The Seattle Times offers this editorial to mark the passage of the Families and Education Levy: "School levy approval means accountability"
The headline itself is interesting, given that three other recent editorials informed us that this levy "is not a school levy" (here, here and here) More significantly, the editorial is absolutely wrong about this:
The levy is chock-full of measures that will track how the money is spent and whether it is doing any good. ... This is a dramatic shift from the past two seven-year levies when accountability was little more than a buzz word. There simply wasn't a strategy for guiding the levy dollars.As I've written in this space in the past, and as the Times' editorial board should be well aware, the levy initiative offers no meaningful changes in accountability. All this "chock-full of measures" describes only the campaign rhetoric of the people who had the opportunity to implement the same accountability measures under the previous levies, but simply chose not to do so. The Times does get this right about the earlier levies:
In some cases, administrators deemed a program successful merely because students showed up to participate. In one example, it was said two-thirds of those who attended a community-action camp "were more likely to play a leadership role at their school."Advantage: Sound Politics! This example was noted on our web site and was never reported in the press until I mentioned it in an interview with a Times reporter. The Times is correct to state that the levy "sorely needs" transparency and clarity. But the initiative itself doesn't provide that, so we can only hope that the people running the thing do provide it. The Times failed by not demanding higher standards of the initiative before the election. Now we're stuck paying for the thing for the next seven years whether or not the city officials exceed their track record and all expectations and manage the thing responsibly.
It remains up to the Times news staff, even more than the editorial page, to do a better job of reporting on the outcomes of the levy-funded programs whether successful or not. It would be a shame if in 2011 we're still having the same discussion about ineffective, unaccountable levy programs that the newspapers tell us we "have to renew" anyway because they're such an "essential investment in our children".Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at September 17, 2004 05:57 PM | Email This