Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tell the Board to Wait on ANY New Preschools in SPS

 I applaud the SCPTSA for this stand and support it.

Please, write to the Board and ask them to, politely, say no to this Gates Foundation grant, school board@seattleschools.org

As the SCPTA says:
  • the district should negotiate any partnership with the City on preschool BEFORE signing off on any other agreement about preschools
  • any new City preschools must be borne by the LEVY dollars, not district dollars.  This grant would put the district on the hook after year three
  • what are the demands on district resources - facilities, staff time, etc - on an already stretched district
I would add:
  • this grant application is vague
  • Bailey-Gatzert, under BTA III, IS scheduled to get a preschool classroom.  This grant is not needed for that to happen.
  • the application says SPS will "lead the work and design the program."  This is NOT what was said during the preschool campaign and again, the district needs a partnership FIRST, then any grants. 
SCPTSA Letter to Directors and Superintendent

 Dear Directors and Superintendent Nyland,

We, the SCPTSA board of directors, are writing today to urge you to delay the vote on the “P-5 Schools aligned with Seattle Preschool Program and Collaboration Grant/Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation” (P-5 Alignment) action item scheduled for Wednesday November 19, 2014, until AFTER a formal Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) has been agreed upon between the City of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools (SPS).

With the passage of the City’s preschool initiative (Proposition 1b), we join with Superintendent Nyland in our appreciation of Seattle voters.  PTA has always been a strong advocate for early learning and the Washington State PTA literally coined the term “preschool.” While the SCPTSA board is excited about the potential for increased access to early learning opportunities for families in Seattle, we are concerned about to what extent it will re-direct already severely inadequate K-12 funding and facility space. 

As one of the School Board’s governance priorities is “Stewardship of Resources,” so must the District perform its due diligence to ensure that all costs for the City’s program are borne by the voter approved levy dollars, and not state funded K-12 dollars.  The District’s first priority is to K-12 education and the District needs to ensure that K-12 dollars, facilities, and human resources are allocated appropriately to meet this priority.

We are asking the District and City to perform their duties as custodians of tax payer dollars by clarifying the partnership and ensuring the appropriate allocation of resources before adopting the P-5 alignment action. The City has repeatedly stated that this program will not take resources from the already underfunded and overcrowded Seattle Public Schools.  However, as written, the P-5 Alignment Board Action contradicts this by committing District K-12 resources (facility space, Special Education, Bilingual Education, Prekindergarten professional development coaching, enrollment, and Kindergarten transition[1]) to the City’s Preschool program.   Further, the City has stated that many of the existing “aligned” preschools that are currently located within SPS buildings may become part of the City of Seattle’s Preschool program.  Thus, a MOU is needed BEFORE this School Board vote to fully understand if/when these preschools in SPS will become part of the City of Seattle’s program and what will be the financial and management arrangements between SPS and the City?
SCPTSA Specific Concerns/Questions:         

Facilities:  District enrollment has been growing at a rate of around 1,000 students per year requiring the equivalent of an additional 40 classrooms, causing a severe overcrowding problems across the district.  The District is doubling up special education classrooms and providing pull-out and tutoring services in former closet spaces, hallways and the auditoriums.  Thus,
  • Under what lease agreements will the City operate preschools in SPS buildings?
  • Will the City reimburse SPS for the use of SPS buildings and pay for facility maintenance?
  • How will SPS re-claim space if needed again for K-12 in the future?
Classroom Resources:  Many of our K-12 schools lack textbooks, chairs, and adequate facilities for a nutritious lunch and healthy physical activity.  Thus,
  • Will SPS be expected to provide any curriculum, texts, materials, classroom supplies or testing needs for Preschool classrooms in SPS buildings?
  • How will the District ensure that increased preschool facilities in SPS buildings do not encroach on already stressed lunch room and playground space for K-8 students?  
Administration and Staffing:  There is a fair amount of work that is needed to oversee and manage various important administrative tasks for classrooms and buildings.  Thus,
  • Will ANY SPS staffing resources (e.g. the SPS Early Learning Department, principal oversight, enrollment services, curriculum alignment support, and/or facility maintenance) be utilized by the City’s program?  
  • If so, what is the mechanism for reimbursement of the administrative costs associated?
P-SCPTSA urges that these concerns and questions receive formal answers and clarification before SPS takes any further action which will commit SPS facilities, staffing resources, or K-12 dollars to the City’s Preschool plan.

Simply put, we believe that it is fiscally irresponsible for the School Board to adopt the P-5 alignment board action before formally clarifying the specific terms of the partnership. 

Please delay this vote on the P-5 Alignment action item until AFTER a formal MOU is signed, and ensure that SPS K-12 dollars and facilities will not be misdirected.

A formal copy of this correspondence is also attached to this email.


Seattle Council PTSA Board
Katherine Schomer, President
Cassandra Johnston, Vice President
Dianne Casper, Secretary
Jenny Young, Treasurer
Eden Mack, Advocacy/Legislative chair
Julie van Arcken, Central Area Director
Cecilia McCormick, Special Education Director
Annabel Quintero, South West Area Director

CC: PTA Board Leadership for all 82 PTA Local Units in Seattle

​Katherine Schomer
President, Seattle Council PTSA


Transparency Please said...

The Seattle Council PTA does a wonderful job outlining the problems of signing the Gates grant before a MOU with the district has been signed.

It should be noted that there have been discussions regarding prek-teachers looping into K. This means, the city would extend their reach, via hiring practices, into K-5.

Any partnership agreement with the city must disallow the city reaching into K-5.

Signing the grant at this time...is premature.

Oh, BTW, the city has decided to use Family and Education Levy dollars to support charter schools!!


Melissa Westbrook said...

TP, yes, I saw that hiring problem in the grant.

Yes, the issue of using F&E dollars for charters is wrong, and from my reading of the charter law, illegal.

Pro-sleep Mom said...

Related to this, I am curious about what is happening with Bailey-Gatzert's boundaries for next year. Does anyone have the inside story?
Their enrollment fell this year to 337; last year it was 374. So the new plan lops off two areas with 69 and 86 kids, leaving 186 kids at B-G. The 69 kids will now go to Lowell- over 1.5 miles away, and presumably getting bussing, rather than being about a half mile away. The 86 kids will go to Thurgood Marshall, which was at 450 a couple years ago, and now is at 500- do they have room for 86 more?
Why are kids being moved away from a school with declining enrollment- unless they need to make space for a Gates sponsored Preschool?
I hope this is not the case, and there is a reasonable explanation.

Red Flags said...

The Gates grant:


The Gates grant is P5. It aligns prek-5th grade. The district is to set-up this pre school..and turn the preschool over to the city.

Consider this: What would happen if the legislature decided to incorporate prek into the definition of basic education. Would it be possible for Baily Gatzert to be transferred to the city? The Family and Education Levy has plenty of funding to convert this building into a charter schools.

The board must vote NO on this grant- for many reasons.

mirmac1 said...

This grant application was staff-driven, and guided by the Alliance for Education. You know that they have ulterior motives. Cashel Toner wants a fiefdom and Gates/A4E/Chamber of Commerce wants mayoral control (because they own the mayor).

Melissa Westbrook said...

Pro-Sleep Mom, well, as Greg Imel, the principal, pointed out to me, B-G "IS the downtown school." I don't know why the boundaries are being rearranged that way - maybe they want to try to put two preschools in (in addition to the Sped one that exists).

Red Flag, that's a lot of conjecture. I'll recheck but the charter law does not include preschool funding. So a charter could have one but the state's not funding it.

I think legislators would howl if pre-K was now part of basic education (which I don't think is the McCleary decision).

B-G could not be transferred to the City in any method I'm aware of.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, only the legislature can define the program of basic education and Pre-K is not currently part of that definition. There were discussions regarding the inclusion of Pre-K when the legislature recently changed the definition --- FYI - There were also discussions about the inclusion of the first two years of college as part of the definition. Neither Pre-K nor college was ultimately included.

The statutory definition of the program of basic education can be found at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=28A.150.220.

--- swk

Po3 said...

With enrollment numbers being disputed; boundary changes looming; a new super hiring process underway and a general inability to safeguard student information - taking on anything related to PreK should be a no, no and no.

Anonymous said...

Po3 -I am going to use your short points in my letter to the Board & Superintendent regarding this. Hope you don't mind.


Anonymous said...

Might a Gates sponsored charter conversion be in the works?


Anonymous said...

Just to be abundantly clear, SCPTSA is not advocating against a preschool at Bailey Gatzert.

We are simply asking that since this Board Action item is the acceptance of a grant which actually states that in year 2 the funding will be taken over by the Seattle Preschool Program, and therefore the Bailey Gatzert preschool would become a City of Seattle program, NOT an SPS program, the specific details of the partnership between the City and SPS needs to be defined BEFORE it is accepted.

Basic education is defined as K-12, and K-12 $$ from the State should not re-directed away from our already inadequately underfunded K-12.

Even further, as mentioned by Pro-Sleep above, the boundary changes going into effect for Bailey Gatzert in 2015 will pull kids out of Bailey Gatzert and move them to Thurgood Marshall and Lowell. The boundary changes are splitting families, many of whom are the same families that would likely benefit from access to a preschool. And, to what end? Will TM and Lowell be given portables next year for our K-5 kids while the City's preschool program takes SPS classrooms in the Bailey Gatzert building (not portables) for preschool?

Is the District literally moving K-12 kids out of a school to make way for the City's preschool program, without having a formal MOU with the City in place?

With a severely outdated facilities master plan, FACMAC not meeting, enrollment numbers not jiving, and many of our schools losing teachers well after the October count, this commitment to providing K-12 facility space, and K-12 resources to preschool is problematic.

Please do write to the board and ask them to delay the vote, and settle an MOU FIRST to ensure that our K-12 funding and facility resources are not re-directed.

(And please get involved in your PTA and join with us at the Seattle and State PTA levels.)


Melissa Westbrook said...


mirmac1 said...

Please read the Berk report that will shape the SPP. They intend to capture student Federal, State and City funding streams. They may readily decide that SpEd preschoolers are a bother, or place unskilled teachers in their classrooms. What avenue would SpEd PreK parents in the SPP have to ensure their children get the protections in IDEA? Is the City going to be an LEA that OSPI will regulate? I don't think so. Will our SpEd PreK get shunted to even less favorable locations?


Anonymous said...

Cashel Toner wants a fiefdom

Really Mirmac?
Once again your advocacy efforts are undercut by your propensity for snarky hyperbole and character assassination.

Special education needs a different voice.

Deep Breath

mirmac1 said...

Step up, Deep Breath.

Anonymous said...

There are skilled professionals, with professional attitudes, who step up every day on behalf of Seattle's kids with special education needs. As well, they act with skill and good intentions toward the rest of the SPS student population. That's hundreds of hours every month giving voice to children too young to have yet found their own voices.

Deep Breath

Red Flag said...

swk, Some states have "universal" prek i.e. New York. Do you know if prek is considered part of basic ed? Do you know funding stream for their "universal" prek program?

Anonymous said...

Wow. Great to see the BERK report finally.

So many questions...how does it cost so much more to educate kids when fully ramped up (and theoretically cost effective) than so many very well regarded private schools manage to charge for roughly the same care with lower teacher/child ratios? How did they come up with the total annual childcare cost when just pulling before/after YMCA care near us you're at $6k...it would be way more including summer care, etc. So frustrating.

NE parent

Anonymous said...

Red Flag, I don't know the answers to your questions regarding universal pre-K in other states but now I'm curious. I'll do some digging and do my best to find the answers.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

IMHO blended funding streams and
short term race for the tots grants.



mirmac1 said...

Thanks for that PSP. Because I'm lazy and won't do the math, I'll ask - how much the SPP figure: low income = fed tax funds and middle-class subsidies = property tax levies. Is that truth in election advertising?

Anonymous said...

Red Flag, while I haven't done a thorough analysis, it appears that states that fund "universal" pre-K do so with dedicated but separate budget allocations. I can't find any evidence that any of these states include pre-K as a part of their basic K-12 funding or include pre-K as part of basic education.

--- swk