Today on Twitter

Don't ask me to call it "X." 

Here's what I tweeted:

Without notice nor explanation, Seattle Schools has banned international school-based travel for students. That means the 20+ year Hands for a Bridge program that includes travel to South Africa and Northern Ireland at Roosevelt High is school-bound.

It means the 49-year Nathan Hale High’s sister school in Japan exchange is gone. I know both programs raised money so that ANY student could make their trip. Programs like these are how you create world citizens and teach world history.

A newly-passed school board “fiscal policy” appears to want to dismantle PTA giving to schools on the basis of equity issues. (But PTAs fund about 23 FTE in schools so I think SPS DOES like getting those dollars). But to do this without public notice is shameful.

And I tweeted to the Times, The Stranger, and KUOW as well as Director Song who is the only director that I know of with a Twitter account.

One comment I receive at Twitter said this:

Our kids were looking forward to their Japanese trip.  I only learned it was not going to happen next year from reading your blog Melissa, and confirmed with our teacher.

Made my blood boil.  

The Board may be backing away from oversight but they should DEMAND that the district be transparent and clear and EARLY with any decisions that directly affect students. 

One other comment was this:

Even domestic travel has become almost impossible, just too many rules and district requirements and year-ahead deadlines. Generally the field trip problem now is not money but arduous and ridiculous districts rules. This is just an extension of that.

Concie Pedroza started all this, basically did not like field trips of any kind because they are “too dangerous,” and I’m disappointed that her leaving has not changed district direction on this at all. These are life changing opportunities we are denying kids, for no reason. 

And I had one guy say that parents should just organize on their own and why is the district paying for this? That's a laugh. The district pays near zero for any of this. It's parents/boosters/fundraising and, if it were not "a school trip," then you'd see fewer kids be able to afford to go.


Anonymous said…
It’s nearly impossible for teachers to organize field trips. They need to submit 4 weeks ahead of time for a day trip and 12 weeks for an overnight-it’s ridiculous. -FormerTeacher
Unknown said…
Between the litigiousness of our society and our safetyism, we have wrecked our freedom to do these sorts of things.

Then, your put on the enviousness of Seattle progressives. How dare a kid get something another kid doesn't get?

Then, there's the issue of sleeping arrangements in the new gender and sexuality culture.

Plus, they have to let kids with violence and insubordination problems go.

This is a problem with the culture of our city. The district's policy is the symptom.

Outsider said…
Elimination of field trips, especially overnight and long distance, can probably be traced to three layers of concerns:

1) In our litigious society, the district will face a seven-figure lawsuit whenever anything goes wrong, and public opinion always flows against the district. They probably figure it's just too expensive -- whatever benefits students may get from such trips does not justify the cost to the district.

2) SPS administrators get reamed out in the press whenever something goes wrong. There's an old saying: those who can, do. Those who can't get jobs at KUOW and pile on those trying to do the job whenever they screw up. SPS administrators can't totally be blamed for refusing the risk they would face of salted earth reputational damage from allowing field trips.

3) (compounding the above by an order of magnitude) The most effective, common sense way to reduce liability and reputational risk would be to exclude students from field trips who are high-risk based on behavioral history or known mental health conditions. In ancient times, that would have been automatic. But now in our more enlightened times, that's not allowed. Trips are required to include students who are not suitable for trips, resulting in huge extra expense and long lead times to work out all the required management strategies, procedures, and personnel.

In math, you can't divide by zero, but in SPS, the lowest common denominator tends to be zero. Nothing for anyone is equity. Don't get your hopes up for any change.
Anonymous said…
We have lost sight of the primary purpose of public schools- to be a great equalizer and leveler of society. My kids will be fine. We take our kids on international travel. We take our kids to plays and art museums. I realize this sounds elitist, but my kids will be ok. The point of public school and field trips and travel and all the extra stuff that public schools offer is to give these opportunities to ALL kids.

Anonymous said…

Can you please articulate the harm that an international program has, one that is inclusive and funds kids that would not otherwise travel? Can we please get a little more nuanced about our program choices beyond “they’re not the same” or “it isn’t universal.” The whole point of public schools is that they’re used and enjoyed by a vast range of students and families. Part of the upward mobility picture is that those with less have a view to those with more and those with more have a larger world view than the privileged. Students learn from each other, and we model integration.

That’s nice your kids have travel opportunities. Nobody is happy with an education devoid of novelty - art, music, cultures.

Think Bigger
Anonymous said…
You know that absenteeism is waaaay up, post-COVID? Like double in all demographics, and alarmingly high for the kids most behind. Look, I get the inclination to strip school back to the barest of requirements, but they’re becoming boring places that students don’t want to go. Next we’ll lose sports, dance, music programs, theater, debate, other activities that are more fun than actual class AND which could lead to scholarship or career opportunities. Nurturing a child’s interests are the real education.

Maybe stop requiring a foreign language if there’s not a chance a student will ever use it. That’s a big disconnect.

Anonymous said…
SPS got dropped by its long-term insurance provider because of being too big of a liability risk.

I would bet that international travel was among the things that got axed to get coverage from a new provider.

- Light Bulb
GoFor It said…
AI has the potential to upend our entire educational system while SPS board and district focus on a tiny percentage (PTA funds).

The district will most probably have to hire an individual (or two) to oversee PTA dollars which means more dollars out of the classroom.

And, as another person pointed out, attendance is way down, but, sure, focus on PTA dollars.
Unknown said…
I would like to hear more from Light Bulb about the insurance thing?

This makes me curious about how SPS' policies interact with its liability insurance around student safety and progressive hiring policies. Those can result in costly suits.

Please tell us more.

"We have lost sight of the primary purpose of public schools- to be a great equalizer and leveler of society."

Is it? I have asked the question, "what is basic education?" and in today's US world, I'm not sure your statement would resonate with many people. But the challenge is figuring out what will create good citizens and good workers. Your statement might play into that education.

I do agree with others that, for better or worse, parents want things that other countries don't accommodate (like sports). I'm not sure how arts is not given the highest priority given dear many parents hold it.

I see the points about insurance for international trips and would guess that is the biggest issue.

But I did not write this post to be pro or con on international travel; I wrote it because this district is not being clear and transparent with parents and that is terribly worrying.
Bankruptcy said…
Lost liability insurance?!

More on this please. Much more.
Anonymous said…
Banning international travel seems utterly nonsensical. I'm thinking back to my own (outside of Seattle) school experience. Every year the AP European History teacher would lead a group of students to see some of the places we studied in class, some language teachers would lead trips to places where that language is spoken, the band would do a trip once every few years, maybe more that I'm not remembering. These trips were of course costly to attend, never at all mandatory or expected, but a definite great experience for those who did go. I worry that we've reached the Harrison Bergeron stage of an equity focus, where if not everyone can afford to do a nice thing then nobody is allowed to do it.

I have more mixed feelings about PTAs funding salaries. On the one hand, the staff funded by my kid's school hardly seem like extravagances. Things like a librarian in the school more than twice a week, recess supervisors so the teachers can actually take their contractually guaranteed breaks, an instrumental music program...every school should have these! The fact that our tax money is insufficient to pay for these is a problem. PTA funding is a band-aid over that problem, but only for the schools in richer neighborhoods. Maybe phasing that out would cause enough pain at the richer schools to put pressure on our legislature to fund our schools properly so parents don't have to do so directly, but intentionally reducing services at schools in the short run in an attempt to increase them in the long run doesn't sit great with me. Would that push a bunch of families who can afford private school out and exacerbate SPS's funding problems? Quite possibly!

- Eric
@Eric said…
Ten years ago our PTA decided not to fund counselors. The idea was to get the legislature to fund counseling positions. Ten years have passed, billions of dollars have been poured into education and schools still lack counselors. I have ZERO faith that the district will provide counselors to non-title one schools post pandemic.

I'm okay with PTAs funding counseling positions because kids need help, and there is zero chance, IMO, of the district actually not going bankrupt.
Anonymous said…
Eric, Last time affluent/connected parents advocated hard for more state funding we wound up with this bizarre funding scheme that spreads Seattle tax dollars elsewhere and then caps our ability to raise local funds. Feeling pretty gun shy about opening another jar of snakes.


Anonymous said…
Does this include Canada trips? A lot of school bands and orchestras do trips to Canada to compete or receive training.

Lincoln parent

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