The Stranger released their general election endorsements recently. Generally, I'm in agreement. Obviously I very much disagree with one of their endorsements. I would posit that there may have been a lack of consistency in reasoning in some spots. I also thought they might look south to Burien, but maybe it's for the best that they didn't (Twitter tells me one of the conservatives are attacking the liberal slate because of Sydney Brownstone...which is interesting...)
But there was this one line - a flippant remark? - that stood out.
There is no doubt that there are issues with the school board - and I'll get into that - but having the mayor appoint the school board members, and the city take over the school district, is a horrible idea. While there would be folks who would work to hold the mayor "accountable" for failures of the district and board, there are many more who wouldn't care enough to have that be the issue that pushes them to vote out a mayor.
However, there is a significant issue with school boards broadly in Seattle (and across Washington). Most notably: elected school boards are essentially volunteer positions expected to engage as full-on legislators. Because of this, there is a necessary limitation on who can run. There is a requirement of some privilege of sorts - healthy income, flexible job, being retired - that generally is required. There are definitely some folks who do a phenomenal job and don't fall into one of these privilege boxes, but generally this is the system we have.
How the city could be a better partner without trying to take over the school district: Pick up the tab of actually paying our school board members. Tie salaries to the salary of state legislators (much like the Port of Seattle does), and add in some funding for a few legislative aides to provide support to a part-time, paid school board. The overall cost, doing some back of the napkin math, would come out to $500k -$750k.
Some perspective: the total budget is something like $6,000,000,000.00. I'm pretty sure we could absorb this cost into the city, and not set up a situation where the district has to cut more from classrooms. By doing so, we can also let our kids know that we think the policy makers impacting their curriculum and working to improve public education are just as important as state legislators and city council members. (as an aside, Sen. Reuven Carlyle has proposed legislation that would do this at the state level with state funding - tell your legislators you support the Carlyle plan!)
Ultimately, this would allow our school board members to spend more time diving into policy and curriculum, and have independent support from the administration to help analyze and identify positives and negatives around new ideas, and whether to keep old practices. As a general principle, this is the way our legislative branch should be able to govern. Particularly in light of the unique challenges facing Seattle Public Schools, it is an opportunity for the City to not come in and tell the district what to do, but instead be a partner for more sustainability in our school boards.
Speaking of school boards - and innovation, charter schools, politicians who blatantly lie, and so on...
I have some thoughts on that, too. And will be back this week to suss them out.