February 05, 2007
My endorsement: No on Seattle School Levies
Seattle School District residents vote on two levies tomorrow --
A 6-year $490 million capital levy and a 3-year $397 million operations levy.
Melissa Westbrook, a longtime schools supporter and member of the closure advisory committee wrote a position paper explaining her opposition to the capital levy (but not the operations levy).
I'm voting NO on both levies for a very simple reason. The school district is in crisis, and the only foreseeable spur for meaningful change is a cataclysmic event such as a levy defeat. And meanwhile, "for the children" rhetoric or not, the grown-ups running the School District haven't convinced me they'll do a particularly good job of spending my money.
Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at February 05, 2007
10:16 AM | Email This
1. That's really dumb rationale, Stefan.
There is a huge levy for the Snoqualmie schools tomorrow as well. We need space for the hundreds of children that have come to the area thanks to the Snoqualmie Ridge development.
I'm voting no, I hold King County and Quadrant responsible for creating this problem, Quadrant shouldn't have been allowed to build all of those new homes without providing a funding mechanism for the additional education overhead they created. Quadrant made millions in profits, and now all of the residents of the valley have to subsidize their profits by paying hundreds of additional dollars every year for the next twenty years to build infrastructure they should have funded.
To the Snoqualmie Valley Schools, you should go after Quadrant for this additional funding. When the rural land owners can't build on their property to protect the rural environment the urbanites love to drive through at 70mph, but Quadrant (Weyerhaeuser) can make other Sno-Valley residents subsidize their profits, we have a problem. So I'm voting against the levy, and I encourage others to do the same.
As a person who wants to see government operate more efficiently, I ask, "why is that dumb rationale"?
Sometimes bad things have to have a catalyst happen before things get better, evan.
Other than doing the Gary Locke method of management, why does throwing money on a burning fire translate in helping the kids?
4. Dan - blaming Quadrant is not where the blame lies. It is the government trying to make a private company the bad guy in this. Ask government what they plan on doing with the massive increase in property taxes they are now getting due to all the massive increase in property values (undeveloped land to occupied houses). Doesn't that money pay for the additional services? Quadrant already paid by installing infrastructure the government is expected to provide - streets, sewage, water, etc. (depending on district).
5. Reluctantly, agree. The institutional structure is ineffective and giving more money is continuing the harm. The elites and those in power will never consider competition in education unless they are forced to. Now, having said that, people are under an ethical obligation to help those who want to get out of the public schools, particularly the low income find a way out.
Dan @ 2:
That a housing developer is responsible for funding schools is crazy. They made profit so it needs to be confiscated or trimmed? That's Hillary Clinton talk. Maybe we should see how much you make in a year and adjust it to what WE think it should be and give the remainder to the school district.
The reality is that each one of those homes paid thousands and thousands in user fees and taxes when built. As soon as they were sold they were assessed and paid thousands in taxes to do exactly what you want, build/maintain schools.
The truth is that school monopolies just don't work. They don't have to, it's not their money and they can always invent another funding crisis, or, or ,or to explain away their miserable performance.
I'm certainly not anti-business, and if the Snoqualmie school board didn't take steps to have Quadrant and other builders in Snoqualmie Ridge mitigate the impact of close to 1000 new students, then shame on them.
But come on, I have 990 square feet, I'll pay more than $3000.00 a year in property taxes, more than principle on my mortgage, and a good portion of that will be to buy a building where these newcomers to the valley can educate their children.
Don't get me started on the relationship between government and increased property values. Thanks to GMA, the supply of housing is artificially limited, therefore the supply to demand ratio creates high market prices for homes. The government assesses property taxes based on value, and therefore has a basic interest in making sure the property they have the authority to tax supports the highest possible values.
In other words, policies that create artificially high property values directly benifit the government charged with setting those policies. That sounds shady to me.
The Army Corps of Engineers recently reported that many levees around the country, with some of the worst in King County, are eroding and on the brink of collapse due to poor management and maintenance.
Interesting how water leeves and school levies are influenced by poor mamangement.
Dan - assuming that there is on average only one child per house, my guess that is high, that is 1,000 new house. Also assume they are paying what you are, which has got to be low, then they are taking in an additional three million per year. I find it hard to imagine how that can't pay for the schools.
This all goes along with your, I feel, correct analysis of the government effecting prices.
G@6 Hillary, wow. That hurts man.
Let me be clear, Quadrant should have had to pay the costs associated with the impact brought by adding thousands of new homes to the district.
While it's too late now, I'm actually against retroactive legislation, the home buyers, who pay EVERY cost associated with the development and purchase of a home, would have had the cost passed on to them in the purchase price, so they'd be paying the majority of the increased cost brought by their moving to the district.
As I said in 7, the school board should have been involved from the start and should have worked with the County issuing the permits to make sure this cost was addressed.
And yes, vouchers would make this whole topic obsolete, private businesses could provide the infrastructure, curriculum, and staff to educate all of Washington's Children for less than we spend today without capital improvement levies.
seattle school levies. Katrina. same thing. tons of money thrown at it. very little EFFECTIVELY used. much wasted. politicians/school officials blaming everyone but themselves & scared about looking bad. not their $$, so who's accountable?!
the antithesis of the Average Joe's everyday home budget & checkbook/home chores management systems. no one would tolerate such REPEATED failures in their own homes, unless they're deadbeats. no objectives met? no money? who does this at home? losers, that's who.
efficient spending & performance audits for schools NOW--not sexy, but effective. fire the incompetent. reward the efficient. cut the mid-level administrators who are not adding to the solutions via their salaries & work/ideas.
Dan - Quadrant has/does pay School impact fees of over $3000 per home. They also have to pay for a lot of the roads/sewer/etc cost of their developments as well. But for schools, do the math - 4000 new homes in Snoq Ridge is just $12M over 14 years (1998 thru Phase 2 build out in 2012). That'll build maybe half an elementary school building. Now where do the other 5000 new kids go?
In WA, school districts have no legal authority to levy any fees from developers. Only cities & counties can do that, on behalf of school districts. And they do, thus the $3000/home rate above. Good luck getting Quadrant or any other sane company to voluntarily pay more than they are required to by law.
However large the impact fees - it's naiive to think these fees will somehow come out of Quadrants profits. All companies pass on their costs to their customers to the extent they can get away with it. As long as there's housing demand, home buyers are the ones paying these fees.
Dan@10, if "home buyers ... would have had the cost passed on to them in the purchase price", then the developer is too stupid to price his product based on market demand. Do you have such little confidence in free market economics? Geez, I though the one clear benefit of Republicans was that they understood Econ 101.
Jimmie@11, having seen the contents of shopping carts at Costco an hour ago, I question your statement that people spend their money much more wisely than the government. Of course people have the right to spend their money however they want (OK, I admit, I bought expensive out-of-season blueberries), and govt has an obligation to be more careful. But still, I'd trust the (imperfect) school district over the average taxpayer to spend my dollars wisely.
14. Radar, doesn't Quadrant charge as much as the market will bear for their homes? If so, how would developer fees change what the market will bear? (Unless, of course, they were so high as to make it unprofitable to build there.)
15. Bruce @ 14 - certainly Quadrant charges what the market will bear for home prices. My point is that impact fees - along with other taxes, fees, permits, land, materials, and labor - are all just part of Quadrant's cost to build that home. As long as there's strong demand for Quadrant's homes, they can raise their prices to cover their cost increases, and the market will "bear" it.
I was just up that way and was blown away at the development.
Obviously, these kids need to school somewhere.
Temporary fix - lease a chunk of one of the many biz parks along I-90. cube it off with classrooms, lunchroom, small gym, lease a chunk of parking lot for a yard and to drop portables in place. Collectively save tax revenues for a fancy overpriced school a few years down the road. Last I checked, fancier school doesn't equate to better education.
When I was involved with the Snoqualmie Ridge project about 20 years ago, sites for new schools were located. Also, under State funding, the timber revenues are supposed to pay for most of that new construction.
Ergo, incompetent and greedy school officials have all gold-plated their new schools with all of the best stuff. Why not? The State pays from something like 85%. What is wrong with a modest new school?
With declining timber revenues, the costs of new construction is being borne more by the districts. But they still get timber revenues.
Cut the gold-plating and rethink whether you need a 10 million or more performing art center and state of the art kitchen.
swatter - you're referring to the State's Construction Assistance Program for schools. It may have been the case 20 or more years ago that the state intended the timber trust revenue to pay 85% of school construction costs. The reality today is this program now consists of a small "matching grant" program, funded at less than $300M per year, spread across all 296 school districts in the state. The timber revenues have declined, while building costs have soared. The "poorer" your school district (total assessed value) the more of this small pot you qualify for. Our comparatively "rich" school districts in Puget Sound area get very little of this state money.
Radar@15, you are confused about how markets work. If Quadrant is a rational company, it is already charging the maximum it can in order to sell the number of houses it can build. This is based on the supply and demand of houses in the market -- not by its building costs. If it could "pass on" costs of (say) $3000 a house and still sell all the houses, it would have done so already even if it didn't have those costs. That's what market pricing means.
There is a limit to this behavior. If costs rose so high that houses could not be built and sold at a profit competitive with alternative investments, Quadrant would not build here. And if costs rose throughout the region, lots of developers would stop building until demand rose and drove up prices. But I don't believe that's the situation here.
your personal Costco observation link with school spending is about as valid as comparing a waxed downhill ski to ice skating with mountain crampons.
People shopping at Costco are presumably getting more for their dollar, know that, and know of their per-unit savings. In short, the consumer is excercising informed, VOLUNTARY buying power.
Yes, they have freedom to buy junk or whatever, but bottom line is:
1--they have many more choices (how about school vouchers?)
2--they are getting perceived value for their dollar (how about school bureaucracies?)
3--they are shopping at a place that is basic & effective without tons of extra workers, unions & overhead.
4--no politics, diversity or other silly things involved--just cash freely exchanging for services or goods.
5--the COstco workers are more easily fired, replaced or promoted for their results, not their mere tenure or current p.c. status.
6--if shoppers complain, Costco customer service will likely respond & MUTUALLY RESOLVE the issue and be HELD to that resolution & decisions by their bosses.
21. Jimmie- I wasn't picking on Costco; it should have been clear that I shop voluntarily at this fine, Democrat-supporting company. But consumers often choose to spend money there on impulse purposes that might not reflect their finest judgment.
I've agreed with you twice, once last year and this time as well.
"But consumers often choose to spend money there on impulse purposes that might not reflect their finest judgment."
This is precisely the reason that both levies should be defeated. The insitutional structure is failing to educate most children to the standard of basic education specified in the RCW. The only way to get real change is to cut off the dollars.
Resist the impulse, just say no.
I'll probably agree with you again next year.
WVH, are you saying that if my kids are starving, I should "resist the impulse" to buy them food so the neighbors will get really worried and send them off to a charter family?
If you're not happy with the schools, elect a new school board. Heck, run for the school board. But only contorted logic would try to improve the schools by starving them to death. I hope you're not a doctor.
I said the institutional structure does not work. You are still focused on the district with a school board model. That insitutional structure does not work. A new school board is like putting new deck chairs on the Titanic. I came to the decision that in order to get any type of competition in education the powers that be will have to be forced into the decision. People that can are already leaving. In order to have a viable public education system, the current structure will have to be replaced. I came to my decision and I have already voted no by absentee after the school counsel selected the ballot writer for the no position. I feel badly about probably never again voting for a school levy until there is instituional change, but there it is. We need a lawsuit like that in New Jersey where parents of children in failing schools sue to force competition in public schools. Vote no or as the secular progressives say vote early and often.
Oh, by the way. I am a Dr. This solution is a form of triage. In order to save public education in the long run, drastic steps need to be taken now.
Dr. WVH: It is cynical and counterproductive to try to improve schools by destroying them. We should make public policy decisions within the framework that exists, not the framework we dream may exist someday on some faraway planet. If you really believe that you have a better model, try to sell it on its merits; if things are so bad, surely people will buy it. And if they won't buy it, will they cut taxes, wonder why the schools are so bad, and only then vote for your model? Do you think voters are that stupid?
Now of course if you think the levies are not a good use of your tax dollars, don't vote for them. But don't expect making schools worse to do anything except hurt our city's competitiveness and our childrens' future.
27. WVH, your analogy to triage is 180 degrees backward. Triage involves using limited resources to do as much good as possible immediately. If the problem is a sick public education system, triage means spending money now where it will do the most good. Deliberately adding to the injury in hopes of angering the voters is the opposite of triage -- and will just result in people turning against the doctor.
Spending more money on a failed insitutional structure reminds me of that old movie the money pit about trying to re-hab a house. I have actually studied school systems. I have a lot of respect for a couple of the current school board members. I think they are caring and hard working. A failed instutional structure is like asking the old communist system to produce consumer goods for the majority of its citizens.
In today's Seattle Times, an article about the rise in the number of tutors:
The current insitutional structure because it is a monopoly is incapable of delivering a good basic education as defined by the RCW to a majority of its students. More money will be sucked up by the structure and not be used to produce results. Force change. Vote no.
Oh, I believe a competitive model is the way to go. People will vote their conscience on this one. I have. You are right, people are not stupid and my opinion is just one of many. Who knows, people might think that you are right and the levies might pass with a huge majority. I know that I won't be voting yes on another levy until there is institutional change.
30. WVH- We've beat that horse dead in comments #21-29, but I have another question. I think you're saying that cutting spending will make schools so bad that people will demand a new model -- i.e., money matters. But you also oppose the levies because increasing spending won't improve the schools -- i.e., money doesn't matter. Which is it? Does money matter in the schools (within the existing system), or not?
1. More money is not going to help this institutional stucture. Vote no on both levies.
2. The question which no has answered because every one has focused on the current institutional structure is this: Given the money currently in the system, can the current dollars be spent in a manner to produce better results? I believe in a previous thread there was someone from the Evergreen Foundation and also another poster which quoted a figure of how much was available for the typical class of students given the state allocation. Can this money be spent in a competitive education model and get better results? You want the answer to be we need more money because you are tied to the current institutional structure, secular progressive that you are. What is it that some parochial and private schools are doing better with fewer dollars? Are there other models that are better?
You might as well try to convince other voters, this voter will not support more money for the current institutional structure. I will be voting no on levies.
"The only way to get real change is to cut off the dollars", gee WVH, now I finally understand where Dennis Kookynich, Russ Feingold, and company come from. Pure unadultered hatred of anything war related has led those pacifists to use that same logic and apply it to the war on terrorism.
Now add WVH and Stefan to the likes of those people who have such an irrational dislike for public education that the only possible solution is to cut off funding for it...nice.
Perhaps if you boys stopped spending all your time arguing back-and-forth online and went out and did something to help your community (like, say, volunteering in a school), the education system would be better off.
My generation (and generations past) was educated perfectly well in schools that were funded the same way they are today. Ever stop to consider that the funding mechanism (and/or administration) is not the problem?
We ask a lot more from our schools now than we used to. We ask them not just to educate but to do many of the things parents used to do but now don't have the time or energy for. The kids in our schools today are less prepared to learn than in years past: they are undernourished, over-stimulated with video games and television and sugar. Look at the huge numbers of kids with learning disabilities and ADHD. How is a kid like that supposed to learn? How is a school with limited resources supposed to deal with those kinds of problems? A modern school is a different animal because society is different.
I'm so tired of people that sit back and complain and argue but never do anything to help, or propose constructive solutions. Being a critic is easy. Solving problems is hard. I invite you to put your "money" where your mouth is, turn off your computer and give us the benefit of your ideas in a forum where it will actually make a difference.
Doug and Libertine,
"Now add WVH and Stefan to the likes of those people who have such an irrational dislike for public education that the only possible solution is to cut off funding for it...nice."
Nice try, but I believe that a strong public system of schools is necessary for this democracy and a strong economy. Third world countries often do not have any system of public education. Unfortunately, because I have reached the point that in order to save public schools we have to destroy the current institutional structure. I have worked on many levies in my past. This is the first time in my life that I have not supported a levy. More money is not going to enable the current institutional structure to educate most children to a standard of basic education. Sorry, that you aren't getting what you want. Many secular progressives hurl insults when people leave the plantation.
Now, regarding children not being ready for school. Libertine, I agree with you. Blacks have been the largest experiment which show the absolute failure and bankruptcy of secular progressive policies. Star Jones over at Townhall writes on this subject. A couple of comments:
1. Destroy the family and you have trouble. Many children have unstable family situations. It used to be, get married and then have the child. Now it is get hooked-up, become a finacee and maybe get married and married or maybe just a series of hook-ups. Children don't have family stability. Case in point - the nine year old in Tacoma who stole the car and headed for a male figure in Houston, his grandfather. His brain dead mother has four children and no committed partner to help raise the children.
2. Create generational economic dependence.
3. This last issue is complicated because of the First Amendment, but a lot of mainstream corporations support hip hop culture. If I wanted to design an instrument of genocide other than mass killing, it would be hip hop culture.
Neither of you are correct, I support an effective public education system which gives all children a chance for a good basic education. The current institutional structure will not do that. I left the planatation, hurl away at the insults. After all, Boxer and Connolly of the PI are great at it. I know what the secular progressive ideology has done to my community. Blacks are the canaries in the mineshaft and we are dying.
Solutions have been put forward to change the system - charter schools and vouchers. But anything that changes the power of the WEA is routinely pounced on. What are they afraid of? Parents making decisions for their children and taking that away from the rightful place for those decisions?
And as far as "Look at the huge numbers of kids with learning disabilities and ADHD." That, with all due respect, is a crock. These "diseases" are not new and suddenly in epidemic form. These are made up problems by psychiatrists, pushed on by drug companies - follow the money
These drugs are addictive mind altering drugs with the highest restrictions category by the FDA.
Very sad to see you write this Stefan.
Your "send them a message" suggestion is all well and good...but if successful, it leaves our kids even further behind.
And that puts our city further behind. And so it goes.
Here's hoping citizens have the ability to see through your message-sending feel-good idea -- thereby preventing a disaster for the kids in Seattle schools.
yes @ 35 and all of Dr wvh--
problem is, there are only 1-2 loaves of bread to choose on the shelf. like the Soviet system. can't turn a loaded oceangoing vellel on a dime nor stop a train on a dime. that's why we need a new bakery or baker. the current one is staffed with too many cooks (administrators).
and 36-this is not like pulling a plug in the ICU causing "devastation" to children. this is more akin to the PT therapist who, despite cries of pain and challenge by the patient, prods him to move on and cure himself for the benefit of all--self & society.
No, it's 25% of the school budget. Gone. Teachers, books, etc. Classes of 45. School days cut.
Yeah, PT analogy. 25% of the operations budget disappears -- while 80+% goes to teacher salaries. You do the math. PT, right.
WVH, Secular Progressive I am NOT. In fact I am a card carrying member of the Right To Life foundation, been a delegate to the state republican convention, am first and foremost an evangelical Christian.
I just happen to believe that public education can work if the right people are running it, as I have personally witnessed a huge change in the successes of some smaller school districts. Hence, I also have volunteered my time as a school board member to ensure my local school district doesn't waste the money it gets. I would NEVER volunteer my time to be on a levy committee (socialists one and all), however, I feel it is a higher responsibility to ensure the proper use of those levy dollars, and will personally vote for M&O levies as I see fit.
I just believe yours is an offensive, lazy, French-like retreatist reason to not vote for a levy. I would honor anybody's reasoning to not vote for an M&O levy if it weren't so absurd.
I'll give you an example: We live in a small rural district. This district gets more money in sales tax revenue from the state than it pays the state. It makes sense for people in our district to support funding education through state sales tax rather than property tax. If someone in our district says they believe that if we continuously fail our property tax levy then the legislature would do their duty and pay a higher portion of school costs from sales tax...then I can respect that.
What really irks me as a rural property owner is that it is YOUR school district that is going to be the cause for the supermajority requirement to be reduced to 50%. It is so hard to pass the levies in Puget Sound, that they can't run levies at the maximum allowable rate. Additionally, then your state rep's now feel that they need to make it easier to pass levies because of people like you. Therefore the rest of us will have to deal with a 50% requirement instead of a supermajority (sometime soon I imagine).
Then the state legislature will determine that the schools should get more of their finances from local property taxes and less from the state. That will free up the legislature to spend it's money on social programs of less importance than education. And rural districts like ours will be left in the cold because all of a sudden the wealthier districts like yours will easily pass huge levies, even extra levies allowing for housing allowances for teachers. All our good teachers will head to the bright lights...
Doug: "I just happen to believe that public education can work if the right people are running it"
To me that equates with the belief that Communism can work if the right people are running it.
41. like, say, volunteering in a school
Reminds me of the current TV ads being run by a mattress vendor: "Come on down folks and donate shoes for foster kids."
Maybe the ad should include a disclaimer: "Folks, since you'll feel all warm and fuzzy giving those shoes you don't need to stop, think and ask: Aren't these kids already getting shoes provided by tax-funded foster programs?"
Guess the mattress vendor is like WEA, Olympia, and school boards when it comes to disclaimers.
"I have personally witnessed a huge change in the successes of some smaller school districts. Hence, I also have volunteered my time as a school board member to ensure my local school district doesn't waste the money it gets."
I guess you really want to call me an offensive lazy Black, was French convenient? That aside, you have made my point. You refer to smaller school districts, that is what school choice replicates most often in the form of neighborhood schools that serve the particular population of children that attend. School choice allows solutions to be tailored to the population of kids. breaking up the current monopoly and de-regulating allowing for innovate solutions is part of choice.
Your second point is about vounteering, people in the neighborhood are more likely to volunteer in their own neighborhoods.
There is quite a difference in the rural school district you describe and an urban school district serving many complex needs. The buzz word is "disproportionality" meaning that low income kids and children of color are doing worse than majority kids. The question for people interested in educating all children is whether this institutional structure will ever educate all children giving them a good basic education.
My research indicates that the only way to achieve this is through competition in education. Supporting the status quo will not get rid of the monopoly in education.
My analysis is giving the "leaders" more money is not going to change things and in the long run will end up destroying public education. I absolutely support an effective system of public education.