In a ruling issued today (pdf), King County Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel has tossed out the heart of Washington State's charter schools law on the grounds that it violates the constitutional provision that state education revenues be "exclusively applied to the support of the common schools."
But, Judge Rietschel concludes: "A charter school cannot be defined as a common school because it is not under the control of the voters of the school district. The statute places control under a private non-profit organization, a local charter board and/or the Charter Commission."
In other words, charter schools may not be funded with state dollars dedicated to funding our state's common schools.
This is a big, though not unexpected loss for charter schools proponents. The initiative's effort to classify charter schools as common schools always seemed a bit of a legal stretch. I'll have some more thoughts after further study.
Both parties asked for and received summary judgement, and given the urgency of the case, it will likely be appealed directly to the state supreme court.
UPDATE: I just saw the Seattle Times headline that claims that "Judge upholds most of state charter school law." I'm not sure how they come to that conclusion. Judge Rietschel ruled that charter schools are not common schools, and Article IX, Section 2 of the Washington State Constitution is quite clear:
SECTION 2 PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM. The legislature shall provide for a general and uniform system of public schools. The public school system shall include common schools, and such high schools, normal schools, and technical schools as may hereafter be established. But the entire revenue derived from the common school fund and the state tax for common schools shall be exclusively applied to the support of the common schools.
Unless I'm missing something, that would seem to rule out state funding. And I'm not sure how charter schools work without it.
Second, on many of those elements of the law Judge Reitschel did not toss out, she didn't as much uphold them as merely rule that the plaintiff's arguments were not justiciable because the provision in question has not yet been implemented, or because the plaintiffs did not make "a sufficient showing for facial invalidity."
So I'm sticking with my headline.
UPDATE, UPDATE: To clarify, the "state tax for common schools" which Article IX, Section 2 refers to appears to be the state portion of the property tax, about $2 billion a year, almost a quarter of state public school funding. (Though personally, I'd argue that language could be read more broadly to include all state taxes spent for common schools.) The "common school fund" is a separate fund that funds construction.
Everything that Danny Westneat said about the GET Program and UW President Michael Young's stupid, stupid characterization of it as a "Ponzi scheme," plus this: GET is not an investment; it is insurance.
Young said the GET program, because it’s a defined-benefit plan (it pledges to pay no matter what happens to the investments), is a ticking time bomb.
That's the whole fucking point!
I've been through this before—as an investment, the GET Program was designed to be very conservative, returning the average inflation rate for college tuition (about 6.5 percent) as opposed the 10 percent-or-so returns one historically gets on the market. But that is okay, because when we pre-paid our daughter's tuition more than a decade ago, we did so knowing that no matter what might happen, she would at the very least have tuition and fees paid for at the best Washington State public university she could get in to.
We weren't buying double-digit returns. We were buying peace of mind. The fact that we got double-digit returns was only due to our feckless legislature and its refusal to raise the revenue necessary to adequately fund higher education.
And to be clear, GET is only potentially "a ticking time bomb" if the legislature once again forces double-digit tuition hikes. As long as tuition rises at the historic inflation rate, GET will remain more than adequately funded. And this is a variable that is entirely within the legislature's control.
Why is this so hard for people to understand? And why is Young so hostile to our state's only tuition program that aids middle class families?
Here's a compelling—and depressing—longread for your Saturday morning: young homeschooled adults are fleeing their fundamentalist and, all too often, abusive families. They're also confronting "Christian" activists and legal organizations whose efforts have made it easier for homeschooling parents to isolate, terrorize, miseducate, and abuse their children.
Jennifer’s rescue coincided with the emergence of a coalition of young former fundamentalists who are coming out publicly, telling their stories, and challenging the Christian homeschooling movement. The website that linked to Jennifer’s story was Homeschoolers Anonymous, launched in March by two homeschool graduates, Ryan Stollar and Nicholas Ducote. Their goal was to show what goes on behind closed doors in some Christian homeschooling families—to share, as one blogger puts it, “the stories we were never allowed to talk about as children.”
As of October, Homeschoolers Anonymous had published nearly 200 personal accounts and attracted more than 600,000 page views. For those outside the homeschooling movement, and for many inside it, the stories are revelatory and often shocking. The milder ones detail the haphazard education received from parents who, with little state oversight, prioritize obedience and religious training over learning. Some focus on women living under strict patriarchal regimes. Others chronicle appalling abuse that lasted for years.
Growing up in California and Oregon, Stollar wasn’t abused, but he met many other homeschoolers who were. His parents led state homeschooling associations and started a debate club in San Jose. The emphasis on debate in fundamentalist homeschooling was the brainchild of Michael Farris, the founder of Patrick Henry College, and his daughter Christy Shipe. Farris believed debate competitions would create a new generation of culture warriors with the skills to “engage the culture for Christ.” “You teach the kids what to think, you keep them isolated from everyone else, you give them the right answers, and you keep them pure,” Stollar explains. “And now you train them how to argue and speak publicly, so they can go out to do what they’re supposed to do”—spread the faith and promote God’s patriarchy.
As a teenager, Stollar toured the national homeschool debate circuit with a group called Communicators for Christ, sharpening his rhetorical skills and giving speech tutorials. Along the way, he found himself increasingly disturbed by what he saw. He met families that follow the concept of “Quiverfull,” wherein women are submissive to men and forgo contraception to have as many children as God gives them. He encountered entire communities where women wore only denim jumpers for modesty’s sake, where parents burned their daughters’ birth certificates to keep them at home, where teenagers practiced “betrothal,” a kind of arranged marriage. He met homeschooling kids who dealt with the stress by cutting themselves, drinking, or developing eating disorders—the very terrors their parents had fled the public schools to avoid. “Even as a conservative Christian homeschooler,” Stollar says, “I was constantly experiencing culture shock.”
A decade later, Stollar, who lives in Los Angeles, was still hearing the stories from his peers. The ex-debaters and homeschoolers were now grappling with the fallout from their childhoods: depression, mental illness, substance abuse. “I was starting to see these patterns emerging,” he says, “and we all felt that they came from the same places.”
On November 12, Seattle police had a WMD moment. According to police "intel," four men had taken over the Horace Mann school building in the Central District, placed a sniper on the roof, and wired the building with explosives, Detective Renee Witt told reporters. Across the street, dozens of armed officers milled about. A SWAT team was on-site, and the entire block was cordoned off.
Like those nonexistent Iraqi nukes, however, "There were no explosives or weapons found on the premises," Witt admitted later that week in an e-mail. The most resistance they faced was 67-year-old activist Omari Garrett hollering from a window about the need for a proper warrant before he agreed to come down. The men were arrested, charged with criminal trespassing, and released hours later.
Those men were the final holdouts of a five-month schoolhouse occupation by a coalition calling itself Africatown. Through teach-ins and educational programs, the group sought to bring attention to the disadvantages that African American students face in Seattle schools, but some neighbors, education activists, and even reporters took sides against them, riled by what they deemed an unruly group of "squatters."
This American Life was a rerun this weekend, but it contained a short piece that'd be an entertaining and informative listen for anyone tracking Seattle's path toward universal preschool.
In the '90s, a lawmaker snuck universal preschool into Oklahoma state law—that's Oklahoma, one of the most conservative states in the country. And the state legislator who snuck it in, Joe Eddins, says to the TAL reporter that it would've been aboslutely impossible to pass otherwise:
Eddins: I don't see it ever being funded if you had to do it like other states do. If you had to say, "Here's a program that we want to implement, here's how much money it'll take." Whew! Where are you going to get the money? Okay? If you would have to have a line-item appropriation, nobody would've supported it except the young mothers, and they have no political clout.
Alex Blumberg: Say other stayes want do something like this—
Eddins: They don't have a prayer. They don't have a prayer. They don't have a prayer. Because it's expensive, and state legislatures are run by people who want to cut programs, not add programs.
As Goldy's mentioned, "everybody agrees"—even Republicans—that quality early learning gets results. It's undeniable. But just like Eddins says, our legislature just doesn't have the balls to fund it. So, like other cities, Seattle's gonna have a go at it ourselves, thanks largely to leadership from city council member Tim Burgess.
Check out the TAL story if you have 20 minutes to kill today:
The Seattle Times editorial board concern-trolls Mayor Mike McGinn:
MAYOR Mike McGinn should rescind his executive order to Seattle child-care providers to meet with union leaders or lose city funding. The mayor should consider whether he wants to squander his remaining time in office on impractical and, in this case, possibly illegal policies.
[...] McGinn’s claim to be interested only in improving preschool teacher quality is undercut by his directive’s interesting timing. As noted by Times reporter Lynn Thompson, McGinn issued the order in the middle of his tough re-election campaign against state Sen. Ed Murray. McGinn lost, but was endorsed by SEIU and the federation.
I could easily spend a thousand words thoroughly fisking this stunningly unselfconscious piece of anti-labor bullshit, but instead I'll just resort to a handful of bullet points. I mean, why put any more effort into this than they did?
Can't remember ever linking to a parenting magazine, but Alison Krupnick at Parent Map has a short and interesting writeup on the school-board race between corporate-funded Suzanne Dale Estey and activist Sue Peters, which Peters—rather surprisingly—won. It includes this bit about negative campaigning by an outside PAC that favored Dale Estey:
Negative tactics used earlier by the Dale Estey campaign had been poorly received by the public, an ironic twist of events, because Peters entered the race with an abrasive reputation and Dale Estey portrayed herself as a peacemaker.
Dale Estey, who claimed not to be aware of or in control of some of her campaign P.R. machinery, also admitted to me on Election Night that such tactics are a calculated risk. She said experts had told her that the gains from negative publicity far outstrip the losses.
This blind faith in "experts" contradicts the image Dale Estey sought to portray, that of a homegrown girl in touch with the concerns of Seattle families. Had she listened to the people whose doorbells she rang, instead of experts, and followed her own instincts, she might have understood early on that negativity was a problem, especially when negative ads were purchased by wealthy donors.
Nationally, critics of corporate education reform cite arrogance as an ongoing concern, with too much reliance on the opinions of "experts," who often come from the private sector, and not enough reliance on the opinions of educators.
That article also includes news that Garfield teacher Jesse Hagopian is "reportedly interested" in running for president of the Seattle teachers' union (SEA) when current president Jonathan Knapp's term expires in 2014. Hagopian, you may remember, led the organized boycott of the MAP standardized test last school year and once mic-checked the state house over budget cuts. Seeing him head up the union would sure be interesting.
UPDATE 3:57 p.m.: I reached out to Hagopian to confirm the rumor and he just got back to me to say he'd "have a lot of things in [his] personal life to weigh" before deciding to run for SEA president, noting that he has two kids at home, but that he has been asked by other teachers to consider it. "I'm still a ways off from being able to make that call," he says.
If this election is a story about the triumphs of big money and negative campaigning over rogue progressives, the race for the District 4 seat on Seattle Public Schools' board doesn't fit the narrative.
Activist and blogger Sue Peters—endorsed by the SECB—has won. She was vastly outspent by her opponent, Suzanne Dale Estey, who raked in campaign donations from charter schools supporters and refused to condemn sleazy mailers attacking Peters.
Trailing in tallied votes by roughly four percentage points (a 52%/48% split), however, Dale Estey called Peters on Wednesday night to concede. "I wish Sue and the entire board great success in their work for Seattle’s 51,000+ public school students," she says on her campaign's Facebook page.
Goldy and Anna already raised questions around school board candidate Suzanne Dale Estey's independence from wealthy education "reformers" who've poured tens of thousands of dollars into her campaign coffers. Dale Estey insists she disagrees with them over charter schools—whoever they are. "I don't know my major donors," she told me after a debate last month, "but I agree with them that the status quo in Seattle Schools is not acceptable."
So I asked the donors themselves why they're supporting Dale Estey's campaign, sending queries to Jeff Raikes, the former head of the Gates Foundation, Steve Ballmer (who gave Dale Estey another $900 two weeks ago), and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, all of whom donated heavily to her campaign. All of them declined to say anything.
Apparently, Hanauer prefers to make his views known through crude attack ads on Dale Estey's rival candidate, activist Sue Peters. (The Stranger endorsed Peters.)
Great Seattle Schools PAC—funded by Hanauer and others—first sent out misleading mailers this summer. Last week, they went even lower, picking out a graphic that someone else posted on a blog to which Sue Peters contributes and claiming that it shows what's "Inside the Mind of Sue Peters." Peters, who's been out in front on issues like standardized testing and adamantly opposes to charter schools, says the ads deliberately distort her record. Here's the mailer:
The Seattle Times today introduced their new "Education Lab" project:
“The Education Lab,” a yearlong Seattle Times project in partnership with The Solutions Journalism Network, will spotlight promising responses to problems that have long bedeviled our public school system. We will examine innovative or effective approaches around the state and the nation, looking at how they were put in place, the pitfalls, the results and whether other school districts might emulate.
Great, because we need more reporting on education.
Except the one thing the Seattle Times glosses over in this announcement is that the bulk of Education Lab's funding comes in the form of a $450,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an organization that has spent millions championing market-based reforms like charter schools, standardized testing, merit pay, and the rest of the corporate education reform agenda. Likewise, the Gates Foundation is also a major funder of the Solutions Journalism Network, the Seattle Times' partner in this project.
Imagine if Exxon funded the paper's environmental reporting, or the Koch brothers funded the paper's political reporting, or Frank Blethen funded the paper's labor reporting. How can we possibly expect objective, neutral, fair, and balanced reporting on allegedly "innovative" reforms like those the Gates Foundation promotes, from a journalism project funded by the Gates Foundation?
Nathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Florida, home to the fighting Confederate Rebels, is named after a former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard and confederate general. It has been since 1959, when administrators changed the name to show their defiance to school integration laws enforced by Brown v Board of Education. But town residents, fed up with kowtowing to racial extremists, are looking to change that.
A lot of people have signed an online petition asking for a name change, but this decision ultimately comes down to the school board, and the school board has voted to keep the name as recently as 2008. Things looked bad for the name change, but the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan decided to send a letter to the school board urging them to keep the name despite the protests of "scalawags" and "many bestial blacks and other criminal elements out for revenge." I'm thinking this letter of support might be the sort of thing to tip the scales against the Nathan B. Forrest name. It's easy for people to justify their racism until the pointy-hatted bigots show up, at which point they've got to stare their racism right in the face. Maybe the KKK should come out in support of more internet bigots; that seems like it might be the only way for some people to acknowledge their own bigotry.
As a blogger, some of my most influential posts have come from mud-raking hits on the personal character of my subjects. One-time King County executive hopeful David Irons Jr., former FEMA director Mike Brown, and former Public Lands Commission Doug Sutherland, for example, have all been the victims of my sometimes ruthless reporting. But as eager as I am to go for a knockout punch, one thing I never ever do is go after the juvenile children of a candidate.
Hell, even personal issues like divorce and affairs are aren't really fair game unless they demonstrate some sort of blatant hypocrisy or obvious relevance to one's ability to do the job. Even candidates I don't like deserve a little privacy. But children are almost always off limits.
And so it was with a fair amount of genuine outrage that I read Melissa Westbrook's post on the nasty goings on in the school board race between Suzanne Dale Estey and Sue Peters. While Dale Estey comes off as likable enough in person, her surrogates have gone out of their way to make this the meanest school board race I can remember. For example, as Westbrook reports, there's the story of Dale Estey endorser Jean Bryant, who the campaign website lists as an "Education Leader." Bryant has been attacking Peters for allegedly "highly combative" emails between Peters and the principal and some teachers her children's school. But how could Bryant possibly know about these emails?
She filed a public disclosure to the district for e-mails between Peters and the principal and Peters and her children's teachers.
Yes, you read that right. Peters's emails about her children's education that she wrote to her children's teachers and principals were the ones Bryant filed a public documents request to read.
It is absolutely legal to use public disclosure; I do all the time. But I have NEVER - in 15+ years - ever asked for an e-mail so I could see what a parent was talking to a staff member about pertaining to a child. Never.
As a parent, I am outraged. Communications between a parent and their children's teachers should be private. Period. And the very thought that somebody would file a public disclosure request like this in pursuit of a cheap political hit is beyond offensive.
What kind of person does something like this? The kind of person that Dale Estey apparently considers to be an "Education Leader."
This has been a very troubling campaign from start to finish. In our SECB interview, both candidates came off as knowledgeable and competent, but while she mostly said the right things, we just didn't trust Dale Estey's motives or agenda, not to mention those of the charter school crowd who have thrown a ton of money behind Dale Estey despite her insistence that she doesn't support charter schools. But then, this wouldn't be the first time we suspected Dale Estey of saying one thing and meaning another.
Which is why I am enthusiastically voting for Sue Peters.
Randy Schekman just won a Nobel Prize in physiology for being part of a team that revealed the basic cellular machinery that regulates the transport and secretion of proteins in our cells. Obviously Schekman, who's a professor of molecular and cell biology at the UC Berkeley, is a smart man. In fact, he's smart enough to know that his success didn't bloom in a vacuum—he's the product of a good brain and a great, affordable education—and he's using his new Nobel clout to draw attention to that fact:
...Schekman explains that his dad, a middle-class father of five, "never had to pay virtually anything to educate his kids. That simply isn't possible now, and it's just tragic that this happened." The numbers are staggering, particularly within Schekman's own state of California.
... The Nobel Committee's recognition of [Schekman's] research takes on a much larger symbolic meaning today than it might have had in prior years: The government shutdown and the sequester have hit science labs hard across the country, halting research and stagnating progress. More generally, without obvious applications like developing vaccines or curing diseases, basic biological research has often taken a back seat in funding and attention. Yet clearly, the Nobel Prize committee begs to differ. All three science prizes announced this week have gone to researchers whose contributions are on quite fundamental science topics: cell signaling and transport, the elusive Higgs boson, and computer models of chemical reactions.
"The virtue of the Nobel is that more often than not, it celebrates basic science," says Schekman.
On [his podcast] Inquiring Minds, then, Schekman in effect is making two closely related arguments: We need to restore public support for our universities, to help keep college affordable—and we need public support of very basic research, because it generates the baseline knowledge that, in turn, engenders new innovations and cures in private industry. Yet instead, we're watching college students grow indebted, and scientists scramble as their funding becomes tightly constricted.
The whole piece is great. Go read it!
David Kravets at Wired highlights the MPAA's upcoming educational program. The curriculum—which "comes in different flavors for every grade from kindergarten through sixth"—tries to teach children to Just Say No to digital piracy. A series of videos and lesson plans under the name "Be the Creator" discuss the value of intellectual property. Here's a "key concept" from the 2nd grade lesson plan:
Property comes in many forms: when we buy a book, we own that book. It’s our property, but we don’t own the right to reproduce that book and then sell it or give it away. That’s stealing.
Okay, that's such a simplified statement that it's hard to argue with it. But what about quoting in reviews? What about building on the ideas presented in the book via an artistic conversation? What about remixing or sampling or collaging? Look, I don't think we should be encouraging piracy or teaching kids how to illegally torrent television shows in schools. But shouldn't IP theft fall under the broader umbrella of "stealing is bad," maybe? And there are some sketchy lessons in the MPAA's curriculum. Kravets reports:
“This thinly disguised corporate propaganda is inaccurate and inappropriate,” says Mitch Stoltz, an intellectual property attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who reviewed the material at WIRED’s request.
“It suggests, falsely, that ideas are property and that building on others’ ideas always requires permission,” Stoltz says. “The overriding message of this curriculum is that students’ time should be consumed not in creating but in worrying about their impact on corporate profits.”
Is this really something that schools should be spending their valuable time on, in between the relentless bouts of preparation for the next standardized test?
Capping a couple weeks of budget teasers, Mayor Mike McGinn announced today $500,000 of new early learning funding in his pending 2014 budget proposal, plus an additional $100,000 to fund development of the universal preschool plan approved by the council earlier this week.
When asked to verify that this $100,000 was in fact to fund the same plan just approved by the council, McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus confirmed: "We are working collaboratively with councilmember Burgess on this effort."
There. That wasn't so hard guys, now was it?
“Universal preschool is one of the best ways to prepare students to succeed in school and get a good start in life," the mayor said via a prepared statement. "I am also grateful to the City Council that they have embraced the concept of universal preschool and that we have been working together on this opportunity."
Wow. It's a veritable lovefest over at City Hall.
In addition to the $100,000 to fund the development of the city's universal preschool plan ($50,000 from the general fund, $50,000 from the Families & Education Levy), the mayor's 2014 budget proposal includes $500,000 in new funding for early learning programs, plus the continuation of $249,000 in funding to serve up to 15 homeless children at the Wellspring Early Learning Center. All good news.
McGinn will release his proposed 2014 budget this coming Monday, September 23, at 2 p.m. in council chambers.
I'm not sure most audience members caught the significance, but the only real news generated by last night's Seattle Human Services Coalition 2013 candidate forum came from the lips of city council member Sally Bagshaw, when she matter-of-factly stated: "You know that we are going to have an initiative next year to support universal preschool."
Of course, I suspected we'd have a vote next year, but the casual nature of Bagshaw's comment suggests that one of the three remaining questions may have already been settled: How will we pay for citywide universal preschool? A dedicated property tax levy. For what else would require a vote of the people?
And right on cue, a council committee voted this morning to establish a plan for implementing voluntary high quality universal preschool for all of Seattle's 3 and 4 year olds:
The legislation enables the City Council, working with the City’s Office for Education and local experts providing early learning opportunities, to accomplish the following over the next 6 to 9 months:
- Perform a Gap Analysis to determine how many 3 and 4 year olds are not currently enrolled in high-quality preschool.
- Create an Action Plan to design and phase in a voluntary, high-quality preschool program for Seattle based on the evidence of best practices from the State’s Early Learning Technical Workgroup and the National Institute of Early Education Research.
- Develop cost estimates and funding options for such a plan.
What will the program look like, and how much will it cost? Those are the remaining questions facing the council. The former isn't really all that much in question, considering that our program will be based on well-established state and national guidelines. And the cost, well, that's mostly straightforward too—the guidelines pretty much dictate the cost-per-student, so the rest is a calculation based on how many preschoolers we expect to serve, and how generous our sliding scale subsidies are for middle class families. (The cost is also affected by how well we pay our teachers, but if adhered to honestly, the guidelines should dictate salaries comparable to those in public schools.)
Council support for the general outline of the proposal appears to be unanimous, and both mayoral candidates have publicly voiced their support. So after years of pissing into the wind on this issue (remember the latte tax?), Seattle-wide high quality universal early education now seems all but inevitable. Which in terms of real world impact, I'd have to say is the most exciting and encouraging development I've seen in the decade I've been paying close attention to local politics.
From a report, “Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States,” posted on WSJ:
Among the highlights:
–All told, average inflation-adjusted income per family climbed 6% between 2009 and 2012, the first years of the economic recovery. During that period, the top 1% saw their incomes climb 31.4% — or, 95% of the total gain — while the bottom 99% saw growth of 0.4%.
–Last year, the richest 10% received more than half of all income — 50.5%, or the largest share since such record-keeping began in 1917.
That tower you see above was built by the high-school students of the Sawhorse Revolution, a newish program teaches teenagers how to use tools and build things. Many of the Sawhorse students don't have access to shops and tools—sometimes because their families can't afford them; sometimes because their schools have cut arts, trades education, and other hands-on types of learning in their mad dash to "teach to the test"; sometimes just because they're girls and if there's a project to do at home, it's always done by the boys.
This summer, I went to Smoke Farm for Fortnight, the Sawhorse Revolution's summer program where a dozen or so students sleep in tents, get up early, build stuff, and forge a sense of community and camaraderie that only work—or some kind of shared ordeal—can provide. The majority of students were girls and the majority were students of color and there was some surprisingly frank (and spontaneous( dinner-table talk about race and gender. Plus lots of goofing around together.
During Fortnight, students also learn about where the materials they're working with come from (basically, rudimentary classes in economics and ecology), the physics of building, and Smoke Farm, the land they're building on. It's a remarkable program and doesn't feel at all like the cheesy, Pollyanna-ish experiences one might associate with the phrase "summer camp."
Sawhorse co-founder Adam Nishimura says they originally resolved not to have any cheesy camp songs or cheers, but they had to concede that battle—the students were chanting and singing, whether the counselors wanted them to or not. One of their favorites this summer, led by a tall and bearded counselor named Micah:
Are we here to have fun?
How do we play?
WAY! TOO! SERIOUSLY!
What do we do?
CHEAT TO WIN! CHEAT TO WIN! CHEAT TO WIN! CHEAT TO WIN!
If you want to support the program, Smoke Farm is hosting a Builders Dinner up at the property next Saturday. Tickets are $100 (it's a fundraiser, after all) but that includes dinner by chefs Tamara Murphy (Terra Plata) and Josh Hart (Spinasse), plus beer and wine, tours of the property, and more. Camping is encouraged.
Or, if you just want to donate a few bucks to the cause, you can do that over here. (Full disclosure: I have been involved with some Smoke Farm events, including a lecture series called the Symposium, but I'd never been to Fortnight until this summer.)
More Fortnight/Sawhorse photos are below the jump.
It was kinda-sorta amazing watching yesterday's Seattle City Council Government Performance and Finance Committee meeting on council member Tim Burgess's proposed resolution (pdf) to make high-quality preschool available and affordable to all of Seattle's three and four year old children. Don't get me wrong—the meeting was as boring as any council meeting. But the fact that there is now a broad consensus that Seattle can no longer afford to wait on the legislature to get its shit together and properly fund early learning, is incredibly gratifying and encouraging.
Anybody who knows me knows that I can be a bit obsessive about this issue—in fact, the SECB has pretty much made support for universal preschool a political litmus test over the past couple campaign cycles. Why? Because high-quality early learning is the only education reform that everybody agrees works. And I mean everybody. Even Republicans. The state legislature's Early Learning Technical Workgroup (ELTW) has actually put an immense amount of laudable work into making the case for universal preschool and into defining exactly what a statewide program might look like. And you'd be hard pressed to find a lawmaker from either party willing to publicly refute the ELTW's recommendations. They just don't have the will and/or the balls to raise the taxes necessary to pay for it.
Which is why we here in Seattle have to do it ourselves.
And that's what makes Burgess's leadership on this so important. There wasn't a council or mayoral candidate we interviewed this year who voiced opposition to universal preschool. In fact, at his campaign kickoff, Mayor Mike McGinn listed universal preschool as a major priority for his second term. But Burgess represents the "serious" wing of the council, and so the other serious people (you know, editorial boards, muni leagues, chambers of commerce) are going to have a tough time arguing that this is an investment the city can't afford.
So, how much will it cost?
Seattle teachers approved a new two-year contract last night, prompting the following elated text from school board president Kay Smith-Blum:
Yippee. Love our teachers secretaries counselors nurses librarians fiscal agents therapists etc etc etc. they are the greatest so appreciate the work they do everyday!!
Drama averted. And while the contract wasn't everything the teachers wanted (in fact, it wasn't a lot of things), at least they can take comfort that management appreciates them.
The final deal reflects a compromise on what was being discussed late last week. Teachers get a touch more money, but extend the official workday for elementary school teachers (as if most of them don't already work unpaid overtime already). The union also didn't get the concessions it wanted on teacher evaluations, but the district agrees to negotiate changes over the next two years.
In any case, happy first day of school, Seattle!
Enjoy your last few days summer vacation kiddies, because your prayers for a teachers strike are likely going unanswered: The Seattle School district announced this morning a tentative contract agreement with its teachers union. Teachers are scheduled to vote on the contract Tuesday afternoon, just two days before the scheduled start of new school year.
No details of the tentative contract have been released, but from conversations with parties on both sides over the past week, a general outline of the agreement will likely include:
Seattle School Board president Kay Smith-Blum, with whom I had spoken earlier in the week about the ongoing negotiations, refused to confirm any details about the tentative contract, but she seemed genuinely thrilled that a deal had been struck. "We have reached a tentative agreement that embodies a very fair deal, that honors how much we value our teachers, and that will have very positive outcomes for our students," Smith-Blum told me by phone this morning. And she repeatedly emphasized how proud she was of how the board worked together throughout the negotiations. "We were one," says Smith-Blum.
As for why it took so long, well, a lot of that has to do with money. Or rather, the lack there of. For example, the district would love to dramatically reduce caseloads, if it could find the money to pay for it. It's a situation Smith-Blum blames squarely on the state. "We stink," says Smith-Blum about our state's woeful underfunding of K-12 education.
Yes we do.
Tens of thousands of Puget Sound children may have their summer vacations extended this year thanks to contract disputes in the Seattle and South Kitsap school districts.
By a nearly unanimous voice vote yesterday, Seattle teachers voted to reject the district's latest contract offer, demanding "more time for teachers to teach and students to learn,” according to a statement from Seattle Education Association president Jonathan Knapp. The sticking points?
· The Seattle School Board’s demand to make elementary teachers work longer every day (after students have gone home) and take a pay cut. In contrast, Seattle educators believe the board should restore elementary art, music, P.E. and other classes that were cut nearly 40 years ago.
· The Seattle School Board’s refusal to reduce caseloads for therapists, psychologists, and other education staff associates. SEA members want reduced caseloads so they can provide the individual attention and specialized support all students need to receive a quality education.
· The Seattle School Board insists on outdated elements of the local teacher evaluation system that unnecessarily duplicates and conflicts with the state’s new teacher evaluation requirements and distracts from classroom learning. Seattle teachers want to focus on implementing the new state-mandated evaluation system and upcoming changes in academic standards.
· The Seattle School Board refuses to seriously address the need to pay teachers and other educators competitively. After years of cuts and stagnant salaries, it’s time for the board to increase educator pay so Seattle Public Schools can attract and keep quality educators and compete with neighboring school districts.
· The Seattle School Board is ignoring the need to provide professional development for paraprofessionals (classroom assistants) and reduce workloads for office professionals (school secretaries).
Seattle teachers will vote again on September 3, the day before the scheduled start of the new school year, on whether to approve a contract or take further action.
But in South Kitsap, teachers yesterday voted to strike, citing rising class sizes as the primary sticking point.
At 5:00 p.m. today, the union representing Seattle school teachers is hosting a meeting at Benaroya Hall to discuss ongoing labor contract negotiations with the district. If the union can't reach an agreement with the district, they may vote to go on strike tonight—nine days before the school year is slated to begin. As Goldy reported last week, one of the sticking point for teachers seems to be the district's intention to increase their class sizes.
As one teacher and several others confirmed today, "It sounds like we might strike."
If so, it might not be the only teachers' strike in Washington State. South Kitsap teachers are also reportedly voting today whether to strike, and for the same reason: Ballooning class sizes. According to a press advisory from the South Kitsap Teachers Association, "Middle school teachers have been reporting they have 37 plus students in math classes held in portables that hold no more than 32 students." Kitsap negotiators have recommended that members do not ratify the district's current contract offer.
I know it wasn't the center of the controversy at last night's contentious school board meeting, but I find it awfully damn irritating nonetheless:
Along with plenty of fired-up public testimony, even usually mild-mannered board member Harium Martin-Morris raised his voice at one point in the meeting during board debate over whether to approve the hiring of four teacher candidates from Teach for America (TFA).
As with TFA hires in years past, some board members questioned hiring teachers who've only been through TFA's five-week teacher training program and aren't conventionally trained or certified.
The board approved the TFA hirings by a 5-2 margin. Because apparently, our kids just don't deserve teachers who are properly trained and certified.
Meanwhile, just a couple of weeks before the school year is scheduled to begin, the district's real teachers still don't have a contract. The sticking point? Not salaries or benefits—despite the fact that teachers haven't had a raise in years. No, the teachers union is mostly holding out against proposals to increase class size. Because teachers unions are so goddamn selfish, or something.
This is the rawest white American mind doing all the work it can...
MARBLE: When you look at life expectancy, there are problems in the black race: sickle-cell anemia is something that comes up, diabetes is something that’s prevalent in the genetic makeup and you just can’t help it… Although I’ve got to say, I’ve never had better barbecue and better chicken and ate better in my life than when you go down south and you — I mean love it and everybody loves it. The Mexican diet in Mexico with all of the fresh vegetables. And you go down there and they’re much thinner than when they come up here… they change their diet.A Colorado legislator said this. The state of her mind is so poor that it can link the impossible: sickle-cell anemia, barbecue chicken, and Mexican fresh vegetables. The American education system is the great oppressor of the people.
That's a short list—right off the top of my head—of all the nice things we can't have because we are Americans and we are so fucking screwed. Most Americans aren't aware of just how screwed we are. While other industrialized western nations—not all of them Greece or Spain—manage to provide health care for all their citizens, require (by law!) four weeks (or more!) of paid (paid!) vacation (vacation!), generously subsidize childcare programs for working parents (you're on your own, American moms and dads!), and invest heavily in mass transit as a public and an environmental good, our political class and our liberal media have managed to convince us that these kinds of programs and public investments—any spending to promote the general welfare, as some liberal loons once put it—is simply unpossible! It cannot be done! Because socialism! Because freedom! Because Hitler! (You know that old joke about how a conservative is a liberal who got mugged last night? A liberal is a conservative who spent two days in hospital on a trip to Germany.)
We can add "student loans" to the list of the ways in which we Americans are 1. completely screwed and 2. completely unaware that we're being completely screwed. There's a roaring debate right now about just how financially devastating interest rates on student loans should be. Matt Taibbi (via Sullivan) has a great piece on the subject over at Rolling Stone:
Democrats—who, incidentally, receive at least twice as much money from the education lobby as Republicans—like to see the raging river of free-flowing student loans as a triumph of educational access. Any suggestion that saddling befuddled youngsters with tens of thousands of dollars in school debts is somehow harmful or counterproductive to society is often swiftly shot down by politicians or industry insiders as an anti-student position. The idea that limitless government credit might be at least enabling high education costs tends to be derisively described as the “Bennett hypothesis,” since right-wing moralist and notorious gambler/dick/hypocrite Bill Bennett once touted the same idea....
Conservatives, meanwhile, with their usual “Fuck everybody who complains about anything unless it’s us” mentality, tend to portray the student-loan “problem” as a bunch of spoiled, irresponsible losers who are simply whining about having to pay back money they borrowed with their eyes wide open. When Yale and Penn recently began suing students who were defaulting on their federal Perkins loans, a Cato Institute analyst named Neal McCluskey pretty much summed up the conservative take. “You could take a job at Subway or wherever to pay the bills,” he said. “It seems like basic responsibility to me.”
Basically: Dems want very-nearly-ruinous student loan interest rates locked in permanently while Republicans are pretending to want slightly-less-ruinous interest rates when what they're really trying to do is derail the Dem plan and permanently screw over college students by crushing them under utterly-and-completely ruinous interest rates—because, you know, higher education is for snobs and elitists and the GOP is tripling down on stupid party voters. If the Dems manage to win this one—if they can secure those ever-so-slightly-less-ruinous interest rates—it'll feel like a big victory for liberals and students and progressives in the same way that Obamacare felt like a victory for liberals and progressives when it's actually a conservative plan.
And here's a story that will break the hearts of people being crushed by student loan debt: We were in Germany earlier this month and a friend came up from Austria to spend a couple of days with us while we were visiting Berlin. He's a working journalist—they still have lots of those over there—but he was able to come to Berlin on the spur of the moment because he's taking some time off work to finish his PhD. Naturally, as an American, I assumed he was taking out student loans to cover his living expenses and tuition while he finishes that PhD of his. Ha ha! What an idiot I am! What a stupid and duped and clueless fucking American I am!
When I asked my friend what interest rates on student loans were like over there—on the assumption that he would know because he must've just taken one out—he looked at me like I was fucking crazy. He didn't have to take out a loan, he explained to me, slowly and carefully, in the way that one talks to an idiot. Because, you see, the Austrian government is paying him 60% of his salary while he takes time off to finish his PhD... because, you see, society benefits from a highly educated workforce and so education is something his government invests in heavily. Obviously, right? Any government run be reasonably sane and responsible people do the same, right?
Ha! Ha ha... ha. Yeah. It would be funny if it weren't so fucking infuriating.
So remember, my fellow duped Americans, while we're debating just how ruinous student debt here should be—very nearly ruinous, a.k.a. the liberal position? utterly and completely ruinous, a.k.a. the conservative position?—the Austrian government is paying my Austrian friend to finish his PhD because the general welfare!
We are so screwed.
UPDATE: Higher education in the United States could be tuition free...
How much would it cost make every single public two- and four-year college and university in the United States tuition free for all students? Probably less than you think.
By our estimates, after stripping off the amount that the government already spends to subsidize higher education—including at predatory for-profit institutions—the total amount of new money necessary is less than $13 billion a year. Thirteen billion is a lot of money, to be sure, but within the scope of the Federal budget it is less than one tenth of one percent of yearly spending — merely a rounding error.
Here’s how we arrived at that astonishing figure.
Back in my hometown, it looks like charter school reforms are having their intended effect:
Facing a still-massive deficit, the Philadelphia School District will not open on time unless it has assurance by Aug. 16 that it will receive $50 million from the city, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said Thursday. Hite said the district would postpone the scheduled Sept. 9 opening of 212 district schools, open just a few, or operate them on half-day schedules because of the financial crisis that led to the layoffs of nearly 4,000 employees.
... Faced with what was then a $304 million deficit, in June, the district had asked for $60 million in additional money from the city and $120 million from the state, with the rest to come from savings from union concessions.
The bailout package hashed out in Harrisburg contained little new state money, but could provide as much as $140 million for the schools, including funds from the city's borrowing, revenue from improved city tax collections, and one-time $45 million grant from the state.
To be clear, there is little new state money because Republicans in Harrisburg want the savings to come almost exclusively from union concessions. Nothing short of breaking the teachers union is acceptable; the welfare of the kids aren't really the issue.
Of course, the Philadelphia School District has been in almost perpetual financial crisis since the white flight of the 1960s hollowed out the property tax base in much of the city. I grew up just outside the city limits, and when I was a student in the 1970s, my affluent suburban school district spent twice as much per student than was spent on the kids on the other side of City Line Avenue.
But the magnitude of this current disaster is entirely intentional. Everything that can be done to undermine the school district has been done. If only the city could be drowned by hurricane, the education reform agenda would be complete.
Makes Seattle look like a paradise by comparison, doesn't it?
I'm not a huge fan of the standardized testing craze that's swept the nation, and the way these test-focused curricula tend to distract from learning in order to teach to the test. It's not that these tests serve no useful purpose, just that it's limited, and that time spent measuring progress is time lost from achieving it. So as long as Washington is going to administer standardized tests as part of its graduation requirements, why not follow the lead of states that kill two birds with one stone:
“In 2013, there were proposals in a number of states to integrate a college admissions test into the state system, and as states come out of the recession, we may see more,” Mr. Schaeffer said. “Using a college admissions test as the state’s high school test cuts out one test, which responds to growing pressure from teachers that enough is enough.”
Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming require students to take the test, and Arkansas pays for the ACT if districts want to offer it. The SAT has only Delaware, Idaho and Maine.
One of the measures of a high school's success is the college readiness of its graduates, so why not replace the state's HSPE with a test that's also required for college admission—the SAT or ACT? Or, if replacing HSPE is too big an idea for Olympia's small-thinkers, why not replace one of the many other tests—like the controversial MAP—with, say, PSAT and SAT tests? That way, teaching to the test would also help Washington's high schoolers get into the college of their choice by prepping them for one of these college entrance exams, while helping to close the opportunity gap by eliminating the cost of SAT/ACT testing and preparation for low-income families.
I dunno, just seems like a more efficient use of our students' time—and of scarce state education resources—than our current testing regime.
This summer, the Georgetown Public Policy Institute released a study (pdf here) with a surprising finding: During the recent recession years, new theater graduates have had lower rates of unemployment than their fellow arts grads: 6.4 percent compared to film/video/photography's 11.4 percent.
In fact, recent theater graduates had lower rates of unemployment than many of their fellow degree-holders in other, more "practical" fields: computer science (8.7 percent), information systems (14.7 percent), electrical engineering (7.6 percent), and business management (7.8 percent).
Show that to your parents when they tell you to major in something "real."
But here's the hitch—recent drama grads are more employed (more or less), but they're at the bottom of the earnings rankings, pulling in $25,000 a year.
Because even during recessions, restaurants run off the sweat of aspiring actors.