Shorter School Year Coming?

From the Everett Herald comes a story about superintendents around the state coming together in agreement about having fewer school days for all districts rather than the Governor's idea of getting rid of levy equalization which favors districts able to pass levies versus those that can't.

The superintendents are saying that while it may end up being detrimental to students in the long run, they want the cuts to be equal across the state and feel this may stop the steady downward trend of school budgets. 

Washington is not the first to consider this path. California, for example, dropped from 180 days to 175 days in 2009, then decided earlier this year to let financially challenged districts teach as few as 168 days. Other states, such as Oregon, allowed districts to go to a four-day school week. Students wind up with the same number of hours of instruction, but districts save money by closing campuses an additional day each week.

The story doesn't explain it but I'm supposing they add the time lost by the cut days into the remaining days.  So you get the same amount of time but in fewer days with school doors open. 


Gov. Chris Gregoire, in her outline of ideas for erasing the shortfall, listed $365 million in cuts to elementary and secondary education. She didn't include a shorter school year, which could save $125 million, but did endorse slashing $150 million in levy equalization payments to property-poor school districts.
Superintendents oppose her approach because it doesn't hit districts equally. Those in wealthier urban areas will be unscathed as they don't receive a subsidy. A shorter school year, on the other hand, would affect each of the state's 295 school districts.

There are obstacles. Changing the law prescribing a 180-day school year is necessary. It also may run afoul of the state constitution's requirement to ensure every student in Washington receives a 'basic education.

The constitution doesn't define what is the minimum number of days for a basic education, but it's generally believed that cutting five days could trigger a legal challenge to answer that question.
There is opposition from Gregoire, Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and the Washington Education Association, the statewide teachers union.

This could end up being quite the fight and for good reasons on all sides.  I personally would oppose this idea for two reasons. 

One, we need to draw a line somewhere.  Kids need to be in school.  That extra week leaves the districts' pockets and hits parents' pockets because those kids have to be somewhere.   The districts may end up with less savings anyway due to snow days that will have to be made up.  What then?

Two, it may be time for some hard choices in smaller districts that have trouble passing levies.  Some of the problem is that there are people not voting for levies because they favor Tea Party politics.  That cannot be the problem for districts who don't have that issue.  While Seattle is indeed a wealthier district, ALL our citizens end up paying for our levies, not just the wealthy.  It might be time for districts to be responsible for their own costs. 


dan dempsey said…
So where is the WA Supreme Court?

School funding => McCleary v. State (???)

Rep. Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City, who serves on the education appropriations committee and opposes the proposal, said: "If it's about scaring people, maybe the idea is a good one."

Amen to that.
dan dempsey said…
There are obstacles. Changing the law prescribing a 180-day school year is necessary. It also may run afoul of the state constitution's requirement to ensure every student in Washington receives a 'basic education.

The constitution doesn't define what is the minimum number of days for a basic education, but it's generally believed that cutting five days could trigger a legal challenge to answer that question.

This is hardly a problem as a legal appeal would take years.

McCleary v. State started in 2007 and it is almost 2012.
dan dempsey said…
The WA Constitution does not say "BASIC" education.

It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.

Article IX .. preamble section 1.

So Mr. Dorn how is spending $185 million over 5 years on the Common Core State Standards doing that?
Eric B said…
IMHO, cutting the levy equalization money is a good thing. I'm all for the wealthy helping the less wealthy, but I think that the levy equalization is a fundamentally unfair way to do it. We Seattlites get hit twice for the money, once for our state taxes that support equalization, and once for the levy.

Losing levy equalization will hopefully force the locals to confront the fact that the state needs to raise more money to adequately fund everyone's public services.

I don't really object to Seattle getting ~65 cents on the dollar we send to Olympia, but I'm sick and tired of people saying that we're living beyond our means to do it.
Kathy said…

I believe Seattle keeps thirty six cents on the dollar.
WenD said…
There are other areas to cut. This shouldn't be one of them. It's totally counter to what a lot of families want. My kids want more school, not less.

So far, DSHS has been described as untouchable by Gregoire. Perhaps that needs to change. Deliver services to those who need them. Giving kids what they need will reduce DSHS interventions. Instead of deeming one agency untouchable, look at where monies can be more effectively applied. Just one idea.
Anonymous said…
The majority of those that belong to the tea party are wealthy and highly educated.

Not to be disparaging, but that is not the majority of the populace of our rural areas. For the most part they are owner/operators of family farms, or employees of large corporate farms. There are probably a lot more Tea Party members in Bellevue than in rural areas.

For the individual owner/operator votes are likely more in line with survival of farm and family, than support of a broader political agenda.

Prices per ton received for crops to the direct producer (not the middleman) are not that much higher than prices received in 1920. Yet, as we all know prices for fuel, equipment, labor, transportation and everything else are dramatically higher.

They are not sitting around holding Henry the VIIIth feasts and mocking the city folks. Instead, they start work before dawn and work until after dusk.

True - acre to acre, those of us that live in the city pay a higher amount of tax per square foot than those in rural areas.

Your higher taxes are paying for a cheap and clean food source (the recent problems came from big corporate farms not mom and pops.)

If that is a consideration and equalizer for you, then we all win. If not, well some kids will be home schooled, and some more family farms will go under.

One thing I am not confident about is that the big corporate farms will pay any more in taxes than they do now if the mom and pops become extinct.

-Tired of the uninformed hate
dan dempsey said…
WenD wrote:
So far, DSHS has been described as untouchable by Gregoire. Perhaps that needs to change.

The state constitution would support WenD not the Gov. on this.

Given WA has no income tax and restructured auto licensing of some years ago, it may well be that the upper 1% of WA residents have the lightest tax burden of any state except Alaska.
dan dempsey said…
I've seen first hand what the initiatives of Mr. Eyeman brought to small towns in rural eastern WA.... an enormous loss of revenue necessary to maintain services. .... Welcome to the wild west.
"Tired of the uninformed hate" - oh, c'mon. No one hates anyone here -it's a discussion.
Anonymous said…
I have to agree with "Tired" re: the town vs. country. Levy equalization helps rural communities all over our state. These communities are already under seige with cuts to accessible health care, communication (not easy to get DSL/broadband), and their school budgets. Many areas have been dealing with high unemployment, law enforcement, emergency service and housing issues.

By doing away with levy equalization, we would in turn widen the disparity among the haves and have nots. We talk about shared sacrifices. Perhaps it is here where we need to look at the good for all children. Remember, rural areas provide much of our food, fuel, and natural resources from. We need them to thrive for us to thrive.

Seattle mom
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Kate Martin said…
You can be sure the cuts will be made to be painful and visible so "the voters really get it". I've heard this more than a few times over the last months.

Personally, I think we could save money by losing Fridays and instead commence with "Family Fridays" with an intended focus on massive experiential learning, family collaboration in education, and just the simple concept of spending time with the kids learning through fun activities - perhaps a useful antidote to the drudgery that is being a student in a teach to the test environment.

My understanding is that Fridays are pretty yesterday on many college campuses already.
anonymous said…
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Eric B said…
I wasn't very coherent last night, and left a lot to the reader's imagination, so let me go back and explain.

I don't want rural schools to go without money. I don't want urban schools to do that either. The fair way to accomplish that is to have the state adequately fund K-12 education in the state. We can argue about whether programs like Core 24 do that, but I think we can agree that 5 periods of middle and high school don't.

My pipe dream is a state education funding system where levies and levy equalization aren't needed to actually fund real education. My rational side says that pipe dream won't come to pass until the rural conservative caucus in the Legislature sees the value of the public raising money and paying for education. I don't think those legislators will change their mind until their constituents do.

Farmers work harder than I ever will, for less money. I deeply respect what they do to keep our food supply running. Doesn't mean I have to like their politics. Call it tough love, not hate.
anonymous said…
So far, DSHS has been described as untouchable by Gregoire. Perhaps that needs to change."

That is simply not true. Gregoire has given DSHS the directive to cut it's budget by 5% by January 1, 2012. There have already been major cuts to DSHS over the last couple of years, including laying off over 60 employees, and drastic cuts to health care coverage.

To meet the Governors directive DSHS has proposed cutting, by January 1, 2012, 50% of funding for maternity services, all adult dental except for emergency treatment, adult hearing -including hearing aids and cochlear implants, 100% podiatry coverage, adult vision including eyeglasses, and all school based medical coverage.

Then in March of 2012 there are further proposed cuts and they are even more drastic. They include terminating medical and dental care coverage for 27,000 children in WA state, and completely ELIMINATING the WA STATE BASIC HEALTH CARE PROGRAM (provides medical insurance to 56,000 lower income families) which will also result in 64 more DSHS employees being laid off. In addition the proposal includes discontinuing medical care for the disability lifeline ADATSA (unemployable, alcohol and drug treatment), and all interpreter services.

The situation is grim. Very very grim. Not sure how anyone could possibly think that DSHS is untouchable??

Here are two links w/all of the official info for those interested:

Concerned Mom
Kathy said…
Can we agree voting down pennies on candy and water bottle tax was a bit too much?
Jet City mom said…
can we cut mid winter break?
Anonymous said…
Mid-winter break is going away with next year's school calendar. The school year is still 180 days, and the year will end earlier in June.

dj said…
Kate, since we are a two-parent working household, having my kids not be in school on Friday would be totally awesome. Thanks for the suggestion.

Ironically enough, my full-time job is teaching at a university. My teaching schedule includes Fridays. Who knew?
Charlie Mas said…
The state's primary education cost is teacher salaries. No real savings are possible without cuts here. The state can cut those salaries, but since the teachers actually have their agreements with the districts, all that does is roll the problem over to the districts (as it did this year when the state cut teacher pay by 1.9%).

The state can cut the school year, but that does not necessarily translate directly into lower teacher salaries. A 5% cut would bring the school year down to 171 days. I don't know what effect it would have on the districts' ability to retain teachers. A 5% cut off a $50,000 annual salary would make it $47,500, but there's also rising health care costs to consider. At some point you have to think that some teachers would leave for other professions or for positions in other states.

It would be difficult for the state to convince the Supreme Court that they are making ample provision for the education of all children residing in the state if they continue to make cuts from the basic education deemed inadequate by the lower Court.

But what can the Court do anyway? Nothing.

Government officials work in a lawless society. Whether it is the school board, the state legislature, the Congress or the President, we have seen that the rules don't matter because they are not enforced. The School Board refuses to enforce District policy; they don't think it is their job to do so. The OSPI indiscriminantly approves all waivers requested. An emergency is whatever the state legislature declares to be an emergency. The state Courts can pass judgement and demand that the legislature fund education, but they cannot enforce it. Members of the Congress feel empowered to defy the 14th amendment, default on federal debt, and crash our economy to score a debating point. They feel free to fiddle with national mottos instead of job growth efforts while the economy burns. The previous President insisted on his authority to wage war, to violate international treaties, to violate the civil rights of citizens, to search without reasonable cause, and more. He had a friendly Congress and Court that allowed it all.

What we have learned is that there is no right or wrong, there is only what you can get away with. And if the people who are supposed to police you are you're friends, or if they are lazy, or if they are indifferent, then you can get away with pretty much anything.

That's the real truth - perhaps it always was.
anonymous said…
Really Kate, cut Friday's? And what happens to the MANY families who can't quit their jobs to spend quality Fridays with their children? Should we just burden them with higher day care costs? And if they can't afford the higher day care costs should their kids be left alone unsupervised? And how about all of the unsupervised teens that will be hanging out with too much time on their hands?

Shaking my head, and thinking about the ramifications.

Big picture
Good grief said…
Yet another reason I am glad I didn't vote for Kate. While my daughter going to college back east DOES have Fridays off, she is old enough to take care of herself as are her classmates. Not so for younger children with working parents, as others have already pointed out. It's not that we don't WANT to apply the "simple concept of spending time with the kids" it's that we you know, work to put food on the table, pay for water and electricity, pesky things like that.

It really makes me twitch when privileged people make suggestions about what's best for those of us working to get by. "Simple concept" indeed.
Anonymous said…
How's this for a great idea, levy equalization funds stay but only for poor counties who voted against all of Tim Eyman's ignorant initiatives that left the 13th wealthiest state in the country in the bottom 10 in education funding?

--Only being half satirical
suep. said…
No need to jump all over Kate for merely suggesting an idea. In such economically dire times as these, seems to me we should brainstorm and consider all kinds of thoughts and options.
Patrick said…
Personally, I think we could save money by losing Fridays and instead commence with "Family Fridays" with an intended focus on massive experiential learning, family collaboration in education, and just the simple concept of spending time with the kids learning through fun activities - perhaps a useful antidote to the drudgery that is being a student in a teach to the test environment.

Sure, it'd be nice to have a day off every week for homeschooling, but both my job and my co-parent's job are somewhat attached to the 5-day work week. So it would be a childcare day, not a learning day. Even losing a week or two from the school year would be easier than losing a day every week.

My understanding is that Fridays are pretty yesterday on many college campuses already.

Depends on the program. At UW, Business School classes don't meet on Fridays. It's supposed to be time for collaborative work and library work. However, most other programs do have Friday classes.
Anonymous said…
The 180 day school year seems pretty typical. Here are state by state statistics (albeit somewhat dated, shown for 2000, 2004, and 2006, from Digest of Education statistics):

Minimum length of school year

More on California here:
Shortening the School Year

Lori said…
I've been reading papers from around the state to try to better understand school funding in general and levy equalization in particular. But I'm really still confused.

Here's an example from the Kitsap Sun. The Central Kitsap school district received $3.7M in levy equalization this year (article dated 10/27/11). However, according to another article published on 10/13/11, "...this year the district will collect about $16.8 million for its support levy, although it had the authority to collect nearly $23.6 million, according to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction."

So we have districts in our state who do not collect the full amount that their citizens have voted to allow, yet we still given them equalization dollars? I don't understand why Seattle and Bellevue are sending our levy dollars to Central Kitsap so that they can choose to collect less money than legally allowed from their own citizens.

Can anyone point out or clarify why this shouldn't bother me as a Seattle tax payer (and person who voted to keep the candy tax and never votes for an Eyman initiative)?
NLM said…
DH and I were in Hawaii when they implemented their Friday furlough solution. It wreaked havoc for parents, especially military ones, and is one of the reasons we moved back to the mainland. It definitely said something about the state's priorities.
Jet City mom said…
Mid-winter break is going away with next year's school calendar. The school year is still 180 days, and the year will end earlier in June.

Thanks that is good to know.
From mid November to spring break, there seemed to be so many disruptions ( testing/half days as well as breaks) that seemed to negatively impact children's learning.

We need more continuity not less.
Eric B said…
Lori- As I understand it, each taxing authority (school district, city, etc.) has a limit set on the amount that they can collect in property taxes. I think the total levy isn't supposed to grow faster than X% per year. There's nothing that requires the tax authority to ask for that much money, though.

So in the Kitsap example, they could have gone out to ask for a $23 million levy, but instead chose to ask the voters for a smaller one. That might have been because they didn't think voters would approve the larger levy, or they didn't think they needed the bigger one with the levy equalization money coming in from the state, or some other reason.
KG said…
Once again we have a fine example of how the rich are not paying their fare share.

Wake up Seattle and the rest of the country.
Anonymous said…
From a legal standpoint, it is not a violation of the state constitution or state statutes to offer less than 180 days in a school year. The State Board of Education awards waivers of the 180 day school year every year. Applicants for the waiver must, however, demonstrate that they will continue to offer the required 1000 instructional hours.

It could be argued, however, that elimination of levy equalization could be a violation of the state constitution due to the "general and uniform system of public schools" clause.
mirmac1 said…
My guess is the same legislators who will lament a loss of levy equalization are the ones snickering because the majority party is over a budget barrel. They love to point the finger at the "tax and spenders".

Yeah, losing pennies on soda (one of the basic food groups according to big spending lobbyists) was incredibly short-sighted.

Well, I believe in tough love. Sometimes you gotta say no to rural lawmakers who try to have it both ways.
Lori said…
Thanks, Eric B. I had read it to mean that voters had already approved up to $23M, but you could be right that instead that this is the "legal limit," and the district chose to place a smaller amount before their voters.

Like I said, it's actually pretty confusing to try to make sense of how each district is funded, and without this knowledge, it's hard to know whether levy equalization deserves protection from budget cuts or not.

Ultimately, what our state needs is a wholesale restructuring of the tax code so that it somehow ties to each person's ability to pay in a progressive fashion. Paying taxes on (previously) inflated home values is absurd, as is paying B&O taxes on gross revenue instead of net. Unfortunately, I am not confident that either gubernatorial candidate for 2012 is going to run on this platform, so our chronic budget woes will continue.
Anonymous said…
There is a certain amount that a school district can ask its voters to support school levy for their individual district.

The legislature grants school boards the authority to request local school funds up to 24% through maintenance and operations levy-- of the total district's revenues (state and federal revenues). The 24% is called the lid.

For poor districts, (low property values), they can't ususally get enough via school levy so the state came up with the levy equalization to help offset the inequity betwen rich and poor districts. It is complicated.

The WEA has a site you can access for more info to explain levy equalization.

The Columbian wrote up an editorial against the cut to levy equalization and how it would affect their local school districts funding (Vancouver, Clark County, etc.)

It's true that you can play politics here. After all rural voters tend to go more GOP, but is this about politics (and I'm not sure it's good politics at that) or looking at the state's "paramount duty"? The governor may have to look at cutting some of the levy equalization$, but perhaps not so much.

Seattle mom
mirmac1 said…
A little birdie told me that, unfortunately, it boils down to politics. And who gets hurt? Just the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers. I guess this is our version of pork-barrel spending.
SP said…
Warm & fuzzy "Fridays off" doesn't cut it in my book, either! Maybe for elementary kids with stay-at-home/wanna be homeschooler parents, but middle school & high school kids need all the core instructional time they can get, especially the struggling students!

I liked the quote in the linked article from the Everett School Superintendent:
"No one wants less instructional time. I've argued for and worked to increase instructional time for kids," he said. "We can't keep thinning the soup and expect kids to receive enough nourishment."

Even the Governor's proposed plan for reducing the school year by 5 days stated that the plan "offsets the loss of instructional time by reducing or eliminating non-instructional activities."

Luckily for Seattle students, the waivers approved last spring for days off (3 days off for PD for all schools & 6 days off for PT conferences for K-8's) had a state-attached condition that if the legislature cut any instructional days, the non-instructional waiver days would be the ones which would have to be cut first.
Eric B said…
What I'd like to see is a bit of carrot and stick. You want levy equalization? Great. What new revenue will you support for that? It can all be in the same legislative session so that no funding is actually cut.
Josh Hayes said…
I had the impression that a disproportionately high transportation cost afflicts rural districts, because students are so far-flung. Is this a contributing factor to the levy equalization issue? Would consolidating several sparse districts into a single equally sparse district do any good to reduce administrative costs?

I too have to grit my teeth when I hear people east of the "Cascade Curtain" blathering about high taxes, when they're (unknowingly, one presumes) sucking on the public teat to such a large extent. But I can't take it out on the kids: it's not THEIR fault their representatives are short-sighted goobers.
dan dempsey said…
From the WA Policy Center:

Washington state budget writers are looking for savings in education spending, in order to bring spending desires in line with available revenue. Abandoning implementation of the Common Core Standards would free up resources for other pressing education needs.

But just as importantly, it would allow Washington state to retain control over its schools so it can instead implement reforms that have been shown to work. Abandoning the Common Core Standards would allow Washington to avoid the standardization and mediocrity which will certainly result if the federal government imposes a standard curriculum and test on Washington's schools.
dan dempsey said…
From Concerned Mom:

So far, DSHS has been described as untouchable by Gregoire. Perhaps that needs to change."

That is simply not true. Gregoire has given DSHS the directive to cut it's budget by 5% by January 1, 2012. There have already been major cuts to DSHS over the last couple of years, including laying off over 60 employees, and drastic cuts to health care coverage.

There are a collection of companies and non-profits that provide service to developmentally disabled and other persons in need of care. Much of the funding comes through DSHS. These providers have seen very large budget cuts during the last two years.

It is now reaching the stage of life or death in some cases if the budget cutting continues.
Anonymous said…
I am not sure that more or less instructional time will help struggling students when they are getting exactly the same instruction that left them struggling to begin with.

When kids are struggling, they need something different. More practice, or more attention, or direct instruction, or different materials, or a different environment that allows them to use their strengths to learn. But what they get in SPS is a bad grade and a 'let's move on'.

How does the length of a school year make a difference in that?

High school parent
whittier07 said…
@Seattle Mom:

Thanks for the info on the Columbian article, I think it shows how a "good idea" can have unintended consequences. The article lists Camas as one of the poor districts that receive levy equalization money. I grew up in Camas and the community never voted down a levy. My nieces now attend Camas schools and the schools are SO much better than what Seattle has ... basics & enrichment. Heck, two years ago the high school was offering horse riding ... not a school that has had to cut back.
dan dempsey said…
Josh Hayes said:
Would consolidating several sparse districts into a single equally sparse district do any good to reduce administrative costs?

Easy consolidation would be Wishram into Goldendale.

Impossible to consolidate Bickleton.

So many communities in rural locations base their identity on their high school. Geographically Prescott could easily become part of Waitsberg.

If the consolidations were for administrative purposes only it would be easier to stomach for rural communities that wish to keep their high schools. Note many of these districts are now so small they combine to have sports teams.

LaCrosse- Washtucna

I think some districts may even share superintendents already.... Waterville with ??? a while back.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the link about Common Core.

If the situation is so dire, it seems like a no-brainer to stick with existing standards (for which WA has already invested large sums of money for new textbooks, assessments, etc.) rather than jumping to shorten the school year.

WA math standards have been rated as good as or better than the Common Core Standards, so why spend scarce resources to change them?

dan dempsey said…
High School Parent said:

I am not sure that more or less instructional time will help struggling students when they are getting exactly the same instruction that left them struggling to begin with.

Good Point ... remember the Southeast Education initiative .... which produced very little that could be measured as positive.

A change is not necessarily a solution.

The Aki Kurose CSIP blathers on about goals.... yet the changes made in 2010-2011 school year showed worse results for reading. ... Accountability is ZERO.

Checking cohorts at AKI with differentials from district averages =>

In looking at cohorts for low income student reading

2010 grade 6 => 2011 grade 7
diff -10.30% => -14.80%
[[down 4.50 in 2011]]

2010 grade 7 => 2011 grade 8
diff +0.40% => -7.40%
[[down 7.80 in 2011]]

In looking at cohorts for Black student reading

2010 grade 6 => 2011 grade 7
diff -7.00% => -10.50%
[[down 3.50 in 2011]]

2010 grade 7 => 2011 grade 8
diff -4.20% => -11.00%
[[down 6.80 in 2011]]

The SPS continues to use practices that do not work, while neglecting "innovations" known to work.

Visible Learning=>
continually ignored by our ed elite leaders.
Anonymous said…
Lori - there is information on your question in the following OSPI document, starting in section II

A friend of seattle
Kate Martin said…
Actually, Family Fridays were a plank in my platform, not something I just made up. We need more parent collaboration, not less. At Summit we had a lot of field trips, ski fridays, pot lucks, book groups, and lots of other ways that parents got involved. Not everyone will or can, but most made time. It was a great experience. No matter where the time comes out, days will be cut and so if it's 3 weeks lopped off or spread out, it's still a cut in days and days that parents will have to figure out daycare.
Charlie Mas said…
Is the daycare the same if it is needed for five Fridays during the school year or for an extra week during the summer?

What about all of those randomly occurring no-school days like professional development days or the day between semesters? How are families dealing with those? If they are a struggle then shouldn't we be working to get rid of them and shorten the school year instead? Don't they represent the same situation?
Noam said…
The text in the first paragraph: "the Governor's idea of getting rid of levy equalization which favors districts able to pass levies versus those that can't" is wrong.

Levy equalization favors (with our money) districts that won't pass levies at the expense of areas such as ours who will, do and have.

Its only fair that those communities that want smaller government and refuse to pay their fair share for education begin to see the effects of their political leanings.

Its about time.

I bet Seattle would get double the funds if we were able to keep our tax money in our own community.

Of course Glenn Anderson doesn't like the idea, his district would dry up and blow away without our tax dollars.

Hey Glenn, put up or shut up!
Paul said…
Yeah I'm tired of uninformed hate too Melissa.

I think the writer was referring to all the "hate" coming our way from other (eastern) districts who are living on our "dime".

The truth may really wake some of them up.

Not seeing any hate here today.
Anonymous said…
In any large scale solution, people will adjust. Were people inconvenienced during Viadoom week, increases in ferry fees, the NBA strike or snow storm right before Christmas? Were people threatened by tsunamis and volcano eruptions? Of course. However, people adjust and we move forward.

Yes, I have children and no, I'm not financially independent.

A friend of Seattle
NLM said…
Charlie, yes those random half days are a problem too. As a working mom, dh and I used to trade off on those. More often than not I used all of my vacation days for kids and had to use sick days for my mental health. Consolidating breaks at the beginning or end of the year is much easier to plan around.
CT said…
Here's a document on Levy Equalization - sorry if it's a repeat post - I didn't see it linked anywhere.

Levy Equalization Primer
cascade said…
All in favor of getting rid of levy equalization TEMPORARILY. When rural and property-poor legislators come back to state legislature supporting a steady fundraising mechanism for all schools (hey, how bout bringing back the soda tax or the income tax after pain is felt) then levy equalization can be re-instituted. And not before. Will it hurt the kids meantime? You bet. That's the point. Let's get real, legislature.

With no money in those districts, Teach for America will have a better place to send their recruits. Seriously. The PTSA can WELCOME charters to districts with no funds to keep their own buildings running. Will be interesting to see if the so-called "public" charters want to head to districts with no money. It sure will be telling, won't it?
CT said…
And here's a post on how rural Washington is supported by the urban counties from The Stranger, which I consider a more valid source than the Seattle Times, if only for the fact that they are clear and up front about their biases rather than trying to pretend they are engaging in objective, factual journalism. The Times has an agenda that they attempt to conceal, whereas The Stranger shoves their agenda right in front of your face. I prefer the latter.
cascade said…
As for cutting the school year, this is example #1 in which SPS AS WELL AS the SEA teacher's union had best remember, as my friend Michelle Buetow kept saying in her campaign, that parents AND school staff are the 2 supports of public education. I would expect, no demand, that the community be polled early and effectively as to the shape and timing of any state-mandated school closure days.

I'm ticked off at the SEA at the moment for going behind closed doors on shaping "innovation" schools. Because of that complete lack of public engagement between district/union/parents I am less supportive of the union than I was just weeks ago. I suspect its behavior regarding school closure days would be equally self-serving, and I certainly don't expect the District to ask us parents unless we demand a say. Anyone notice a lack of COMMUNITY input on the abysmal policy update process? And how is that "community poll" going as far as Enfield. Wasn't that comprehensive conversation supposed to have taken place before holiday break? MmmmHmmmm. I am short-tempered on this Monday.
dan dempsey said…
Josh Hayes another thought on consolidation of districts.

WA has 39 counties ... would 39 districts make sense?

NV has 10 counties and 10 districts. Washoe County with Reno and Clark County with Las Vegas are the only two districts with a size similar to Seattle.

A King County School District ... has the potential to be as big a mess as LAUSD.

Many folks think that around 35,000 is a reasonable maximum size. --- Look at North Thurston, Olympia, and Tumwater .... consolidation might save some money on Administration.

Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Cosmopolis.

Kelso, Longview, Castle Rock, Kalama.

I think this gets back to the idea of local control..... Seems like Randy Dorn is all for turning over Academics to the Feds with Race to the Top and Common Core State Standards.... Maybe we only need one school district in the state under that plan.
dan dempsey said…
I'm ticked off at the SEA at the moment for going behind closed doors on shaping "innovation" schools.

dj said…
Charlie, those random days throughout the semester are a total nightmare. And every additional one is an additional vacation or sick day that a working parent has to take, or a paid arrangment you have to cobble together somehow. I would love to get rid of them, sure. But at the least, I'd rather not have *more of them.*

But hey, at least the way I would adjust would be to put my kids in a safe place with care, because I can afford to do that. For a lot of families, every additional random day during the school year that schools are closed are one more day that their kids (1) aren't getting the benefits of school, of course and (2) may not be supervised, period. Where have we gotten to that this is the direction in which we are moving?
Anonymous said…
It may bring some satisfaction to see the economic comeuppance to counties outside our Puget Sound area. I can understand that. Our tax rich counties have subsidized poorer counties for eons and their Reps won't acknowledge that dependence for politics and ideology. It's pure hypocrisy of course. This situation is not unique to our state or country. Heck the EU has got its panties in the biggest twist over this. Should we bail out the weaker state?

In the end though, I rather have a stronger Washignton state as a whole which means for me, supporting our poorer school districts. Their kids deserve the right to quality education just as ours.
Besides, if rural economies and quality of living continue to decline, you may have more migration toward our larger towns and cities. In which case, you still have to find ways to educate and provide services for these folks.

Dan, this one is for you. I too often wondered why we don't consolidate our smaller school districts and reduce the numbers of administrators (and layers). Streamline the delivery of budget, transportation, and management.

Seattle mom
Anonymous said…
Those extra days off also have a huge impact on the FRL kids who rely on school for breakfast and lunch. Five more days w/o school could mean 5 days when a lot of kids go hungry.

Lori said…
A big part of what's missing in this whole levy equalization debate, however, is knowing how various schools across our state compare in what they currently offer students. I think most everyone would agree that we want all children to get a quality education, but few of us here know the details about what kind of education kids are getting in communities that receive equalization funds to begin with. The assumption is that things are equally bad everywhere, but is that true?

For example, Whittier07 posted today that one rural district that gets equalization dollars has horse riding lessons at the high school level. Is that a necessity that can't be cut? Should Seattle class sizes be even larger so that kids in Camas can continue to learn to ride horses?

I know a year or so ago, Dorn lamented in the Times that if equalization were cut, some K-4 classes would get "as large as 26-27 students per class." Are you kidding me? We already have that in Seattle, so how is it lamentable that districts that get equalization dollars would see their class sizes rise to what we already have here? If equalization dollars are used to keep class sizes small in property poor districts, then, yes, in these tough times, they need to be cut. Our dollars shouldn't be going elsewhere to provide other communities with things that we've had to cut ourselves.

So, I hope the governor has appointed some sort of task force to investigate what these cuts would actually mean at the student/classroom level. The kneejerk reaction of every potentially affected district is to shout that any and all cuts are unacceptable, but right now, I don't think anyone has actually drilled down far enough to know if that's true or not.
seattle citizen said…
On Fridays as a non-teaching day - I read Kate's post to suggest that on Fridays the community rally around students and do something, well, community-based. I didn't read her post to suggest that it was stay home and watch soaps, or that every parent would need to quit their job(s) in order to do something with their kid; I read it as let's organize non-school-based things in the community. SOME adults could volunteer, others who work could make lunches for students, a few might sponsors students visiting workplaces....whatever! Think of the opporuntities.
Of COURSE some parents have to work - can't other adults help out? A "Fridays off for the community" might be better seen as an interesting version of the "community schools" that are so effective these days - rally 'round the student.
If all one can do, forgetting the other resources in the community, is bemoan that "I have not time," then I guess it's on schools alone to completely raise children, eh?
Anonymous said…
Lori, I don't know the state of Camas HS or the district. But certainly your question is quite valid if a school is receving subsidized money and offer hosebackriding lessons while other "wealthier" districts are facing larger class sizes and cuts. That would be egregious indeed and should rouse your skepticism. Camas is close to Vancouver and Portland. Friends who live in Washington state, but work and shop in Portland, tell me that whole area is varied economically. You have pockets of wealth, middle class, and poor communities interspersed. But you have many truly poor school districts in need like Toppenish, Klickitat, etc. Go to the Levy Equalization primer that CT posted @ 3:24 PM.

If the lay of the land is true for Seattle as it is elsewhere, I suspect the poor economy has hit all school districts' budget hard. Yes of course, you will find government dollars wasted even in times of need. You will find that in our school district as well as others, and in other sectors such as transportation and health care. But I don't want to confuse the issues of waste with needs.

It is fair to demand for accounting of these dollars. Maybe we will get more oversight when we have fewer to spend. But for me, a strong state whether it is our Washington State or these United States depends on its citizens and how we treat one another. My neighbor who has kids in private schools and votes GOP every time still voted for our Ed Levy. He feels that is his obligation as a citizen. He will complain bitterly about taxes and we often have rousing debate over that and the state of the world.

Seattle mom
mirmac1 said…
SEA behind closed doors? Get the axe, Heeeeere's Glenny!

WV: my humor is ammoric sometimes, I know.
dj said…
Seattle Citizen, I found your post insulting. I am not leaving it up to schools to raise my children. I am paying taxes so that schools can provide my kids with the same kind of decent public education administered by professional educators that I benefitted from as a child. Every time we chip away at what my kids can get that I had -- as class sizes rise, as our schools get rid of librarians -- I see the failure of current taxpayers to provide for kids what they received themselves in a short-sighted way that will bite us all in the future.
whittier07 said…
I only brought up Camas b/c I grew up there and have nieces currently attending school in Camas. When I read the Columbian article that seattle mom had referenced I was shocked to find that Camas receives levy equalization money. I can't remember a levy ever being voted down and the area has really boomed ... not as many fields & forests, tons of mega mansions.
When I go back to visit, it reminds me of Bellevue.

I just checked their web-site and there was a congrats to the 2010-2011 equestrian team under the news section.

Does the levy equalization money get handed out by county or school district?
whittier07 said…
Another comparison to Seattle Schools:

All Camas elementary schools had counselors listed on their staff page.

All Camas middle schools had counselors listed on their staff page ... one also had an intervention specialist.

Camas High School has the following listed on their staff page:

Career & Tech Ed Director
Resource Officer

I'm not trying to pick on Camas, these are things that we all want for our students but why is Seattle going without when other schools aren't?
NLM said…
In this era of collegiate coaching profiles you suggest leaving the children in the hands of random community volunteers? Not just no, but hell no.
NLM said…
Err pedohiles not profiles. darn phones.
seattle citizen said…
I was not trying to be insulting. I, too, hate to see schools cut. Maybe my comment was misplaced; this is a thread about shortening school hours, not about rethinking community activity around students.

I apologize.

That said, IF they were to cut Fridays (which, given the current crisis in public education funding seems more and more likely) what COULD the community do? Could there be lemonade made of lemons?

I completely understand you concern about how schools are losing the supports we took for granted. I, too, pay my taxes for these supports. It's disgraceful that we are even thinking about cutting more.

But...aside from that, A community day of education is an intriguing idea.

But I was wrong to couch it in this thread, and wrong to imply that parents who work were merely leaving it to the schools. I'm just looking for creative solutions to economic and social and education problems.
seattle citizen said…
Rereading my the last paragraph of my first comment, dj, I see the snarkiness in it. I do apologize; my point could have been made with less snark. I didn't mean it to be hurtful, but to suggest that the community might do well to volunteer, etc, to support all students. It's not as common as one would hope.
Anonymous said…
Whittier 07, I see your point about Camas school district. Hopefully, the governor will tier her cuts according to needs.

Seattle mom
(ok, this is appropriate: WV- rations_
StepJ said…

I wonder if the answer lies in how the two Districts are operated?

I lived in Vancouver for a good stretch of time. The operations of the city and the school districts were all pretty transparent. There really was a lot of solid planning. Plans were made to meet demand prior to a crisis. Things seem to flow pretty smoothly without a lot of churn and re-work. No staff time diverted towards secret agendas or intricate diversions of funds.

I suspect there is a high cost to churn, churn again, and complex diversions.

I wonder if the cost of churn does consume the budget for counselors and others that Camas has on staff, but that Seattle has cut?
whittier07 said…
Good point StepJ ... growing up in Camas I would say that the city had (and still does) excellent planning between city/school.

Just clarifying ... so all districts get approximately the same $$$ per student but then they decide how much of it is actually spent on the students???

I do think that if the levy equalization money is disbursed per county, that might be something that could be changed ... maybe per district??? Clark County might be considered a rural, poor county BUT it does have pockets of wealth. Camas has changed from a small town to a city with quite a bit of wealth.
Patrick said…
Yes, the professional development days are hard to work around and generally require additional child care. If all things were equal, I'd rather put them together at the end of the year.

However, all things are not equal. The professional development days I understand include time to collaborate about teaching the particular students the teachers have that year. I don't see how that could be useful after the year is over. So I accept the monthly professional development day, but I would rather not see more days off in the middle of the year.
John said…
I hope the idea of Fridays Off is just speculation. I would vigorously oppose my child's classroom time being cut by 20%.

Great. They've got us arguing about the best way to continue to gut our education system.
Anonymous said…
So many of you just crack me up. Our state has a Democratic governor and a solid majority of Democrats in the Legislature, yet you blame our fiscal problems on "rural conservatives". If you control the political process, you are accountable for the results.

Isn't that the same message you are trying to send our school district? Why don't you apply the same thought process to Olympia?

An alternate point of view
Anonymous said…

We may have Democrats in office in this state, and as our President, but the climate here and across the country is CUT, CUT, CUT. NO TAX, NO SERVICES. Hand out bootstraps and let people pull themselves up.

Since the initiative process can undo every progressive move (say bye-bye to soda tax, so no to taxing the rich) and somehow the majority of people have come to believe that taxes are fair if they are equal across the board — 999!!! — we cannot really blame the Legislature.

Blame needs to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the people who have bought the lies that have been spread for the last 30 years. Trickle down, hail the "job creators." Unfortunately, the rural "conservatives" often fall solidly into this group.

Solvay Girl
Anonymous said…
Solvay girl,

Even if the "rural conservatives" are the dupes that have "bought the lies that have been spread for the last 30 years" that you believe they are, they are a minority in this state. They don't have the votes to accomplish anything on their own.

The fact is that this state has been solidly Democratic for at least a generation. Our Democratic governor and legislature, not some "rural conservative" Tea Party boogeymen, are accountable here.

An alternate point of view
mirmac1 said…

Thanks to gadfly Tim Eyman, neither party can do much of anything with regards to preserving sufficient revenues to educate the children in our state, and provide a healthcare safety net for the poor and elderly.

Not until a party has 2/3 of the seats can we get out of this death spiral.

Nice try.
Lori said…
And it's not just Eyman. The legislature passed and the governor signed into law a 2 cent tax on bottled water, soda, and some candies. Funds were earmarked to education and health care, if I remember correctly.

An initiative, funded almost exclusively by the American Beverage Association, was put before the people to repeal this tax. Every single county, with the lone exception of King County, voted to repeal the tax.

So how is the loss of that money the "fault" of the party that controls Olympia? A law was passed then repealed thanks to big money interests.

And, yes, as an urban voter who cares about education, I will admit that it frustrates me immensely to see that tax repealed by the very geographies that now decry the potential loss of levy equalization dollars. When people vote against funding education, shouldn't we give them what they ask for?

And the even bigger irony, of course, is that many counties that voted to repeal that law actually would have gotten more in benefits from the law than they paid in! According to Reuven Carlyle's numbers from OMB, King County receives 62 cents on the dollar (ie, for every dollar sent to Olympia, the county receives 62 cents back in benefits). Meanwhile, 33 counties receive more than $1.40 in benefits for every dollar they pay. So for every 2 cents paid on a bottle of soda, these places would have gotten nearly 3 cents in return! That's an incredible bargain if you truly care about education. And, heck, King Country voted to keep the law even though its residents would *lose* money in the deal!

And, to be clear, I am not blaming "rural conservatives" for our current mess. I'm just trying to share my persepctive, which I expect is common among voters who consistently vote to tax themselves to support education and recognize the value of progressive taxation but marvel at the hypocrisy of those who receive massive redistributions of wealth but want to hamstring the state's ability to generate revenue.
Anonymous said…
Thanks Lori for taking the time to explain so eloquently what I could not.

Solvay Girl
Anonymous said…
If Boeing/Microsoft et al really want an educated workforce, they can pay taxes like the rest of us99%.

Or we could hold another bake sale.


StepJ said…

I don't fully understand how the Levy Equalization works - if it is distributed by county or district.

However, individual Districts do devote different sums for individual student spending. Like the tremendous debate/wrangle here in Seattle about the percent spending devoted to Central Administration vs. direct funding of schools.

There is a lot of info. at this OSPI site that I haven't had time to look through.

Quick glance at the spreadsheet does display the different funding per student by District, even within the same county.

What I don't know from quick glance, is what portion of the monies per student supplied by the state are levy equalization dollars?

Having experienced city/school planning in both areas I was wondering aloud about the cost of not planning.

I've bored a lot of people with my tale of how the Vancouver school district works very closely with the city. If you purchase a home or rent an apartment you must fill out an additional form to declare the ages of the people that will be living in the household. The city passes this info. on to the school district for capacity planning. Using this info. the school district saw the trends and put a levy on the ballot to build a new school in the area seen to have a surge in school age children in five years. The levy passed, within five years the new school was open, and no crisis!
Charlie Mas said…
As we have seen in the Senate, having a majority does not necessarily mean you rule. There are rules by which a minority party can stop legislation.
SolvayGirl said…
This comment has been removed by the author.

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