Councilman Burgess Says, "Listen to Me" - What is It that the City Really Wants to Do?

My impression of politicians who constantly beat the drum on a single issue is that they either have invested an awful lot of personal capital into the issue and/or they are great self-promoters.

I see this in Councilman Tim Burgess who has made pre-K a key issue in his roster.  He was even able to get the Times to print a "news" story today that has no real news in it as a way to remind people it's his issue.  (I'm wondering why the Times felt compelled to print this story rather than allowing Burgess an op-ed.)

His latest newsletter is a litany of "composite" stories about kids who live in the north end and kids who live in the south end.

What I find fascinating about both stories is that he is a lot more evenhanded to the district in his newsletter but goes after the district in the Times.  And, naturally, he doesn't even mention that the City itself had quite a role in allowing red-lining to go on, decade after decade, creating the conditions that have tended to isolate poor people.

 In the Times' article he says that the district should be "horrified" at the opportunity gap.  He is also reported to have said that "all of its best (elementaries) are located up north."

But in his newsletter, while speaking of the many Level 1 and Level 2 elementaries in the south end, he then acknowledges that "these same areas have Level 3 and 4 schools, too." So which is it - no good elementaries in the south end or just some?

He calls this gap "a systemic evil" almost as if the devil had something to do with it (if only - then we could just pray and make it go away.)  In neither his newsletter nor the Times' article does he mention the role of the state and the slow enacting of McCleary.

But Burgess seems to think that this inequity, this "inequality of opportunity," is somehow all to be laid at the feet of public education.   I just don't buy that.  Public education is the best hope for bringing down barriers but it can't do it alone. (I'll note that if Burgess votes to allow developers to buy their way out of providing more low-income housing spots in new developers, then you should wonder about his real commitment to changing the situation.)

Here's what he says in his newsletter:
 A strong public education system is supposed to be the great equalizer, the springboard to a successful life, the key strategic investment the public makes to give every child the strong and fair start they deserve.
Again, the public school system as the "equalizer" for all the problems in our society that get foisted onto children.  How can public education really solve all these problems especially without full-funding?

I absolutely support birth-five services and pre-K.  But last fall, when I was talking with KC Ex Dow Constantine about his Best Starts levy for such services, I asked him about coordination/overlap/duplication with state and city services.  He said he really didn't know.  If this is all about getting it right for the largest number of kids, you'd think someone would be trying to find that out.

Burgess also still says that the Seattle Preschool Program is "high-quality."  How he knows that is a mystery.  Is it modeled - but not precisely - after other programs in the country that have had some success?  It is but it is so early in the game, I'm not sure how he can call this a touchdown already.

Also, after the Mayor's Ed Summit, it seems like dead silence from his office.

Oh wait, remember when I wondered out loud why the messages and feedback from the many education conversation meetings wasn't reported out at the Summit?  Well, I still can't tell you why that didn't happened there but the feedback is now at the Mayor's website. 

As well, his Advisory Group is busy meeting.  Here's where you can read the meeting minutes.

The first meeting in March had this interesting tidbit:
Several group members felt that there was no clearly stated objective for the Summit. It was difficult to decipher whether people were there to listen or engage in conversation. Regina Jones let the group know that the Summit is meant to educate the community on best practices, as well as, listen to their concerns and act as an extension of the community conversations.
In May,
John previewed upcoming meetings. He talked about how some group members have expressed interest in having some discussion about a high-level vision for the work of the group.
It's already May and there is no over-arching vision for their work?

Also, they discussed the feedback from the community conversations.  It was noted there were nine themes.
  • improving school climate (with one idea being to "plan for the growth of school capacity that is in line with the growth of the city") 
  • improving in-school instruction and programming (with a long list of suggestions)
  • improving family/community engagement and partnerships (in the list of suggestions from community members was "pool all public school PTSA fundraising dollars (in some part0 to be distributed equally to all schools."  That would be up to the PTSA, not the district or the Ctiy.
  • supporting community and family needs 
  • strengthening post-secondary access and attainment
  • school-city collaboration (interesting idea; more of the Families&Ed money going to more high-poverty schools), "encourage the state to fully fund schools and/or adopt a more progressive tax system," fund some school board positions to attract more candidates, mayoral control of schools or school board seats/the City should not get involved with running schools; more charter schools and the City could be an authorizer (legally, that's not possible under this new law)
  • recruiting, supporting and retaining a diverse and high-quality educator workforce (the suggestions did not include the obvious which is to make housing affordable for Seattle teachers)
  • expanding access to quality early learning (one suggestion - "move preschools out of school buildings to community centers or build preschool facilities")

The Advisory Group also had the following feedback:
  • Early childhood adverse experiences: We need to reach back and reduce early childhood trauma. A group member stressed the need for going into the communities when a child is young and understanding childhood trauma.
  • Youth Violence: It should be discussed more often. A group member talked about how their school lost 17 students in 18 months. 
  • Community healing: It should be discussed even before restorative justice. 
  • School communication: Need better school board and school communication. 
  • Glad to see that the diversity of school staff is on the summary. Teachers, administrators and staff don’t reflect the workforce.


Anonymous said…
There is NO redlining going on in Seattle. Where are your facts? You keep repeatedly commenting on redlining in Seattle, but not one source can produce these so called covenants or deeds with language barring blacks.

When pushed progressives change the story and say it was an undocumented practice by real estate agents back in the 60 and 70s. What they don't talk about is the role the Seattle housing Authority played in the concentration of blacks in these so called impoverished areas.

End PC
Anonymous said… Here is a list of restrictive covenants. Redlining refers to banks refusing to lend in certain areas, I think you are referring to Steering.

Johnny Calcagno said…
"End PC" said:

There is NO redlining going on in Seattle. Where are your facts?

But Melissa's blog post used the past tense:

"And, naturally, he doesn't even mention that the City itself had quite a role in allowing red-lining to go on..."

And there are facts available, cited in this article for example:
Thanks, Documented and Johnny. And yes, I said "had" meaning not on-going.
Leonard said…

The city of Seattle rescinded Family and Ed Dollars because a principal had to move across the country. It should be noted that the new principal was on board with the city's "plan". The city had to be shamed into returning tax-payer dollars to a high poverty school in north Seattle.

The city's Family and Education Committee consists of approximately 12 individuals. They sit around a table and look at test results and make "course corrections". Clearly, their efforts have not provided results for the same kids they want to support.

Tim BURGESS pitted the child care initiative against the Early Learning initiative. Burgess won't tell you this little piece of information. Meanwhile, Burgess, in all his brilliance, is allowing the city to spend $14.5 M on 15 prek classrooms.
Anonymous said…
Missed the "had", but I believe folks still speak as though is an on going issue. You can't read anything coming out of city hall these days without some sort erroneous reference to redlining as modern practice. As you can see below the practice was stopped long before most people alive today were born.

Here's what I read, In 1948, the court changed its mind, declaring that racial restrictions would no longer be enforced, but the decision did nothing to alter the other structures of segregation. It remained perfectly legal for realtors and property owners to discriminate on the basis of race. In 1968, Congress passed the Housing Rights Act, finally outlawing discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity in the sale or rental of housing. Since then it has been illegal to act on the race restrictions that are embedded in so many deeds in Seattle and other King County communities.

I still have not seen a deed with these so called race restriction on it. Maybe they have all been purged.

These practices all happened long ago and I'm tired of people bringing it up as a modern practice which had some sort of negative impact on Seattle. Reality is, the CD has some of the more sought after properties in Seattle, so why is the CD becoming increasingly white and the North end becoming increasingly black? You don't think money has anything to do with what's happening do you. If you have the money you can live anywhere in Seattle you want regardless of the color of your skin or any fictional restrictive convenient.

In the 60s I lived in one of the supposedly restricted neighborhoods and across the street lived a Jewish family and down the street a black family, so I say these stories are mostly false and if you speak to many people who lived in the CD they would tell you they preferred to live there.

It's not illegal for me to choose who I sell my property to. Sellers turn down max offers frequently and I don't see any lawsuits being filed.

End PC
Leonard said…
The Godfather of Prek (Burgess) likes to call attention to the city's prek program, when, in fact, SPS was serving 1600 prek students before the city's prek initiative passed.
Catherine said…
Tim Burgess said in my presence that Piaget had no theoretical basis ( which is blatantly false.

His preschool program is in no way about outcomes. It's about profits. Plain and simple. I wish it wasn't so.
Anonymous said…
Catherine, please excuse my naive question but how is Burgess' preschool program about profits?

I'll be honest, I don't think it's about profit (unlike some charter schools.)

I'll let Catherine answer for herself but this reminds me of a thread I've been meaning to write.
mirmac1 said…
Burgess doesn't know what "universal" PreK is. His current program that he adores is not universal because it excludes the projected 520 preschool-age children with disabilities. He'll have to adjust his funding model once he is required to serve ALL children. Having multiple silo-ed preschools offered by agencies that receive Federal funds is not equitable or in accordance with Section 504 of the Rehab Act or ADA.
Well that is troubling, Catherine, especially given that my son attends a Piaget-based school. I'm not surprised though. Tim Burgess says he's "data-driven" but he usually rejects data and research that doesn't fit his preconceived notions.

Burgess wants education to be reduced to test prep. He doesn't see any value to any other aspect to education. If it's not connected to test scores, he thinks it's not relevant. And sadly, he's stacked the Levy Advisory Committee and the former Office for Education with people who share those damaging and flawed views.

His newsletter here is revealing. He suggests that students in Northwest Seattle have everything they need, which is just not true. There are numerous needs unmet, whether it's having enough nurses and counselors to the ongoing problems with SpEd to small class sizes. There are a lot of homeless kids in those schools. There are kids who need family support workers. And so on.

Yet the needs of schools in Southeast Seattle are even greater. What we need is this city to come together to meet all of those needs, and ensure that we don't leave kids and families in SE Seattle behind, as City Hall - including Tim Burgess himself - have repeatedly done.

After all, the inequities Burgess mentions aren't just about the schools. City policy creates and reinforces them. Burgess has repeatedly blocked funding for important programs serving SE Seattle. He should be held directly accountable for that.

Finally, about the list of things mentioned at the community conversations: some of those nine items were mentioned far more often than others. Very few people asked for charter schools or a city seat on the school board. But there was overwhelming and frequent support for things like a diverse teaching corps, for family supports, provide more access to instructional resources (like funding IB), smaller class sizes, and so on. People didn't ask for more test-driven policy.

That's not anything new. It's the same thing we saw in 2010 when Mike McGinn convened the Youth and Families Initiative. But Burgess blocks funding for those things because he only cares about test scores - never about what community members want, even when they tell him themselves.
Leonard said…
The city cares so much for Seattle Public Schools that they poached a good principal from Rainier Beach High School.


" City policy creates and reinforces them. Burgess has repeatedly blocked funding for important programs serving SE Seattle. He should be held directly accountable for that."
Please explain.
Catherine said…
Robert - I agree.

About profit - the curricula that the preschools are required to renew ever year, is expensive. Somebody is making a profit. One of the consultants used by the city appears to profit from the sales of that curricula. Every option legitimately analyzed by the city for preschool, was an expensive curriculum. Somewhere, money is driving this.
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