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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Times Talks About the Seattle Schools' Levies

In a surprisingly candid piece, the Times lays out the case for the levies.  The district, following its usual script, has not been as forthcoming but the Times points out the obvious:

How much is the district asking? The flier does not give the amounts, but the levies total $1.25 billion — the district’s biggest request to date. 

Much of that money, as the flier does say, would simply renew measures that otherwise would expire. What the flier doesn’t say is that the district also is asking voters to open their wallets a little wider.  

This year, the owner of a $400,000 house paid about $1,000 in local school levy and bond taxes. If both levies pass, that bill would go up by $160.

That basic information that, while true, is probably not exactly what the district wants to say right out loud (nor Schools First).

The district says:

The district also points out that Seattleites would pay half of what homeowners in many nearby school districts do — just under $3 per $1,000 of assessed value, compared with $5 to $6 in Issaquah, Highline, Kent, Shoreline and Federal Way.

District officials also defend the plan, saying larger elementary schools will cost less to operate, and that they need to have enough room for the additional 7,000 students that are expected to enroll over the next 10 years. If the levy passes, they say, they’ll be able to reduce the number of portable classrooms and shrink a big maintenance backlog by about $100 million.

All true except that the backlog truly never ends.  Are we maintaining the buildings we currently have in basic ways?  No.  Even the new ones that we spent millions to build?  Not really.  Because basic maintenance is low on the list of priorities, leaving that backlog to rapidly grow.

A parent who was on FACMAC says:

“This is a triage. It’s not going to fix everything everywhere,” said Gail Herman, speaking as a parent. Herman also serves on the district’s capacity- and facilities-advisory committee.

The district, Herman said, has done a responsible job vetting what needs to be done, collecting the right data and asking the right questions.

One interesting question I have is where is the deep research piece on BEX that reporter Brian Rosenthal has been working on?  It is likely to be in a Sunday Times but it wasn't last week.  Maybe it won't appear at all or maybe it might appear...after the election.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

I got the 8 page levy flyer from the district and on page 2, it specifically says that that there will be an annual change of $135, $162, $159 for each of the levy years. Seems like the district is transparent about this.

A friend

Anonymous said...

Brian Rosenthal has shifted to covering the State Legislature.

Seattle Times reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, I know Brian shifted but I also know he was working on this story as well.

dan dempsey said...

"District officials also defend the plan, saying larger elementary schools will cost less to operate, and that they need to have enough room for the additional 7,000 students that are expected to enroll over the next 10 years."

Do larger elementary schools have any drawbacks?

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

Dan,

If ran well, larger elementary schools work. The draw back is that if it isn't run well, there are many more students affected.

A friend

Patrick said...

The Times story isn't horrible, but they could mention more about the overcrowding and how dismal the alternatives to the levies look. It goes way beyond a too small gym.

Mark Ahlness said...

Dan, larger elementary schools have many drawbacks. I am not holding my breath that those issues will even be identified, never mind considered in the process.

Jan said...

Whether larger elementaries are problemmatic depends on a lot of different factors. Some kids simply don't thrive in schools that are too large; any time you scale schools up, you start to have problems with "kid culture" rather than "adult culture" running the place (this in my opinion is the single biggest problem with comprehensive middle schools). On the other hand, larger elementaries produce the scale needed for some arts and music programs, greater abilities to differentiate instruction with "walk to" and ability clustering, etc.

In general, though -- elementary kids need a fair amount of "nurturing," and that becomes increasingly hard (not impossible, just harder) as school size increases.