Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Updates on the City's New Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy

The City Council's committee on Education met today to discuss the Families, Education, Preschool and Promise levy (FEPP).  On hand were Chair Lorena Gonzalez and member Rob Johnson.  Neither Vice-Chair Teresa Mosqueda or Alternate Debora Juarez were there.

They were discussing issues with City staff about the Implementation and Evaluation Plan that is required under the levy.  I read the Plan and certainly found many issues so I went down and testified.

Here's what I told/asked the Committee:

1) Why are charter schools included in some funding like School-based but not others like Wrap-around services?

2) Why is Seattle Schools required to have a signed partnership agreement in order for their high school grads to access Promise funds but charter schools do not? Page 103

3) Why is all the mention of serving homeless students centered around Seattle Schools? While it’s true that most charter schools serve far fewer homeless, ELL and Sped students, there must be some homeless students in charter schools. Also, I assume this Plan is fairly recent and yet I note that on page 72, it says that SPS serves 2,000 homeless students – it’s closer to 3,000.

4) I do want to point out that in measuring outcomes, it is important to remember that charter schools counsel out students and their attrition rates tend to be much higher and therefore their graduation numbers tend to look better.

5) Despite the frequent use of the phrase “charter schools” it is not defined in the glossary. Charter schools are put in with the definition under “public schools” which they are but, according to the WA State Supreme Court, they are not true common schools under our state constitution. I would say the definition of “public schools” in that glossary needs clarification.

Lastly, to remind you:

- Charter law does NOT require you share these dollars.
- I, along with many other voters, asked during the levy campaign if charters would get K-12 levy dollars. We were told the City was waiting for a legal opinion from the City Attorney. After the levy passed, I asked the City Attorney’s office for the legal opinion and was told there was none. Interesting that AFTER you got the money, it was announced that charter schools could access those dollars.

- When the charter law was passed, Seattle itself, by a wide margin, voted NO. I’m surprised that the Council and the Mayor, as elected officials, did not taking that vote into account. However, when anyone on the Council or the Mayor runs again, I’ll be glad remind voters.
I also let the Board know this information from the meeting discussion (I did not stay for the entire meeting).

- They are considering changing some SPP sites from 6-hour days to 10-hour days. (I have no idea where they would get the money.) I would find this unacceptable for any Seattle school building because of the costs to maintain and protect the building.

- There was also discussion of when/if  DEEL should have to notify the Council if they change "program elements" at schools with programs supported by FEPP.

- There was also discussion about the Family Support Worker program and that it may be different after Year One because of changes in the program in SPS and job reclassification. I hope you know what they are talking about because I don't.


kellie said...

Thanks for this report Mel.

The Partnership Agreement that you reference is being introduced at tonight's board meeting. Here is the link to the BAR.


Anonymous said...

How is having 10 hour SPP programs any different in terms of impact on school building O&M than the many schools that have before and after school programs?


suep. said...

The City did a bait and switch on Seattle voters with the Families, Education Preschool and Promise Levy (FEEP). It hid from voters the fact that it intended to direct public levy funding to privately run charter schools, likely knowing full well that many voters would not have supported the levy had they known.

This is a key reason the League of Women Voters was not able to support the levy. They were never given a definitive answer on this point. Turns out their instincts were correct. Melissa's as well.

This demonstrates a disturbing level of dishonesty or, at minimum, lack of transparency, from the City when it comes to education funding (FEL allocations and determinations have never been transparent) and its support of charter schools.

It also demonstrates yet again the shady ways charter schools are funded in this state. (See Mary Walker School District, misuse of ALE designation for charters, and Gates Foundation contributions to Mary Walker https://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database/Grants/2017/07/OPP1177566 & https://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database/Grants/2015/12/OPP1148157)

What you describe, Melissa, about the Promise Plan demonstrates another strange double standard and favoritism by the City toward charters over SPS. Along with the OPMA violations by the mayor and city council last year over the head tax vote, it’s apparent that transparency is a concept that some in City Hall don’t believe they need to embrace.

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