Post Debate-'Em Depression


Goldy, seriously, what do you expect the Seattle School Board to do to increase state funding? They can lobby, but the Seattle legislators are not the problem and--you're right--eastern Washington legislators don't care about Seattle schools.
So, do you want to hear board candidates talk about bright hopeful pointless strategies to improve funding in Olympia, or more realistic discussions of what to do with the funds they have now? I would prefer the latter. The administration raise/layoff conversation was a good point to address, and there's plenty more budget to discuss.

There's also quite a lot of points beyond money. You're tired of debating issues and not talking about money? I'm tired of the idea that simply throwing enough money at the schools will fix everything.
It's what the schools do with the money that counts. For one example, Marty McLaren was right that the current math curricula are a detriment to fixing the achievement gap. Since the entire point of schools is to, oh, teach students, I don't think curriculum is a "little issue"

More money would help. Quite a lot. *IF* spent wisely.
@1: What I'd like is for the district to stop dividing communities, pit them against each other in a fight over dwindling resources, and instead try to unite them in an effort to demand Olympia send us the resources we need.

I'm certainly not suggesting that funding is the only issue. Just that it's the elephant in the room that is rarely discussed.
What "dwindling resources"? Inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending have not just grown steadily grown, but steadily skyrocketed, increasing by about a factor of four over the last fifty years.

The SPS website makes it very difficult to dig up historical budget numbers, but last time I went to the trouble, I found that, even in recent great recession years, while the SPS has wailed endlessly about "cuts", their total, real per pupil spending has never gone down. A recent, local newspaper article would seem to indicate that they are still on track to increase their total budget this year.

The "adequate basic education" argument has been made at least since the 1980s, when real, per-pupil spending was about half what it is now. To anyone who has been watching this argument play out that long, it's clear that advocates of increased education spending will never regard any amount as adequate -- they will always want more.

In the last comment thread, people pointed out a number of things we are spending more on: technology, busing, special education, lower-student teacher ratios, increased teacher compensation. All those are nice to have, but there is precious little evidence that they have done much to improve the academic skills of a typical high school graduate. So perhaps we should go back to buying the $6K education we did in, say, 1980, and then worry about how we can spend the $5K we have just freed up in ways that actually improve educational outcomes, or perhaps return it to the taxpayers if we can't find any such ways.
US schools, on the whole, are some of the best funded in the industrialized world. Money isn't the issue, at least in most places.
What @3 said. How can "our refusal as a nation and as a state to adequately fund public education" be "a problem that is so dauntingly big," when, as it's been pointed out, it's a "problem" that doesn't exist?

The problem with climate-change deniers is that they value ideology over objective evidence. The same phenomenon occurs regularly in Goldy's posts on education funding.
It is true that the District's annual budget has actually risen each of the past several years, even as they have kvetched about "cuts". The problem is that the spending is rising faster than the revenue.

Some of that spending is rising because teachers move up the ladder and earn higher salaries. I have no problem with that.

Much of that spending increase for the past three years has been for pet projects in the district headquarters. The District is pissing away millions on a student data warehouse. They are spending $700,000 to upgrade their web site, they are spending millions on the MAP assessment that doesn't do anyone any good and doesn't do what they bought it to do. They are buying brand-new Dell laptop computers (at about $1,000 each) for every student at STEM. They are spending $400,000 a year for software to support the project-based learning at STEM (while NOVA has done project-based learning for 30 years without any such software). Oh, and then there are the consultants. They spent over $750,000 on consultants to help them choose novels for high school students to read. They spent about $300,000 on public relations consultants.

Don't even get me started about the costs to close schools and then re-open them. Or the cost to build a brand-new tennis courts and softball diamonds one year and demolish them the next year - as they did at Sealth.

And all through all of this is the bloated central office staff. They love to claim that they trimmed it from 9% to 6%. Most of the savings came from re-categorizing the jobs from the Central Administration budget to the Teaching Support budget. Instead of cutting central administration they have added lots of new executives. There are two additional "C" level executives and an additional Executive Director of Schools.

The simple fact is that Seattle Public Schools needs to fully fund schools first and then, if there is any money left, fund the central office. The current School Board - and the four incumbents running for re-election in particular - are the ones responsible for pissing away a lot of taxpayer money with nothing to show for it.
Actually, the district's budgets - operations and capital - are nearly $1B. And yes, that's a lotta dough.

And yet we pay Board members $4800 a year. (Does that even cover gas and meals?) Most of them have refused the money for the last couple of years.

I think one of the issues that isn't understood is that districts are spending more and more money on testing and things like "data warehouses" to figure out what those assessments mean. They change curriculum often enough that it means more professional development for teachers - that costs money. Technology is such a double-edged sword because for the good it does, there is such a cost to maintaining it.

I would say the bigger issue than the funding is that what if money isn't enough?

At the Harlem Children's Zone, a well (and I mean well)-funded charter in NYC, they spend $23k PER student. It's a school with a lot of high needs kids and wrap-around services and yet, good results but for that money, you'd think great results.

We need to look in the mirror. Education cannot bear the burden of fixing what is wrong in society. Kids leave the school, walk home, past billboards and go home and turn on the tv or the computer. They see - in almost every single profile of Bill Gates - that he gets called a nerd or geek. They can see former president Bush saying he was a C student and became president. They can see teen moms getting to be on tv for being knocked up and, of course, there's Jackass where you can see dumbass behaviors of all kinds being celebrated.

Yes, I am going to blame the media (and parents) for the messages kids get every single day.

Why do Republicans say they care about education but if you work hard and get to Harvard or Stanford or Yale, you'd an elitist? Why are we living as though our mantra is "I don't know about too many things but I know what I know if you know what I mean."

Why do we put so much emphasis on arts and athletics in high school and yet, not so much celebration of the truly academically bright?

When did it stop being good to be smart?
Shanah tovah, Goldy -- you're the best blog writer in Seattle.
@1 to @8 ...


Or we could just get rid of all the Tax Giveaways to the Rich and Corporations that keep gobbling up more and more of The State Budget, and actually follow the State Constitution and initiatives that fund education.