I second Dan's call out to Tim C. on this. The board is dysfunctional. The board members lack vision, intelligence, and spines. They are petty dividers. The school system needs brighter minds making strategic decisions.
Devil's advocate: Why would the city want to take on a huge amount of debt and expense, a huge amount of problems (when they have their own host of problems, including transportation), and a huge amount of angry constituents? There doesn't seem to be any advantage for the city.
The School Board should be a paid position, not some wimpy volunteer thing that only a small amount of people could ever run for. We set up the schools to fail.
The problem with the board is that they're classic Seattle can't-deciders, and the parents are walking all over them. The only thing they're able to accomplish is the easy stuff: buildings. On curriculum, policies, school closures, they're hopeless. Raj is right to get the hell out; it's ungovernable. Most school decisions are now being made by shouting morons at public meetings.
seattle is just showing the national failure of public schools in the microcosm. move out to the county e.g. highline and then you don't even have fuctional buildings.
KOMO reported that people are calling for the state to bail out the Seattle school system. What a mess. I mean, other cities have similar problems, but Seattle's is getting real bad.
I'm for the city taking control of the schools—as in New York and Chicago—so that one person, da mayor, can be held accountable. As things stand now, none of our elected reps in the city can 1. do anything about the schools and 2. be held accountable if the school system is, as ours obviously is, FUBAR.
With an elected school board, where does the buck stop? Can you name anyone on the school board? Until this morning could you name the superintendent?
Put the mayor in control. If the schools are fucked up and people are upset, they vote the mayor out. Accountability, consequences—that’s what we need. We’ll never have it so long as we’ve got an elected school board running the show.
The school district will continue to be fucked up as long as the best and brightest are allowed to take their kids elsewhere. Private schools have destroyed education in America. The only students left in the public schools are the ones that wouldn't have even been educated beyond eighth grade a hundred years ago. Allowing people to buy their way in elsewhere destroys opportunity for the rest of us.
What about an elected Superintendent?
Have the schools in Chicago and NYC improved significantly?
Despite screamy parents, are they really involved on a day to day basis? How do the PTAs at these schools do? I'm sure the Mercer Island and Bellevue School District PTAs do really well. How about Rainier Beach?
But we elect the school board—doesn't that create accountability and consequences? Not really. School board positions are dead-end jobs for do-gooders, not stepping stones for pols. A career pol like Nickels, if he's running the schools, will have to worry about losing his job—a job that pays cash money and pays in status.
There is no money or status in sitting on the school board. Just grief, just getting shouted at during meetings. Right now we've got a system that allows every pol in town to avoid being on the receiving end of all that grief. It's not their problem, and there's nothing they can do about. They stand on the sidelines and complain about the school board with everyone else.
That's crap. Put the career pols in charge of the schools, and shit will change.
Good points by all. We sure can't continue with what's been happening.
How do private schools destroy public education? I don't get how average and below-average students somehow do worse when above-average students opt out.
Keshmishi, if the children of privileged parents go to private schools, then they have no incentive to support the public school system. They in fact have an incentive NOT to support public schools: they are paying taxes for something they get no perceived benefit from. So instead they then spend their influence and money trying to cut education funding to a minimum. Witness Blethen trying to get rid of the estate tax (which would result in even further gutting of public education funding). Witness our current problems, largely stemming from lack of funding (WA being something like 46th in the country in education spending). Sadly people of privilege have money and power and influence, which is what got us where we are now. And lower and middle class parents have nothing but their votes and shouting at school board meetings.
I think private schools are a firmly entrenched institution in just about every part of the country. Mandatory public schooling is a socialist fantasy.
The schools debate is one of the most annoying political issues in existance. If you don't have kids, you don't care. And if you do have kids, you are too personally invested to have any perspective.
The lesson for homebuyers is: make sure and check out the status of the schools you are assigned to before you buy.
I think people are blaming the school board for a problem that is not of their making. And having Ceis in charge of the schools will not fix it. The problem is money, or a severe lack of it.
Good public education costs money. Real money. Sure, we can try to mollify the Republican demand for better efficiency and lower overhead and less bureaucracy. But all of that is really bullshit anyway. They just don't want to spend money on education.
If you want better education, you need more and better teachers. The only way you are going to get more teachers and better quality teachers is with money. Right now, public school teachers require 5-6 years of college, and is one of the worst paying "professional" jobs out there. Just about anyone who can get through 6 years of college can get a wide variety of jobs that pay at least double what a public school teacher makes. The public school system then ends up relying on the blind idealism of recent college grads, because anyone with ambition and skill is going to go elsewhere. Soon the idealism wears off, and the pay certainly isn't worth it. The burn out rate for new public school teachers is astronomical. The ONLY way to fix this is with money, and lots of it.
Unfortunately, money for public education comes from the federal and state governments, both of which have been cutting back constantly for the better part of the last 20 years. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program adds more burdens to public schools, but gives them no money to pay for it.
The Seattle school board has little or no control over how much money they get from the fed & state government. They only thing they can do is try to run the schools with the money they are given. And every year they are given less and less to work with. So they hire fewer teachers and cut out programs and close schools. What choice do they have?
If you put the Mayor (or the city council, or whoever) in charge of schools, that doesn't solve the money problem. That only changes the person in charge of what to do with dwindling resources.
Dan Savage's question - "Can you name anyone on the school board? Until this morning could you name the superintendent?" is just depressing. Yes, I can. I've been following the rise and fall of Raj Manhas, knowing full well that he was handed a platter full of shit and that eventually he would just walk away from it. Good for him. But why do parents only get involved when it's about their kid? We all need to be advocating for more money from the feds, more from the state, better accountability throughout the school district and BETTER TRAINED BOARD MEMBERS! Honestly, a few bucks and some speeches may get you on the board, but it sure as hell doesn't mean you know how to govern.
I want to be proud of my daughter's school district, not bitter about it. She's in a terrific school with an amazing PTA, but that's an anomaly. We should have a school district where going to your neighborhood school is neither impossible (John Stanford) nor dreadful (choose your school).
I agree with all the good points about having the city take over the school system, but my major concern is with the workload we'd be foisting on the city council. We've got nine people who already have to have a grasp on the workings of a major city, including transit, zoning, human services, and all that. I'm not sure adding education to their workload without adding two more counselors would be a good idea, given the budgeting and ideological issues that would come with bringing the schools into city government.
That being said, fuck the school board. They're a bunch of goddamn idiots who clearly can't do their jobs any better than a cow can act Shakespeare.
Here's how to solve the workload problem on the City Council: Each city council member has two aides. I say double the number of council members + 1—to 19, to avoid tie votes—and cut the number of aides to one.
Then elect 'em by district.
"That's crap. Put the career pols in charge of the schools, and shit will change."
What professional pol will want to get involved in this current mess? Care to nominate someone, Dan?
The school board is inexperienced and without much insight. The Seattle School district is the largest land holder in Seattle. With that kind of largesse, there shouldn't be any need to be concerned about money. It's really rather ridiculous.
Savage, if you want to bitch about something, bitch about the fecklessness and laziness of Seattle voters and the professional community who allowed this condition to come to its current state of rot.
It's not the school board's fault. It's yours and my GD fault for not taking the time to care enough.
FNARF: "The school district will continue to be fucked up as long as the best and brightest are allowed to take their kids elsewhere. Private schools have destroyed education in America."
It's not quite that bad, at least for public elementary schools. There are plenty of parents (myself included) who fit demographically into the private school crowd, but have no intention of throwing away their money on private grade schools.
Highschool is a different story.
Since when did your publication show any interest in the fate of our schools? You ignore the topic, see a headline elsewhere, and complain about the results. Since you became editor, have you done a single substantive piece on education?
"Highschool is a different story."
Really? Why? Sean please do tell us the rationale of creating a foundation of Seattle Public School elementary and middle school education for your child(ren) and then not finishing with a Seattle high school.
@20: I think Dan started caring about Seattle Public Schools when he became a parent.
It's silly how the feds can afford to spend so much money on wars and "nation building", but they can't cough up enough dough to pay the teachers well here at home. I think number one on the governments agenda should be schools and education. Without educated citizens, all you have is a country full of dipshits. Maybe the church can step in and take over the burden of education for the government- I think they already started out there in Kansas, didn't they?
So, according to the latest Seattle school district numbers per the Seattle Times, just 45,824 students are enrolled in Seattle schools. Just what percentage of Seattle kids actually attend public schools? That number of students seems extremely low for a city the size of Seattle but not having kids myself, I've never paid attention to the population numbers of school-aged kids in Seattle. Anyone know how many kids actually live in Seattle?
I'm actually with Dan on this: put the schools in the hands of the city directly, namely the Mayor. Put the bullseye on his back, and I bet budgets balance and things improve pretty quickly.
Hey, I'm all for increasing the number of city counselors to deal with the workload, but I still say at large is better. The last thing we need is federal style pork barrel politics writ small and each district fighting the others. Plus, I'd have to force Peter Steinbrueck to move to the CD so he'd be my councilman. I heart Peter Steinbrueck.
According to "FNARF": "The school district will continue to be fucked up as long as the best and brightest are allowed to take their kids elsewhere....Allowing people to buy their way in elsewhere destroys opportunity for the rest of us."
FNARF - You have to be shittin' me. You can't FORCE people to go to a public school. Society owes your mildly retrarded kids an education, not an audience. If you want to throw yourself on the sword for the cause of public education, don't ask us to stand around with the band-aids when you get gutted. The schools are fucked-up because the parents are a mess. Nobody in their correct mind would send their kids to this mess of a school system.
Savage, are you fucking crazy? The City of Seattle take over yet another civic function and screw it up?
Please do more education reporting. I don't have kids, but I'm concerned about it anyway.
Longtime Stranger Reader
Gotcha Dan -
The Stranger's reporting on school issues has been abysmal - abysmal - YOU are part of the problem! Triple dog dare you to get off your high sounding horse and do some real reporting here and see if folks might give a damn.
Betcha you won't take the bet.
One of the reasons that we opted out of public school (we homeschool) is that School itself is still set up on the late 19th and early 20th century goal of creating factory workers---folks bright enough to operate the machines, but inured to boredom and lacking the creativity to question the system. We can throw all sorts of $$$ at schools, but until we fix that basic premise, there will still be the same problems.
The Board is not to blame for the current state of Seattle Public Schools. If you believe it is, then you will believe anything that Frank Blethen tells you. The Seattle Times has a simple way of apportioning responsibility among the District leadership: the Superintendent gets all the credit and the Board gets all the blame.
As for having professional pols as school board members, puh-leeze. Have you seen Cheryl Chow's performance on the Board?
Seattle Public Schools needs leadership and they weren't getting it from Mr. Manhas. He did not fulfill the executive role or fulfill the executive duties. Three years in the job and the District has no strategic plan, no academic plan, no accountability plan, no clear lines of authority or responsibility, and a dysfunctional culture that flows down from the Superintendent's office.
Take it from me, I DO know the names of all of the School Board members and I have been to more Board meetings than most of them.
The Superintendent took more schools off the closure list than the Board did. The Board was going to vote against the Superintendent's Phase II recommendations anyway - before the drama at the meeting - because it was such a horrible idea.
Despite the fact that he was almost completely ineffective, despite the fact that he negotiated and signed a disatrous teacher contract, despite the fact that he didn't share the Board's values or principles, I am not glad that Raj Manhas resigned. I didn't want him to step down; I wanted him to step up.
By the way, if the Stranger wants someone to submit an occassional story on Seattle Public Schools, I'd be happy to do it.
Fnarf's correct. Seattle Public Schools has been abandoned by many parents, Seattle business and political establishment. There was a recent glimmer in time when this appeared to be reversing, John Stanford, for all his strengths and weaknesses, whipped up a lot of enthusiasm for the school district and people became involved. Unfortunately, Stanford passed away, and with him, that newly engaged public support.
We don't need Seattle schools run by pols who have never had an interest in Seattle Public Schools. How many of the mayor's, his senior staff's and city council members' kids attends(ed) Seattle Public Schools? If they didn't care enough to support the school system having their own kids attend, what in God's name makes you think they are going to do anything more but give lipservice to it now?
We, and I mean "We" the average citizens, screwed this one up. We didn't take an interest; we didn't vote and we didn't bother to vet
those running for a position on the Seattle School board.
We've pretty much gotten what we deserved for our willingness to not become involved.
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