McGinn wants to increase taxes in a recession, so he can double spending on a program his Office of Education reports is not helping children as promised
As a concerned parent of children in Seattle public schools, I see first hand the caring and professional way classroom teachers work to educate all their students. As a public policy researcher, what I see is a lack of resources and support in the classroom, compared to the District’s half-billion dollar annual budget. Seattle spends almost $13,000 a year per student, one of the highest levels in the country, yet only 59 cents of every education dollar reaches the classroom, and during layoffs union executives require the youngest and brightest teachers to be fired first.
When the first Families and Education Levy passed in 1990 supporters told the public it would help close the achievement gap and help more students finish school. Information from the Seattle Office of Education indicates the Families and Education Levy has failed to close the achievement gap, reporting in 2010 that “those gaps are as large as 50 percentage points,” and today 32% of Seattle students fail to graduate (in private schools the graduation rate is 90%).
After trying one approach for nearly 20 years some fresh ideas are needed – like easing centralized control and directing more support to classroom teachers, and pushing back on union limits so high-performing teachers are rewarded and retained. McGinn’s plan to raise people’s taxes will not improve learning for Seattle school children, but some creative thinking inside the education establishment might.
Here are some of the failures the city reports about past levy programs:
- “In 3rd grade, many students of color and those who qualify for free and reduced lunch are achieving reading proficiency at rates significantly below their peers.”
- “In math, similar patterns of the achievement gap are evident in 4th grade, and continue to grow as students get older.”
- “Level 1 math students are often two or more years behind grade level and lack basic math skills.”
- “There continues to be a gap in the rates of achievement for different student groups participating in Levy-funded programs.”
- Test results “demonstrate wide and persistent achievement gaps for many students of color and those who qualify for free and reduced lunch, those gaps are as large as 50 percentage points.”
(Source: Families and Education Levy Annual Report for the 2008-09 School Year, Office of Education, City of Seattle, January 2010.)
Here is some background information on how Seattle Public Schools operate:
- Seattle currently has 43,000 students attending 97 public schools. A further 20,000 students attend private schools.
- Seattle Schools has nearly 5,000 employees, or about one employee for every nine students.
- Only 42% of Seattle school employees are classroom teachers.
- Seattle teachers work hard and are well compensated. Average teacher salary with benefits is $70,850 for a ten-month year. During downsizing, union executive require the youngest teachers to be laid off first.
- Average administrator pay with benefits is $132,550.
- Local union executives receive about $4 million a year in education funding in the form of member dues.
- The Seattle School Board is spending $567 million in 2010 – 2011, or about $13,000 per student.
- The School Board is spending an additional $266 million on school buildings.
- The School Board does not allow parental choice in school assignments.
(Source: “Key Facts About Seattle Public Schools,” Washington Policy Center, January 2011.)