(This post is by Charlie Mas, a former candidate for Seattle School Board. More info on the school levy in the voters' guide.)

The Seattle School Board and the superintendent have cut school budgets to the bone while they have squandered millions on a bloated central administration and pet projects. Yes, a bloated central administration. Out of a budget of about $550 million, only $304 million funds schools, including teachers' salaries. They say that 80 percent of the budget goes to salaries—teachers and central administration—so you do the math yourself to see how much we're paying for central administration staff.

They are unresponsive to the community they are supposed to serve. They have made a series of disastrous decisions. After three years of talk about accountability that’s all we have—talk about accountability.

We need to vote NO on the supplemental levy to say no to their foolishness. While the District has been increasing class size and laying off school staff, it has been increasing the size of the central administration. While crying poor, officials have committed $700,000 to upgrading their web site. They have spent $750,000 to a consultant to help them pick novels for high school students, they have spent $2.2 million to teach small contractors how to bid on government jobs, they had to come up with $88,000 after botching a government grant request for the Indian education program, they are spending $800,000 to buy lesson plans for Cleveland High School, they spent millions to close seven schools and then, the next year, spent $50 million to re-open five schools—including three of the buildings they had just closed, and there is more—lots more.

Voting NO this time won’t hurt the kids. Usually district officials can cower behind a human shield of children to avoid accountability. Not this time. This supplemental levy will make little or no difference for students. This is, after all, only a 3 percent bump in the District’s budget. Moreover, the District has no plans to spend any of this money in a way that students will notice. Almost half is already contractually obligated. The Teachers Contract states if the levy passes, about $10 Million in raises and incentive pay goes into effect. Another $4 million will go into evaluating teachers using kids' test scores —in assessments that do not mean anything for kids and that they are increasingly balking at taking. A good chunk of that $4 million will fund new staff positions at headquarters, raises and merit pay, more standardized testing, and more staff downtown. Spending we know will not directly benefit kids.

Never mind the claims about how the rest of money will be spent; it will be spent in accordance with the District’s budget priorities, no matter what they promise you now. So, if you are happy with the priorities, if you are happy with the job the board and superintendent are doing, if you believe that the money will help kids, then vote YES.

But if you are tired of broken promises, if you are shocked at the level of incompetence and mismanagement at headquarters, suspicious of an administration that funds itself first, then you will be confident that the only way to affect change—long term and lasting change—is to vote NO.