A Parent's Plea

One parent's plea to the Legislature via Senator Reuven Carlyle:
Dear Senator Carlyle,

A couple of Fridays ago, we went to my daughter Isabella's school auction. I didn't really want to go.

 After all, it had been a long, hard week, on top of a long, hard month, on top of a long, hard year. Unlike elementary school auctions, where you know half the parents because you hang out on the playground after school with them and you arrange playdates for your kids that are more a lifesaver for you, the stay-at-home parent, than the kid having the play date, we don't know ANY of the parents at Isabella's high school. Four hours of making small talk with people I've never met before, plus the clean-up afterward that we had volunteered for, really didn't sound like my idea of a relaxing Friday night.

But here's the deal. Isabella goes to a tiny arts-focused public high school. And a few weeks ago, they put out a notice that only 50 people had signed up to go to the auction (in contrast to the hundreds of people that went to my kids' elementary school auctions that easily raised $100K+ every other year).
Why are school auctions important you ask? Because in Seattle, public schools are woefully underfunded. Schools depend on the money raised at auctions to fund many of the programs, and in some instances, the teachers, nurses, librarians, etc. that make the schools such wonderful, enriching places.

The downside of all this is obvious. Affluent, upper middle-class kids with affluent, upper middle-class parents have hugely successful auctions to fund programs for already fairly enriched children. Low income schools? Not so much. This is a system that contributes to gross inequalities in our public schools. I couldn't have been crankier.

Nonetheless, we felt compelled to do our part for Isabella's tiny little school. I hit up two wonderful friends who happen to be connected to two wonderful Seattle bookstores for donations. We created three baskets for the auction, bought our tickets, and headed out to buy things we didn't really need or want.

And then, we got there. And there were all these wonderfully quirky, artsy kids from the school, volunteering, in order to get their community service hours in. And all their wonderfully quirky, artsy parents who didn't appear to have vast sums of disposable income (after all, artsy, creative types aren't usually raking in the big bucks). And there were the AMAZING teachers, who were surely way more tired than we were.

We watched the students perform, including a spoken word piece performed by a transgender teen that brought everyone to their feet, we bid on their art, we saw an original Chihuly painting and a great Pearl Jam poster signed by all the members of the band (including my fave, Eddie Vedder) go for a lot less than they probably should have. And we watched speeches and a video by the teachers who talked about what a very special place TCS is and how much they believe in its mission.

I was moved to tears. Places like the Center School ARE very special places and I don't say that glibly. It is IMPORTANT to have places where the quirky kids can feel love and acceptance, where artists can thrive and create, where it is more than okay, where it is actually celebrated, to be different.
I am so glad we went. And I wish that all our kids in all our public schools could have such riches.
Please, Washington State. Do the right thing, the critical thing, and fund public education. It REALLY matters. Not just to my kid, or our family, or even my daughter’s school but to ALL OF US. The promise and prosperity of our great state depends on quality public education for all.


Anonymous said…
My son graduated from TCS many years ago. It was a fabulous school for him and the teachers were exceptionally caring.

I never felt this school received much attention from the Stanford Center. It did not fit the one size fits all big comprehensive high school model they preferred.

We sure do need these special schools. They are good options for many students.

S parent

Lynn said…
I think we need schools like TCS too. I was befuddled by the rush of support this letter received on the Soup Facebook page. The loudest voices there provide a constant stream of complaints that "HCC is appartheid" and inequitable and a means for racist parents to protect their children from diversity. I didn't see anyone responding that all schools could meet the needs of kids who love the arts if they didn't leave for TCS. Jill Geary is quick to proclaim that she is against the "segregation" of highly capable students but she's a supporter of TCS. The background photo of her Facebook page is a (nondiverse) group of students from TCS at a board meeting. Blind spots are interesting.
Anonymous said…
Thank you to the letter writer. TCS is fortunate to have parents like you give of their time and money.
I hope Senator Reuven Carlyle and all our elected officials read this heartfelt letter and act accordingly.
This parent captures what I have felt as my kids have gone through Seattle Public Schools. The teachers, principals, support staff, parents, and the students themselves put in a great deal of work to make their school successful learning environments.
Think of all the wasted hours trying to scramble to make up funds because the legislature will not fulfill its duty to fund education. Imagine how much more productive our school could be without having to constantly worry about basic funding year after year. For such a rich state, it's a disgrace. It's past time for the State to pay its fair share.


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