Friday, August 17, 2018

Friday Open Thread

Lots to report.

First up, a report on a shortage of EpiPens.  This comes back-to-back with this report from NBC News about a generic finally being available given the cost that has sharply risen over the last couple of years.

Next, I attended the August meeting of the Washington Charter Commission.  As usual, it was interesting and I'll have a separate report.  They did state that one of the newest charter schools,Willow Charter School in Walla Walla, opened on Monday.  That's early.   This leads me to another story about more school districts, in Washington and nationally, going to a 4-day school week.
Naturally, this is about money because districts can save money by eliminating a full day.  (Some add on more time to the four days and/or have on-line learning happen at home.  Yes, I know; this begs the question about when kids don't have that ability to learn online at home.)  Some include childcare but others don't.

State Superintendent Chris Reykdal urges patience on McCleary funding and its outcomes especially around teacher contracts. From My Northwest:
“Be patient out there with your school districts, they’re all going through a very new finance system,” he said. “Every single district, for the first time in our state, has to collectively bargain at the exact same time. Normally, it’s about one out of every three or four districts every year. It’s everybody right now because of the new finance system.”

“And districts were treated very differently, ” Reykdal said. “There are some contracts that are coming out and really significant increases for teachers and the districts have resources. There are other districts who just simply didn’t get that kind of resource and it’s going to get a little bit tense over the next couple weeks as that becomes a reality.”

Reykdal is already pushing the Legislature for a levy fix this next session.
In the meantime, the disparity continues with teacher contracts with districts like Edmonds and Bellevue giving teachers double digit pay raises, while Seattle warns it may need to cut staff.
Speaking of back-to-school, a good article entitled, Ten Questions Parents Should Ask Before School Starts. What do you think of them?  I would add: 11) Will my child's teacher tell me what online activities my child gets signed up for and can I opt out and how is my student data privacy protected?  12) Is the building itself safe (from either outside attack or natural disaster)?
  1. What’s the best thing my child is going to read this year?
  2. What one value is at the heart of our school’s culture, and how does that show up on a daily 
  3. On a typical day, how much time will be spent on morning announcements, attendance-taking, and standing in lines?
  4. How will you know if my child is bored to tears and, if that happens, what’s your usual response?
  5. What’s the one paper, project, or unit that I should really expect my student to come home excited about?
  6. In the typical month, how many hours will be devoted to tests and test preparation?
  7. What was the most serious disciplinary issue at school last year, and how was it addressed?
  8. How frequently should I expect to hear updates about how my child is doing?
  9. If I email with a question or concern, how quickly should I expect to hear back?
  10. What’s the most important thing I can do to help my child be academically successful this year?
In election news, a judge has okayed an initiative to be on the ballot in Arizona to tax the wealthy for public education. 

Update on immigrant children in detention; unacceptable:
  • 2,654 total kids separated
  • 565 still separated, 24 are 0-5 years old
  • Parents of 366 are already deported
What's on your mind?


Grouchy Parent said...

My school supply list wants me to buy pencils. Does it seriously make sense to ask the parents of 53,000 students to all run out individually and buy X number of pencils? Couldn't we get some kind of a bulk discount if we bought them by school or by district or, heck, why not the whole state?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think some schools do this for sure thru PTA. But yes, pretty silly to do it this way. I’d love to see what the basic supply list is for teachers.

Anonymous said...

"Reykdal is already pushing the Legislature for a levy fix this next session."

I am catching up on this topic, please forgive me if this has already been discussed. Any predictions on whether the issue with district funding will get fixed? My understanding is that Seattle is going to face budget cuts due to not being able to utilize levy money they relied on in the past.

Jet City mom said...

Re epipens, expired Epipens likely will still be effective and will be better than no medication if they are scarce.
I used an expired one earlier this year, I can attest to it still working.


Former Souper said...


Within the past 2 years, Seattle property owners have seen a property tax increase of 50%. A big increase was to fund McCleary. As a result, some individuals can not keep pace with increased property tax. Property taxes have been passed down to renters. Rents in Seattle continue to soar.

The legislature had intended for teachers to receive an increase of 3.1% pay increase. WEA decided to swipe the money and promote double digit salary increases despite projected shortfalls in the tens of millions of dollars.

While Seattle's property taxes increased ( approximately $1K per year), levy funding decreased to $1.50 per $1000. Seattle residents will pay more in property taxes and Seattle Public Schools will ultimately receive less funding from the state. Levy dollars have gone to other parts of the state.

Reykdal wants A) to provide districts with the option of choosing a levy that produces $2,500 per resident student or the rate per student produced by their 2018 maintenance and operations. Seattle's levy rate will go up from $1.5o per $1000 assed value to $2.31. Do the math. For an average Seattle home, property owners will pay an additional $486 per year.

B) Increase levy equalization (which provides additional funds to districts whose property taxes are lower than the state average) to $2,350 to accommodate for the higher levy opportunities.

C) Ensure voters in “high-rate” districts (those taxing at $2.31 per $1,000 of assessed value or higher) will not see a net increase in property taxes between local and state property tax (this requires the Legislature to add approximately $225 million in additional levy equalization); and

D) Restore about $700 million out of the $1.2 billion that is expected to be reduced in
local levies beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

Reykdal seems to restore local levy authority which will recreate inequities- all over again.


Anonymous said...

Epipens? Go to any schools nurse’s office and you will find literally hundreds of these. I paid about $300 to $350 per shot for ours even though the medication itself is less than $1. They are all interchangeable and they all expire in less than a year. The generics are only slightly less. Most schools have never once administered one. I know, my kids use them. Wouldn’t it be a lot smarter to have each school keep 2 or 3 on hand and for field trips? After administration, students need to be taken to an ER.

Local Levies? Terrible idea. No, you shouldn’t get to vote for improved education for a small group of kids, leaving the rest out. That’s called private school. Look at Texas. Local funding allowed rich suburbs like Plano and Richardson to provide world class educations, while poor rural got nothing. This also wound up in court and after years of litigation they have a Robinhood tax. Plano and Richardson have to pay property tax directed specifically to poor municipalities. State income AND property tax are unconstitutional in Texas.


Eric B said...

Reader, I think the problem with only having a few epipens in the nurse's office is that the students' families provide them. I don't believe that the schools can supply prescription medication to students, as opposed to administering medication the students brought. I also don't believe that they can administer medication prescribed for one student to others. That could probably change with a change to state law...

I don't really have a problem with a Robin hood tax, or with Seattle subsidizing the rest of the state to some extent. Heck, we do that for just about everything. I do have a problem with raising taxes in Seattle to give tax cuts elsewhere and then cutting a hole in Seattle Schools' budget. I don't think this is about WEA/SEA making unreasonable demands, I think it's about Seattle and some inner-ring suburbs getting absolutely shafted by the McCleary "fix".

Former Souper said...

Does B increase Seattle's taxes and push dollars to other parts of the state? Rents rise and homelessness increases. Some can't afford Seattle's increased tax rate of 50% within the past two years. What is to follow?

Over the past three years, Puyallup teachers have received a 16.1 percent pay raise. Not bad! The average Puyallup teacher salary, without benefits has been as follows:
2015-16 $68,037
2016-17 $70,081
2017-18 $74,770
Over the past five years, although the state did not always provide a COLA, Puyallup School District provided salary increases for teachers each year.
The Puyallup School District is currently operating with a first year’s teacher base salary of $37,257. In addition, beginning teachers earn a $7,981 Time, Responsibility, & Incentive (TRI) package. TRI is one way of recognizing the many hours teachers spend outside of their 7.5 hour work day grading papers and planning lessons.
Combined, the beginning salary is currently $45,238 - well above the state’s new minimum salary of $43,206. This salary does not include additional professional development days or supplemental days. When included, the current first year teacher earns $46,687 for a 187-day contract. This averages out to $33.28 per hour. At that rate, a first-year teacher working the full year would earn $69,222.

I continue to believe that, in 3 years, SEA and WEA will take special education dollars away from children.

Eric B said...

I would dearly love for the extra money to come from people who can afford it rather than people who are being gentrified out of Seattle. Do you support a state income/capital gains tax? Failing that, what's your solution?

For bonus credit, explain how property tax rates going up have resulted in nearly flat single family home rents in 2018 while relatively stable tax rates in 2015-16 resulted in 9% year-over-year rent increases.

Former Souper said...

"For one 20-unit building he owns, at 301 Summit Ave. E., the property-tax bill increased 27 percent this year. Over two years the surge was 36 percent. All told, the bill for this one building is $15,000 more.
“That’s $750 more per unit,” Weisenbach says."


Did I earn the extra credit??

Former Souper said...

Some argue that an income tax and a capital gains tax is unconstitutional. What happens if and when a court strikes down a capital gains and/or income tax?

Eric B said...

Well, only if answering a different question than asked gets partial credit. I asked about single family homes across the city. You gave me an anecdata answer about one 20-unit apartment that didn't actually address how much of the total rent increase was due to taxes. All we know is that one particular property owner saw increases of $750/year in taxes. We don't know if he raised rents $100/month or $500/month in that time.

But sure, take some extra credit if it makes you feel better.

In your quest for extra credit, you neglected the actual question on the test. What's your solution?

Former Souper said...

I'm not interested in studying increases in single family home rentals. Not sure I want to spend the day arguing a point that apartment buildings pass tax hikes onto renters. Not sure how one can argue that big surges in property taxes are not negatively impacting homeowners.


I hope to see some tax loop holes closed. I didn't think anyone should have gotten a tax reduction, but, with a uniform level of taxation, perhaps the levy threshold should have been higher.

I would like to see some restraint from WEA. I do believe they will be back for special education dollars.

I will no longer engage with Eric.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I continue to believe that, in 3 years, SEA and WEA will take special education dollars away from children."

Based on what?

"Some argue that an income tax and a capital gains tax is unconstitutional. What happens if and when a court strikes down a capital gains and/or income tax?"

Well, we'll do what charter schools and others have done; write a bill that isn't. It probably could be done.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Former, you don't have to engage with anyone you don't want to but Eric was being reasonable.

GT Mom said...

One clinical psychologist's advice for parents of gifted kids based on regrets expressed by other parents who have already been on the journey:


Anonymous said...

@Former Souper

"Reykdal seems to restore local levy authority which will recreate inequities- all over again."

Thank you for filling me in on the gaps in my information. Rediculous! Really the difference in funding should not be coming from Seattle or other high taxed districts, but the state. The state has put their burden on homeowners many of whom are being taxed out of Seattle. This only ends up hurting those on the lower income scale. So frustrating. I understand our state's limitations due to antiquated laws and a lack of state income tax. That is the underlying issue IMO, and one in which we should be pushing hard to fix. In addition, their plan actually takes away an incentive for people in districts without adequate funding to support an income tax which would be more fair.

Eric B said...

Former Souper, I'm not expecting a response, but closing unspecified tax loopholes is nowhere near what will be needed to equalize out funding unless we go for some of the Boeing tax breaks. I doubt that would go well, so I'm certainly not suggesting that. A couple of million here or there is not the kind of money needed.

I was deliberately pushing your buttons. The "I totally supported SEA a couple of years ago but now I'm a concerned parent who thinks that WEA/SEA are a bunch of hogs at the trough now" schtick is wearing a little thin, particularly when it comes with double sides of tea party talking points.

Anonymous said...

I think this has happened for many parents. I was not very aware of either WEA or SEA until the strike. At the time I just knew I loved my kids' teachers, and so I brought them soup. I've since learned more about both those organizations, especially where they prioritize kids, and think they have already received the McCleary "bump," plunging us into a budget crisis two years ago. As as result would not support a strike this year.

Another ex-Souper

Eric B said...

OK, that's a perspective I hadn't considered, that some of the support for Soup For Teachers was for individual teachers as opposed to for SEA. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I’m not sure it’s fair to say that SEA got its McCleary “bump” yet. That both SEA and SPS deliberately chose to spend money they knew the district didn’t have was a bad choice.

I would agree they do deserve any of the big numbers we see in other districts but I can’t say what they should get.

I also think a strike would be folly and I would not support it unless the district just offered a pathetic number.

Former Souper said...

Some SPS works are making poverty wages. These individuals should be lifted out of poverty.

In 2015, Seattle teachers and other school employees will received pay increases of 9.5 percent over three years, in addition to the state cost-of-living adjustment of 4.8 percent over two years.

In total, Seattle received a 14.3% pay increase which cost the district $70M. The funds were taken from state allocated MSOC dollars.

Key legislators expected for unions to receive an additional 3.1% increase.

A former lawmaker states: "The 105% increase in state K-12 funding over 8 years we enacted for the McCleary remedy was not intended to be entirely bargained away. While a large portion was intended to ensure competitive salaries even in regions with high cost of living, much was categorical funding for All-day Kindergarten and K-3 class size reductions. There are also new statutes that make it illegal (as well as unconstitutional) for districts to supplement compensation from local levies that's not for documented extra time or responsibility. Districts should not grant salary raises that depend upon the Legislature removing these restrictions or increasing the local property tax limits."

To fulfill McCleary, the legislature temporarily lifted the levy lid for 4 years.

Edmonds board approved a 20% pay increase. In a few years, the district is expecting a shortfall of approximately $40M...presuming all things stay the same. Projected loss does not allow Education Teacher ?next ask. How much more funding will ETA want in 3 years? IMO, it is fiscally imprudent to put a district at risk.

We need to attract and retain teachers. Compensation helps, but teachers also want good working conditions. At some point, materials,counselors, IAs, etc. should be funded to decrease teacher work loads. When does it become politically attractive to advocate for children?

If SEA's ask is unreasonable, individuals should not help push the district over a cliff.

Aberdeen Teachers Association asking for a 35% pay increase. District officials claim ATA refused 15% pay increase.


Melissa Westbrook said...

If SEA's ask is unreasonable, individuals should not help push the district over a cliff." Is that parents? Taxpayers? Anyone?

"Key legislators expected for unions to receive an additional 3.1% increase."

This statement reflects what timeframe? When was this?

I'm having a hard time believing you are a "former Souper." Because the way you write, that would mean a near 180 degree shift.

That said, I'm puzzled by these very large increases that teachers in various districts are asking for.

Anonymous said...


I think you are confused. Teachers are not 'asking for" large pay increases. This is money (an extra 1 billion) that came from Mcleary that is promised for SALARIES! it is intended specifcally for teacher salaries. The problem is that many districts are taking this money and pocketing it. The money is not intended for that. So districts that are refusing the bargain new salaries are not acting in good faith. Each district was given an amount based on regionalization factors as well. That's why you see several districts (Edmonds 20% or Shoreline 23%) getting such huge increases. I would imagine that Seattle would be similar to those districts, based on housing costs etc. So teachers have every right to get the huge increases becasue districts were given large chunks of money specifically for this. Using it for any other purpose is criminal.

Sad said...

Seattle's levy funding is expected to decrease $1500 per student.

State law requires that districts have sustainable budgets. As levy funding deteriorates, Seattle is expected to have a shortfall of tens of millions of dollars. Funding was provided for teacher salaries, but with levy shortfall, the district can not sustain their budget.