doubling of the levy amount during a recession
  • spending money on anything not directly related to the classroom (social services like health care, family support, etc).  
What to think?  I'm going to play devil's advocate here and put out some questions.  (This does not mean I necessarily believe these questions to be true but I'm trying to get an idea of what the thinking may be out there.)

Did the Mayor and the City Council make a mistake doubling the levy during a recession?  Yes, I would say so.   It does mystify me given the recession and the general climate around our district.   I would have thought some austerity about the amount and a gut check about our district might have been in order. 

Has the levy been effective in the past?  There are measures that show it has but probably not as largely as many would want.  It has been run under at least three different mayors, all with different ideas.   The ideas may have changed as the realities of what the programs were or were not achieving.

Maybe the levy should have a more focused approach and not try to cover so much ground.  But how to pick and choose?

Providing social services.  We provide meals at schools for low-income students.  Now, more than ever, we have parents who are struggling with money issues.  So food is important.  Is health care at schools?  The clinics provide physicals, basic health care, vaccinations, mental health care - isn't this something the City/County would be providing anyway but more likely not at a school?  What about Family Support Workers who make sure kids get glasses, a turkey at Thanksgiving and provide resources to struggling families?  Is providing all these services via a school better than having struggling families have to go to multiple places for help?

The Governor is suggesting a cut of about 2300 preschool seats for 3-year-olds.  This levy would backfill some of those seats. Is that important enough? 

This is quite the dangerous time for this levy.   It's the 4th education levy in two years.   The Mayor and City Council chose to double it during a recession.   There are huge dissatisfactions over the management of this district (complete with scandals).  

Voters DO have a way to express that unhappiness via School Board elections and City Council elections. 

I believe if the Supplemental levy had been in, say May instead of February of this year, it would have failed in a landslide and there would have been the message sent to the district.   I can't fault the reasoning of voting against it because of unhappiness over its size or the unhappiness with the running of the district.  But of all the times to show unhappiness, I would hope it will not be with this levy.

One Times' commenter, Rarely Vocal, said this:
I'm sorry but I'm voting a big NO, and it's not the fault of the children or the teachers even though they will be the ones to suffer most.

Something to ponder. 

19 comments:

David said...

Support the levy and voted yes on it, but I definitely agree it is in danger of not passing. The superintendent and board have put it at serious risk with their financial scandals and failure to make deep cuts in district administration.

Catherine said...

Another factor, is a growing McGinn backlash. He put this levy out there (his job as mayor), and there are people who will vote no because of that alone. Combine that with the large transportation taxes being proposed, and I suspect there goes another percentage of yes votes.

Sadly - yes, it's the teachers and students who will pay. However I believe that this all involves funding for the school year 2012-2013, and that another levy could be proposed in February 2012.

Inga said...

For the Teen Health Centers alone, I am voting YES on the levy.

A few years ago, federal funds for substance abuse prevention and intervention services were eliminated. What this means is that, at best, most middle and high schools in Seattle cobble together substance abuse prevention and intervention services in their schools. Most middle and high schools have very limited services, if any. Teen Health Centers, funded by the levy, have done their best to provide these services, many times in partnership with local agencies. However, the current need for substance abuse services far outweighs what is available. Some of the increase in the levy can go towards better funding for substance abuse services.

I would argue that it's especially during these difficult economic times that we need additional support for Teen Health Centers. I would also argue that early childhood education is extremely important when it comes to substance abuse prevention. Believe it or not, early childhood programs are one way to prevent substance abuse among teens.

Finally, about the Times' comment that you shared . . . is the commenter admitting that children and teachers will suffer if the levy is voted down?

mirmac1 said...

Unfortunately, give the Board and Admin an inch (like the Supplemental Levy) and they'll take a mile. Remember the Board member comments after that election? They shouted from the mountaintops that this is affirmation that they're doing a bang-up job....Nauseating.

Jet City mom said...

Remember the Board member comments after that election? They shouted from the mountaintops that this is affirmation that they're doing a bang-up job...

I remember that.
I voted yes- grudgingly but H voted no.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

This money also supports after school programs for the middle school students. If there is no money for these programs, then what will our middle school students be doing between the hours of 2:35 and when their parents get home? Any guesses?
-TAGGER

mirmac1 said...

Tagger,

As the working mom of a middle schooler, she will be doing chores and homework. If I get home and these are not done, then she will have no perks. Period.

Do I expect everyone to have these standards? No. But that's the reality. There's a finite amount for bills, taxes, and extras. The sooner she learns that, the better.

Charlie Mas said...

I have mixed feelings about the this levy. I certainly don't want my vote in favor of the levy to be seen as a vote of confidence in the District.

But I know that's how they will interpret it.

I cannot, however, put the goal of scoring poilitical points ahead of the goal of providing educational resources for children.

Fortunately this year I can cast another vote (four, actually) that will signal my dissatisfaction with the District leadership at the same time that I vote in favor of the levy.

It would be very hard for the district to use the passage of the levey as evidence of the community's support for their leadership if four Board incumbents - or even one - are turned out of office.

So I will vote for the levy because I support the levy and I will vote for the challengers because I support change in the leadership.

dan dempsey said...

Here is thought worth pondering. In the mid 80s I was listening to Charles Osgood on the radio. He stated that in 1960 a house could be purchased with 32 hours of adult labor per month. He used the average house price and the average wage in 1960.

He then went on to say that currently it required slightly more than 100 hours of adult labor per month to make a house payment. He used average house price and average adult wage in 1986.

He then asked the question where these additional 70 hours were coming from?

His conclusion was that these hours were coming directly out of the lives of the nation's children and said the nation had yet to figure out how to compensate the children.

Around the same time James Coleman of the Univ. of Chicago authored an article on Schools and Social Capital.... He said that Public Schools depended on Social Capital and that while there was an enormous amount of it in 1800 we were currently getting close to running on empty.

He then went on to demonstrate how laws and societal factors had increasingly lessened the power of the family as a functional institution as transfers of authority had gone to Government, Businesses, and even the individual ... leaving families the short end of the stick.

Families and Education Levy ... what an interesting title ... So what would Osgood and Coleman have had to say on this?

mirmac1 said...

"...scoring political points ahead of the goal of providing educational resources for children."

Well, when you put it like that of course not. My child participates in middle school levy activities. She is having fun learning cartooning and participating in "game get down". I don't discount making school fun for kids. I am under no illusion, however, that these levy activities are "educational resources".

anonymous said...

ditto, Charlie

dark knight

Anonymous said...

The fact that the mayor and council doubled the levy during a recession could definitely be its undoing. The constant increases in property taxes can be a heavy burden on people whose incomes have been flat for a decade. I don't know about anyone else, but my mortgage increased $175 per month this year due an equity shortage, the direct result of an increase in property taxes and property value—the backdoor tax increase. At least the property values dropped this year.

Seattleites do tend to be generous when it comes to school levies, so hopefully that will continue to be the case.

SolvayGirl

Dorothy Neville said...

I am not sure it is fair to say that Seattle is generous with its School levies. The majority are simply apathetic. Regular school operating levies get YES votes from only about 1/4 of the registered voters. It just looks like a lot because not many people bother to vote No. Are other people conflicted or do they assume it will pass anyway or lazy?

As for the F&Ed levy, in 2004 it got only about 87K YES votes, fewer than the 2004 Operating levy (90K). Now it looked like it passed easily when you consider that officially it passed by 62%, but that does not include the fact that 15% of the people who voted in the election left the levy blank. That is a HUGE percent of blanks, larger than any other levy vote in Seattle that I could find. So when you compare YES to NO votes, the margin of passing is much smaller.

Think of it this way. On the regular school operating levies, Seattle provides about 2 YES votes for every student enrolled, which is about 25% of the registered voters. The 2004 F&Ed levy got YES votes from just under 25% of the registered voters.

dan dempsey said...

WOW .. Dorothy ... that certainly puts a perspective on things. This levy could be a nail biter.

Robert said...
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FedMomof2 said...

I am voting for the levy and voting out the incumbents. Like Charlie said, this year we have a way to support the kids and say a big fat NO to the district at the same time.

dan dempsey said...

Like Charlie said, this year we have a way to support the kids and say a big fat NO to the district at the same time.

Looks like two big ways to support kids.

Anonymous said...

Here is my heart string anecdote -

the health center is down the hall from my room at Franklin.

last year, appx 70% of our 1200 +/- kids were low income - also known as Free and Reduced Lunch.

Whatever that health center costs the community saves the community 10 or 50 times as much -

BM