Board Work Session on Participatory Budgeting and Equity Tiers

I mentioned the issue of PTA funds in a previous post about the upcoming election for two SPS levies. This post is to go over the discussion at the Work Session held on January 5, 2022 entitled, Budget Work Session. That discussion included PTAs and their funds. 

The Work Session had two parts - Participatory Budgeting and the WSS Committee Recommendations - Equity Tiers. The former was led by a consultant who seems to be a new favorite at SPS, Zithri Saleem from Zithri Information Associates. The latter was led by SPS data czar, Dr. Eric Anderson. The two presentations play into each other with Dr. Anderson's "tiers" determining what schools would be part of the reallocating of discretionary funds to needy schools. 

I'm going to try for an overview here and then have a second post with some impressions and discussion from this meeting. There were some oddities to it to be sure.

As you may have read, the City of Seattle is seeking to use Participatory Budgeting via their Office of Civil Rights. 

Our vision at the Seattle Office for Civil Rights is a city of liberated people where communities historically impacted by racism, oppression, and colonization hold power and thrive. We understand that liberation cannot happen without full transparency and honesty to the communities we serve.  

They define PB via the Participatory Budgeting Project:

Participatory budgeting is a democratic process, where communities and members of the public decide how to spend allocated public funding. PB allows those generally left out and marginalized from budgetary conversations to have a voice in the process.  

From their timeline, it appears that the City sought applicants for an RFP for this work and are still working through that.

The key elements - from the Participatory Budgeting Project  - are:

1. A dedicated source of public funding
2. An agreed upon process and schedule
3. A staff to mediate the process
4. Community volunteers to facilitate the process
5. Outreach to the neighborhood to get people to attend

It sounds kind of messy and complicated but that is how democracies work. As to where the "public funding" would come from:

Money can come from all kinds of sources. PB usually comes from discretionary public funds, so there's no need to find a new source of money, just a change to how current budget funds are decided. You can work with specific government agencies to identify which parts of their budget are up to their own discretion. For example, money can come from discretionary funds in elected official's offices or city agencies. You can even look outside of your local government to federal block grants, or non-governmental sources like grassroots fundraising, foundations, or non-profits. Get creative!

That those "discretionary" funds are key because otherwise, this might not be legal. 

So how much money for this effort?

Most processes use between 1-15% of their local city budget. For larger municipalities, we suggest $1 million per 100,000 residents, so that that invitations to participate are compelling. 

That's an interesting figure because nearly $1M DID come into the Board discussion. The City is putting forward $30M with a 26 member "steering committee" made up of people from marginalized communities. They would be paid $112,000 a year including benefits. This would all be organized thru some local non-profit. 

I now circle back to the Work Session where Mr. Saleem led the presentation. On page 11 of the documentation, there is a "Summary of Outputs":


- Board Policy 6114 on Gifts, Grants, Donations, and Fundraising Proceeds

- American Indian Studies

- Black Studies

- Budget Process

- Ethnic Studies

- Restorative Practices

(I will have to ask for the FAQ - it wasn't in the documentation.)

Page 12 - Essential Questions for Equity

  • Why do some schools get more money than others?
  • What might a district-wide analysis of supplemental funding data tell us about educational equity in our city?
  • How can we make sure that systemic inequities that limit schools from equitable fundraising are not reproduced through supplemental school funding policies?
Page 16 - More Essential Questions for Equity
  • How might demographic shifts in Seattle impact the long-term viability of the policy? 
  • How can/does PB@SPS align to existing policies and practices including SPS's commitment to targeted universalism?
  • How will SPS recruit and select a community steering team to continuously guide the development and scale of this work?
All great questions. I do have to wonder how on-board senior staff are. I mean, who would want outside eyes to come in and tell you how you should be spending your budget?

Also on page 12 - Key Recommendations
  • Set Policy around supplemental funding for equity as targeted-universal approach to all schools.
  • 25% of all PTSA funds allocated towards a PB pool restricted to high needs schools.
  • Includes direct gifts to schools through the district.
  • Community group is responsible for oversight.
  • Seek corporate and philanthropic matching funds.
Also woven into the Participatory Budgeting info was Restorative Justice Practices. It appears that SPS had five schools that received additional resources from the City to implement Restorative Justice. (I will have to ask the City for any documentation they have on this initiative.) The schools were Aki Kurose MS, Robert Eagle Staff MS, Rainier Beach HS, Cleveland HS, and Chief Sealth HS.

PB@SPS would need:
- sustainable funding resources including supplemental and discretionary funds (e.g. 25% of PTSA funds)
- embrace anti-oppressive design practices and discourses to maintain focus on equity throughout evolution of the process
- increase institutional focus and commitment and protect participatory budgeting from (so-called) weaponization.
- seek broad-based engagement including corporate and philanthropic matching funds. 

The group used a supplemental funding amount of $3,629,329 based on a snapshot of last year's budget. Reallocation of 25% of that amount would yield $907,332 to be reallocated toward high needs schools and students through a targeted PB process.

That $907K+? That's the PTSA funds.

School Equity Tiers Presentation

Board Policy 0030 - Ensure Educational and Racial Equity

Guiding Principle

(I)t is the right of every student to have an equitable educational experience within the Seattle Public School District... This means differentiating resource allocation, within budgetary limitations, to meet the needs of students who need more supports and opportunities to succeed academically.

Page 21

  • The WSS Committee developed Equity Tiering for the annual school budgeting process to identify priority schools for protection during adverse fiscal cycles (e.g., avoid loss of staffing) or for additional support when surplus funds are available (e.g., extra staffing)

  • BEX V Capital Levy: Equity Tiers were used as a weighted factor in capital levy scoring to prioritize schools for major capital projects (i.e., replacement, modernization)

Equity Tiering is used by several other central office departments for equity-centered planning, budgeting or programmatic purposes – e.g., Transportation, ELL

To note, this use of equity tiers does not appear to have been used for upcoming BTA V levy. I wonder why not.

Tiering methodology aimed to meet key objectives:

- Account for factors other than just poverty – such as race and ethnicity, language proficiency, cultural heritage – that impact equitable educational opportunities and outcomes.

- Accounts for factors not addressed through other funding

- Tiering results sufficiently stable across years

- Does not penalize successful gap-closing schools

Then we get to page 23, where they define the methodology to get to the Equity Tiers. The green box - "Student groups" - ignited quite the discussion.

Page 24, the WSS Committee recommendations.
  • Remove student achievement from the Equity Tier formula. This takes out SBA scores. 
  • Expanded the definition of students counted as African American males to include multiracial. 
Now I know for a fact that previously Black immigrant males were NOT included for the African American males project. Director Rivera Smith asked Dr. Anderson about this and he was just about to answer when Director Sarju interrupted. (And I'll get to Sarju's remarks in the second post). The question was never truly answered but I do have a query out about it.

Page 25 has updated info on how many schools are in which tier. Tier One are the schools struggling the most and 17 schools have moved up to that level.

Page 27 is fascinating as it lists every school in the district and their tier. I think you can assume from the rankings that Montlake ES, Decatur ES, West Woodland ES, North Beach ES and Lawton ES are the whitest schools in the district.

This while Rainier Beach HS, Aki Kurose MS, Seattle World School, Franklin HS and Emerson Elementary appear to have the highest numbers of non-white students.


I would recommend telling your PTA about this. No one likes to be blindsided and it's important to think this idea completely thru.

For example, if the projected amount from bigger fundraising PTAs is just under $1M, is that sustainable? You can't force PTAs to raise money for a district project.

Also to note, that line about "gifts" - that could affect booster clubs.
Anonymous said…
First impressions? I’d rather hand cash to a resource strapped PTA than pay district staff to oversee hundreds of hours of staff word salad-production in the name of equity. I have a graduate degree and don’t fully understand what they are talking about; I can’t imagine this is actually trickling down to families that most need to have a say. I appreciate the inclination to have a process and support high needs schools, but this seems unnecessarily bureaucratic and self-defeating.

Grass Roots
WSS Allocation said…
We're in a pandemic and this board wants to take dollars away from low income students in areas with higher income.

The presentation MUST include per pupil funding, class sizes in low income vs high income schools, grant funding and city funding. The presentation must include the fact that TAF receives an additional $180 K per class and South Shore receives an additional $1M per year.

We're in the midst of a pandemic. Unless the WSS includes a counselor in every school, I recommend that the board not remove PTA dollars for counseling and wrap around services.

Teacher said…
I would love to see a copy 27 where they rank schools. Can you provide a link?

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