Supplemental school levy would increase taxes to give school district employees bonuses and raises

October 20, 2010

This morning I was on a conference call with Our Schools Coalition and others to discuss Seattle’s new collective bargaining agreement with a national expert on these agreements, Ms. Emily Cohen of the National Council on Teacher Quality.  Her written analysis is available here. 

While Ms. Cohen indicated that Seattle’s new agreement is a step in the right direction, these steps appear to be very small ones. She said only 12% of Seattle’s teachers may be covered by the new teacher evaluations, that teachers will be measured for their ability to raise student learning against a relative, not absolute standard, and other problems.  She also pointed out that only principals at the lowest-performing schools, 17 out of 91, will have new authority to refuse the forced placement of a displaced (presumably low-performing) teacher to their school, leaving principals at 74 schools unable to refuse the forced placement of these teachers. 

Ms. Cohen’s comments and analysis make me skeptical that this agreement will raise teacher quality in the district. 

The real issue is money.  The leadership of the Seattle School District, Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and members of the Seattle School Board, are seeking voter approval of a $48 million supplemental levy to fund increases in pay to teachers in the new collective bargaining agreement. 

Ms. Cohen clearly stated that the important provisions in the new agreement are the new teacher evaluation and teacher assignment practices, not the bonuses. 

Yet Steve Sundquist, Seattle School Board Director, said taxpayers must pass a supplemental levy to fund the agreement.  He failed to mention that the district just received a $13.2 million federal TIF (Teacher Incentive Fund) grant to cover the cost of implementing the new teacher evaluation process and provide incentives for teachers to work in low-performing schools. 

If approved, this tax increase will be borne by Seattle residents, 8.5% of whom are unemployed.  The leadership in the district is completely out of touch with this reality when they ask Seattle residents to pay even higher taxes to increase teacher pay.  Teachers in Seattle are the highest paid in the state, at an average pay of  $70,850, plus benefits of 30%.  And they are fully employed, having so far been protected from layoffs by millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds. 


No More Money to mis-spend

The Seattle School District is awarding large contracts without competitive bidding. (in some cases illegally).

#1... Awarded on 2/3/10 and 4/7/10 an $800,000 contract with the New Tech Network for assistance in implementing Project Based Learning at Cleveland HS. The contract was eventually signed on May 20, 2010. The District violated laws governing competitive bidding by failing to follow district policies and procedures as well as state laws governing exemptions from competitive bidding.

#2... Over a two year span the District is spending millions on MAP testing from NWEA. Again this was done without competitive bidding. It must be mentioned that in almost every district in the country that has selected the MAP test it has been done without competitive bidding. In one location where it entered into a competitive bid process, MAP was not selected. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson dis not disclose she was a NWEA director, when all the commitments and contracts were signed the first year. She did disclose this prior to the second year renewal.

Now that the heat has been turned up with an Appeal of the July 2010 contract renewal and public records have been requested. She very recently resigned from the NWEA board of directors.

So the question is why would anyone vote for the third levy this year to give Dr. Goodloe-Johnson even more money to waste?


Key words from the article: (presumably low-performing)

There is little to show that Value Added Models, which NCTQ is pushing have much reliability or validity. The absolute faith that so many in the public seem to place on data no matter how it is collected and poorly analyzed is shocking.

I would urge anyone that accepts statements from NCTQ at face value on the rating of teachers from student tests to carefully examine research on Value Added Models. A good place to get a quick start would be the information provided by the SPS in the action report of 6/16/10 when the MAP test was introduced for approval. You can see the erratic test results from the SPS pilot year as students scores bounced all over the chart during the three testing times during the year. Most student's scores declined at the second testing of the year from the first.

STOP buying garbage for big money.

STOP believing in much of the nonsense being peddled by supposed education experts.

VOTE NO on Levy #3 of this calendar year.

Teachers say No to Levy

The Seattle Teacher's Union is officially pro-levy but I have yet to talk to an individual teacher who is. Not one appears enticed by a 1 percent pay raise. At a time of continued state funding shortfalls, their universal main concern seems to be a guarantee that SPS Central Administration funds core services and staffing and materials to classrooms vs. downtown strategic projects.  Teachers appear to be unconvinced that the superintendent's staff will guarantee this levy money would do so, pointing to a past-three-years pattern of her staff doing exactly the opposite.

Personally, I know many, many teachers voting "no" on the levy.

I also know many parents voting "no" on the levy as a referendum on the current superintendent's leadership. It appears to be the only lever to get the Alliance for Ed, other civic boosters, and the Board to see the deep discontent of parents with Maria Goodloe-Johnson's leadership style and priorities. A lot less emphasis on her National Ed Reform agenda (does a lot for her resume and not much for our kids) and a lot more emphasis on District fiscal prudence (currently abysmal), classroom resources (slashed in favor of rolling out a new standardized test), and community partnerships and participation in the classroom (virtually ignored by the superintendent) would turn opinons around. 

Til then, "no" on more funding.