So evidently the most common argument at tonight’s school-shutting board meeting was that they just didn’t have any other options. It was either shut down schools or lay off teachers.
But the amazing thing to me is that if the school’s budget deficit is the real problem here, why wasn’t their first option to try and raise some revenue? I’ve lived in Seattle for 11 years now, and I don’t remember a single time that we’ve ever turned down a school levy. Do you know how much additional tax it would be on a $400,000 house to cover the $4 million savings that will supposedly be achieved by closing all of these schools? $12. A year.
We just approved a tax increase of several times that to fix Pike Place Market.
Oh I know, it’s not just the cost savings. It’s also about the shamefully underutilized facilities in some parts of the district. Evidently the key to a good education is to have a laser-like focus on maximizing the number of pupils per square foot of space. Those parents that choose private schools because they’ve got smaller classes, in smaller facilities, with fewer total kids in the school? Totally irrelevant. Seattle Public Schools will win them back with spreadsheets that show how Leschi elementary is now efficiently packed full of students. And the possibility that we’ll soon see more growth as density and new families move into the area? No forward-looking analysis allowed.
And of course reason #74 is that it’s also all about the poor quality of the school buildings. But I still fail to understand how we could have approved so many school capital improvement levies over the years but have none of that go towards the basic maintenance of one of our neighborhood elementary schools. So school administrators make a long series of decisions to not invest in TT Minor, and then use that as one of their reasons to shut it down.
I could probably understand if we had just turned down a school levy in November and that left the school district with no other choice than to close some schools. But they never even tried. Administrators come out with a plan to save a few million by shutting down some schools, and just months later our elected school board rubber stamps it.
Maybe some day we’ll get some school leaders who put education first and fight to fund it right, and shut down schools in other people’s neighborhoods only as a very last resort.