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Monday, January 28, 2013

Levies Addressed in Times Editorial

The Times is endorsing both levies but with a caveat (and it's not exactly what you might think).   They are worried about "leadership."  And here I thought it might be complete accountability for that $1B especially for capital funds. I find it troubling that both the Times and Schools First don't make that accountability -given the strife since the last BEX/Operations levies - a promise not to be forgotten. 

(In the past, Schools First members have repeatedly told me, off the record, that they, too, are worried about the transparency and have pledged to me to follow-up.  I have never seen that effort come after the election.)

The Times misses no opportunity to complain about the Board and the Superintendent in ways that have little to do with the levies.

The School Board continues to struggle to work as a coherent body. New Superintendent José Banda appears unable to defuse a teacher boycott of a standardized test that he and other district leaders view as a valuable part of their assessment strategy. 

Defuse?  He told them the teachers would be suspended without pay.  He cannot challenge their democratic right to speak out.  He cannot fire them outright because they have spoken in and  done nothing that violates their contract.

But then they get right to it:

At the root of the district’s problems is a too-quickly-revolving door of department heads and managers, exacerbated by the whims of an often fickle School Board that changes with the political winds at every election. 

The district’s governance structure needs attention, which might take a change in state law. Many school districts, including New York City, operate more effectively and efficiently under the auspices of City Hall.

Here's part of what I had to say in the Comments:

Oh you mean that Steve Sundquist and Peter Maier got voted out because they didn't pay attention to district finances. That "whims" vote was the vote of Seattle voters who had had enough of this lack of oversight. That's OUR job as voters and I'm sorry the Times thinks it's wrong.

And a City Hall takeover of Seattle Schools? Uh, no thanks (but look for that if Tim Burgess gets elected). Is LA a great district? NYC? No. It will not change any thing but the elected control that VOTERS enjoy.


As well, the comments are troubling, both because of the number of people who say they are voting against them as well as why.

One commenter says:

Did the Court also say that funding public education must also mean funding public operation of the schools? If they did, too bad, I am still voting against the levies.

I'm not sure if this person understands that state funding of public schools IS funding their operations.

Another person points out the obvious:

Why will the state ever step up and address its shortcomings in funding schools when they know the local district/voter will pick up the slack because no one ever holds schools/teachers/administrators/school boards accountable. 

I'm not sure I believe no one is "ever" accountable but yes, the state has gotten away with underfunding schools (especially SPS) because they know Seattle will step up.

One good comment:

So when the *voters* do their job and throw out the board members responsible for letting the foxes into the henhouse, and when the board does *its" job and fires the corrupt superintendent and hires a new one, and the new superintendent does *his* job and lets go of bad managers, you have a problem with it?

What exactly did you want, Seattle Times? Magic fairies to wave their wands and put everything back in place lickety split?

The truth is, there was a much needed course correction that happened just before, then during the last election. Change is happening, plans are being made, and I for one like the fact that out district is tackling difficult problems that were ignored for too long. It will not happen overnight, and it will take a renewal of the levies to fix these long standing problems. 


I find it concerning that the Times is more interested in forwarding an agenda than really helping voters shape their opinion and then, their vote.

10 comments:

Eric B said...

I did have a snork at the piece in the SchoolsFirst ad that said that all BEX III projects were completed on time and on budget. I'm not sure who was smoking what when they decided to bring that up. I understand change orders and how schedules and budgets change, but it's meaningless to say that every project met the schedule and budget at the end of the job.

Still voting for it, still important, and the Times still has its collective head up its butt. Plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
suep. said...

(My comments on this, re-posted from an older thread and the Times' Comments section):

Here it comes, and so predictably: the Seattle Times floats the discredited notion of mayoral control of the school district.

The district’s governance structure needs attention, which might take a change in state law. Many school districts, including New York City, operate more effectively and efficiently under the auspices of City Hall.

"Editorial: ‘Yes’ on Seattle Public Schools levies — with reservations"

Once again, the Times is wrong. Mayoral control has NOT proven "effective" or "efficient" elsewhere in the country. What it has proven to be is undemocratic and unaccountable -- something the top-down corporate ed reformers like the Times' editorial board seem to prefer.

New York as an example would be laughable if it weren't lamentable. To suggest that its Mayor For Life and at All Costs, Billionaire Bloomberg is an example worth replicating is disturbing.

See: Ravitch: Mayoral control means zero accountability

An excerpt:

"The New York City version of mayoral control means that parents and the public have no voice. The shell of the central board is dominated by a majority of mayoral appointees, who approve whatever the mayor wants. On the one occasion when two of his appointees threatened to vote independently, they were fired on the spot." -- Diane Ravitch

And in a further show of hypocrisy, did the Times ever suggest "reservations" about levies in recent years when its pet superintendents Goodloe-Johnson and Enfield were running up bills and scandals and state audits? I don't think so.

But here it is, taking aim again at the superintendent and school board majority it didn’t want, voters and democracy be damned.

So, who among the mayoral candidates is most likely to collaborate on this undemocratic manoeuvre? Burgess comes to mind.

Melissa Westbrook said...

From Anonymous (give yourself a name next time):

"I wonder if they will try to change state law to get rid of school boards? That would hopefully garner some attention and statewide debate."

I doubt that as I don't believe the rest of the state would go for it.

BUT would some legislators go to the Legislature to allow the City of Seattle to take over the schools? I absolutely think they would and given how Senator Tom thinks Seattle is the source of all problems for the state and his new "power", sure.

Anonymous said...

McGinn came into office talking Big Talk about school takeover. He ended up doing nothing except focus on truancy.

But Burgess, backed by the Ed Reform Industrial Complex might be a more frightening threat. The other candidates? Kate Martin ran for school board. Doubt she'd want the city to take over schools. The others? Who knows. But apparently Varner does as once again someone appears to be whispering in her ear.

DistrictWatcher

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

Thank you for your comments on this Times article! Though not a big supporter of the district at times, your tenacity to use data when making conclusions hopefully will be heard loud and clear.

2 Weeks to go.......

A friend

Anonymous said...

MW & All: Take a look at Brier Dudley's revealing article from today's Seattle Times High-tech expects breaks while education funding suffers. Can somebody please tell me why we continue to countenance such galling behavior from our local billionaires, instead of scolding and shaming them for their thankless, anti-social, unbridled greed? It's enough make me want to puke! Simply disgusting. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

Taxing companies simply shifts tax burden around - either to the customers, or to the employees who must accept smaller salaries, or to shareholders (like pension funds). So, the evilest of evil, Microsoft of course, "avoided" 250 million last year. We have a billion dollar education deficit. That barely puts a dent in it. It's the voters who have repeatedly said they don't wish to pay for anything. And that anything includes education. Look in the mirror for responsibility. WSDWG - you're a simpleton as usual.

Reader

Anonymous said...

Let's see...$250 million times how many years of avoidance....the ethics of which we speak to our children about. Compound that amount of money with the millions spent each year on 'education reform' measures, such as the recent charter school bill which Microsoft donated numerous millions to. At the very least, some of the money that really should be 'coming into the state' could actually be used appropriately, that is, if it was there. Our family is already doing our part on our taxes, so you're right 'Reader', we don't want to pay more. I just think that those in a position to do what is ethically correct (even though they can legally 'avoid' doing so,) should do the right thing. There indeed would be more money to assist our children in our schools.

A Year and a quarter to go

Anonymous said...

Yeah BUTTTT - the shortfall is a billion dollars every year. $250 mill from the highest company in a good year doesn't even really dent it. Really, do we really want to tax R&D? That's the "perk". That's the only source of real jobs in the region. High tech is highly competitive. This author doesn't seem to understand that with his soak the rich rants. A few good years don't mean there will never be challenges for companies. Didn't we already lose nearly all R&D at Boeing? The idea that jobs won't leave the region is pretty short sighted. If we really wanted to tax something - what's wrong with taxing soda pop, junk food, beer, gas, etc??? Isn't that the basic proposal? It's pretty reasonable - tax lifestyle excesses, things that don't benefit us. AND protect jobs that our kids will actually need.

Reader