Seattle Hall Pass Podcast

E4 - Closures Loom Amid Budget Deficits

September 23, 2023 Christie Robertson & Jane Tunks Demel Season 1 Episode 4
E4 - Closures Loom Amid Budget Deficits
Seattle Hall Pass Podcast
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Seattle Hall Pass Podcast
E4 - Closures Loom Amid Budget Deficits
Sep 23, 2023 Season 1 Episode 4
Christie Robertson & Jane Tunks Demel

In this episode of Seattle Hall Pass, we cover the first budget work session of the year. Christie and Jane talk about the new Deputy Superintendent Art Jarvis, projected budget deficits, school closures and consolidations, and a proposed new financial policy.

For sources on the facts cited in the podcast, see our show notes here.

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Music by Sarah, the Illstrumentalist, logo by Carmen Lau-Woo.
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode of Seattle Hall Pass, we cover the first budget work session of the year. Christie and Jane talk about the new Deputy Superintendent Art Jarvis, projected budget deficits, school closures and consolidations, and a proposed new financial policy.

For sources on the facts cited in the podcast, see our show notes here.

Support the Show.

Music by Sarah, the Illstrumentalist, logo by Carmen Lau-Woo.
Sign up for our newsletter

[00:00:00] Christie Robertson: Welcome to the Seattle Hall Pass podcast, bringing you news and conversations about Seattle Public Schools. This week, we're reporting on the budget work session on September 20th. 

My name is Christie Robertson.

[00:00:13] Jane Tunks Demel: And I'm Jane Tunks Demel. 

This meeting was the first in a series of budget sessions for what is sure to be a very difficult year ahead. The school district needs to figure out how they're going to cut $104 million for the 24-25 school year.

To balance the budget for the 23-24 school year that we're currently in, they made deep cuts in the Central Office and they also used all of the Economic Stabilization Fund, otherwise known as a rainy-day fund, and that was $42.2 million. So that means for next year, they don't have any of that to draw from. And in fact, they have to start replenishing it.

Superintendent Jones set the scene.

[00:00:50] Brent Jones, Superintendent: And so uh, for 24-25, we are looking at — and we'll see slides later on in the presentation — we're looking at a $105 million challenge in front of us. 

Last year we got through the $131 million challenge. This year, we have a $105 million challenge. And we did, I think we did great work together to get to the $131 million. Now we are challenged once again for one more year. 

And so the bright years are 25-26, though. That's where we think we'll have a smaller deficit, but something that's going to be manageable.

[00:01:28] Christie Robertson: And by challenge, he means budget deficit. Just to be clear. 

[00:01:33] Jane Tunks Demel: Incredibly, this is just the beginning of a multiyear process for the district. The last few years, they plugged budget holes with one-time funds from various sources, and a lot of them were related to the pandemic and pandemic recovery. 

One of them was ESSER, the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. 

And then also the state gave one-time funds to maintain the money they were giving the school districts even though there was declining enrollment .

[00:02:01] Christie Robertson: And here's what Superintendent Jones had to say about that.

[00:02:05] Brent Jones, Superintendent: We've historically been able to use one-time funds to be able to plug those gaps. Last year, we had $81 million in terms of funding to be able to plug those gaps. But now the ESSER money is gone. The hold harmless enrollment money is gone. The transportation hold harmless money is gone. While we receive some money — we're grateful for special education — it's still not enough. And so we are now tasked with the second year of doing what we need to do to reconcile a structural budget deficit 

[00:02:42] Jane Tunks Demel: This year they're starting the budget process earlier because they realize they have systemic and structural budget problems and they need to find solutions instead of just keep going from year to year.

[00:02:55] Christie Robertson: This also gave them the opportunity to have this framing conversation first. 

[00:03:01] Jane Tunks Demel: So after Fred Podesta and Superintendent Jones talked a little bit about multiyear planning, they asked the board for their reflections. And here's what Director Song said. 

[00:03:11] Vivian Song, School Board Director: I would like to see the options so that we can weigh them against each other and make sure that we're prioritizing and understanding what the full value of some of our choices are. And I think that is the advantage of starting earlier. We can see the choices that we have, and we can really, as board directors, take the time to engage community about which of these are the trade-offs that we will — if we have a limited set of resources — what are the trade-offs and what should we be prioritizing?

[00:03:38] Jane Tunks Demel: And then Director Harris chimed in 

[00:03:41] Leslie Harris, School Board Director: I was surprised not to see spreadsheets as part of this package. Seeing numbers, seeing the reality of the numbers — and tracking those numbers. For each budget work session, I think is wholly appropriate, if not mandatory.

[00:04:00] Jane Tunks Demel: Director Rankin thinks the budget should tell the story about the district 

[00:04:04] Liza Rankin, School Board Vice President: The budget should tell the story of what is happening in our district to support kids in a different way than other things tell that same story. But our direction to you for the budget — if we're doing our job, you should have some pretty clear direction based on our priorities in policy and in our goals and guardrails for what will and won't be acceptable to us. And what different choices there might be within the boundaries of what we've already directed. 

[00:04:37] Christie Robertson: So there were a few staff that Superintendent Jones brought with him to talk about the budget. Bev Redmond probably many folks know from the Well-Resourced Schools conversations. Her title is Chief of Staff. Fred Podesta is a longtime operations administrator whose current title is Chief Operations Officer. Kurt Buttleman is new. He is the Assistant Superintendent of Finance. And then there's Art Jarvis who, whose title is Deputy Superintendent. 

[00:05:10] Art Jarvis, Deputy Superintendent: Art Jarvis, Deputy Superintendent.

[00:05:14] Christie Robertson: And so who is this Art Jarvis person? Tell me about him.

[00:05:17] Jane Tunks Demel: He's actually worked for the district before. He was a CFO at Seattle Public Schools in 2007. He was also interim superintendent in the Shelton, Renton, and Peninsula school districts. 

And most recently, he was Interim Bellevue Superintendent. Under his leadership there, two schools closed. 

And he was Tacoma Superintendent in 2011. There he also oversaw two schools that were closed. They had wanted to close four schools, but then after community outcry, they limited it to two schools. 

So he's done this before. 

He knows policy inside out and state laws. He's probably a huge asset for Seattle Public Schools during this tough time. But it definitely feels like they're bringing him in to do the hard work. 

He's almost like the Harvey Keitel character in Pulp Fiction, the Wolf. He comes in and he says he solves problems and he basically cleans up a huge mess.

[00:06:15] Christie Robertson: We maybe need to put a picture of Art Jarvis in the notes because if he shows up at your small school, be very afraid. 

[00:06:25] Art Jarvis, Deputy Superintendent: The little school I was at this afternoon is just the reality is, they cannot be sustained the way they are. But they will tell you with every ounce of their belief, how good they are and what a service they're providing the kids. 

[00:06:40] Jane Tunks Demel: So anyway Art Jarvis is a consummate professional and he somehow struck a reassuring tone with his real talk about making $100 million-plus  cuts and closing schools. He almost made it seem like it was a positive thing to do this. It was kind of a rah-rah session. Like, "Hey guys, this is a really tough thing we have to do, but we can do it."

[00:07:00] Art Jarvis, Deputy Superintendent: And as we look ahead, Seattle Public Schools has every ability to continue to be the lighthouse, to continue to lead, continue to do things. We have partners in our community and our city that will join us, and in many ways. Not if we go to them and say, "Hey, we have a problem," we put our hand out, and we ask for more money. But instead, if we describe to them the places we want to go. And whether that's a digital world, whether that's a world of artificial intelligence, whether it's a world of aerospace and space, whether that's a world of art, music, et cetera, et cetera. 

[00:07:39] Christie Robertson: And I'm sure it might even help get more funding if you're saying, "Look, we made these hard cuts."

[00:07:46] Jane Tunks Demel: And he also had a couple of mantras that he shared with the board and here they are. 

[00:07:51] Art Jarvis, Deputy Superintendent: A quote that I bumped into just a couple days ago, and it is "Reality is our source material."

[00:08:01] Brent Jones, Superintendent: Mmm. 

[00:08:02] Art Jarvis, Deputy Superintendent: In this case, the reality is what we're talking about  a major problem the likes of which we haven't seen in quite some time. 

I would add a mantra that I guess that I've used over the years. And that's the acknowledgement that we have about 15 seconds to admire the problem. And then it's ours. And then our job is to try to come up with solutions. 

To try to describe for just a minute what we're trying to do in this process is a very difficult part. But maybe the simplest part to understand is: What do we have to remove from our expenditures in order to balance a budget? When we finish. we have to be in a better place than we are today. To match the funding system of the state of Washington, the resources of the Seattle Public Schools, with the program that we run. 

[00:09:07] Jane Tunks Demel: And then he laid out the case against small schools. 

[00:09:11] Art Jarvis, Deputy Superintendent: A quick downside, if it's, if I may mention it, of the school's getting smaller and smaller at the elementary level, is that the only way you can really do that under the current funding system is to start cutting the support systems in that school. You can retain eventually, some students, some teachers, a principal, and run the school and provide heat. But you've started to shave everything from wellness counselors, service for kids who are marginalized, service for kids who have academic needs, et cetera. 

[00:09:49] Christie Robertson: Here's where I have to add the context that I have an autistic kid who just started ninth grade at a very large high school, one of the largest, and it is not designed for him — at all. And I'm definitely concerned that people think that the more kids you put together, the more of all the things you have. But there are certain things that you don't have more of in that case. And I wonder if Dr. Jarvis was really listening to what the teachers were saying that they had at whatever small school that was, because some of the small schools have things that are nearly impossible to get at a large school without great intentionality. And I don't see that intentionality in their Well-Resourced Schools plans yet.

[00:10:38] Jane Tunks Demel: I also have a student at a small school. It's an elementary school. And he is also neurodiverse. And I think for him, the fact that it's a small school makes it so that he can be successful there. Because all the grown-ups know all the kids, they know who the kids best friends are, they know what their interests are, and it really does feel like a family.

And if you're in a 600-student elementary school, for the kids who need that, they are not getting that. And I know that I've heard the board and other people in the Central Office talk about that all a kid needs is just one adult. And while I think that's true, it's so much better to have every adult in the building know who you are and know what your needs are. And that is something that makes school possible for some of these kids.

[00:11:26] Christie Robertson: 100%. 

[00:11:27] Jane Tunks Demel: And that makes me think, Christie, that a well-resourced school is not just about all the different programs you have at the school. It's a school that has enough resources to support these kids in whatever way they need, and sometimes the best support you can give them is a small school. Like maybe that kid doesn't need music. Maybe they just need to be in a small setting where all the adults know them and can support them. 

[00:11:53] Christie Robertson: Exactly. At, my kids small school, they didn't have enough kids to have clubs. They didn't really have sports. A parent volunteer to coach combine boys and girls basketball. They always lost, but they had a great time. But that was just what my kid needed. 

[00:12:16] Jane Tunks Demel: So that's our pitch for small schools, we hope someone's listening. And then Jarvis talked about what his vision is for a well-resourced school, 

[00:12:21] Art Jarvis, Deputy Superintendent: A well-resourced school has the ability to serve the students who are there — whatever their needs. If it's highly capable. If it's special services. If it's wellness. If it is that a family that is lacking and needs support. If it's a free and reduced, title one, et cetera, et cetera. We simply can't do that with a school that's one-third of the side of the size of the allocation model. 

[00:12:54] Jane Tunks Demel: Yeah, and in Dr. Jarvis's comments, he refers to the state allocation model, the prototypical school model. The intent seems to be for Seattle Public Schools to get the school funding closer to the prototypical state model, which is encoded in law, and we're going to link to it in our show notes. 

To sum up. a prototypical elementary school has 400 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. 

The current formula that's used to staff schools at Seattle Public Schools is called the Weighted Staffing Standard. People often refer to it as the WSS. 

Another question that I have about this is the assumption that the larger elementary schools are going to have more resources, but I don't know if that's actually true. Because right now, for a school that's 500 students, it only gets a nurse there 40 percent of the time, a 40 percent full-time position. And the librarian for a school of 500 students is also only there 50 percent of the time. 

So my question for the board and for the Central Office is: Are you going to update the Weighted Staffing Standard to make it so that an elementary school of 500 kids can have a full-time nurse and a full-time librarian. And please show us that before you make these decisions.

Another thing I hear from people is that, at a larger school, there won't be split-grade classrooms. But I know, for example, this year at John Stanford International School, which has 400 students, I know that they have 4th and 5th split grade classrooms there, and that they're large sizes, like 30 or more. So I'm not sure if that will really change. 

So will they change the staffing so that it's better for students once they make these changes? That's what that's my question is for them. 

But despite all these big challenges and huge cuts they have to make, Superintendent Jones tried to end this part of the meeting with some aspirational words. 

[00:14:51] Brent Jones, superintendent: I mean, this is this place of abundance, not from a deficit. It's a place where we can go toward, not what we're running from. While we have to do the necessary cutting, we also should stay aspirational around who we want to be. And when we start talking about concepts about being ready for Seattle being,  having the competitive edge. Our graduates being able to do what they want, what they desire, pursue their passion pursue what their goals are, their wildest dreams. That hasn't been lost on us. We still want to go there. We still have to do this hard work.

[00:15:27] Jane Tunks Demel: And then Dr. Jarvis also chimed in with some positive words, and here's what he said. 

[00:15:34] Art Jarvis, Deputy Superintendent: I hope I can share with you, the passion that we're bringing to this is not as, "Let's go cut." But rather, "What are we creating?"

[00:15:42] Jane Tunks Demel: And while I appreciate the positive words that they're trying to make the best out of a bad situation, we also have to remember that we're talking about drastic cuts,.

[00:15:51] Christie Robertson: Agree. 

The directors were really, excited about coming at this from positivity and strength, and not all doom and gloom because clearly everybody, including them, has been really stressed out about it. 

Here's what Director Rankin said in response to Dr. Jarvis. 

[00:16:09] Liza Rankin, School Board Vice President: I'm trying to remain professional, which is why I'm not jumping up and down, because that was such — that's it, that's how I think of this. And you said it in such a concrete, clear way that we can have all the visions and aspirations we have, but we have to operate within reality. And that doesn't mean gruel for everyone. We actually, we just have to think about it in a different way and recognize the constraints, but also recognize that there are still a lot of choices within those constraints. And that the most important thing is that we center and serve our students.

[00:16:55] Christie Robertson: Hampson also chimed in for the positivity. 

[00:17:00] Chandra Hampson, School Board Director: I was trying to pinpoint what the bullet points were of, what I liked about what you said — and I was struggling a little bit. And then I realized it's because you just modeled what it means to take an asset-based approach to a difficult situation. And create the vision of a way forward without placing blame. 

[00:17:29] Jane Tunks Demel: It seemed a little bit toxic positivity for some people, like Director Harris, who understand how hard this is going to be when they're closing schools, consolidating schools, or if they redraw boundaries or make cuts to beloved programs. 

[00:17:44] Christie Robertson: I think Director Harris may have been the only one who was around at the last round of school cuts, and she has talked about that a lot. And here's what she has to say about that.

[00:17:55] Leslie Harris, School Board Director: I appreciate the happy talk more than, you know, I'm more a rah rah girl in my heart then I've ever been a cynic. But we have to acknowledge that we cut a number of jobs last year for really hardworking people who gave their careers to Seattle Public Schools. And quite frankly, I'm not sure we acknowledged them all that well on the way out the door. And that's really painful. And we've got a number of folks — and families — that made very painful decisions to leave our district. For whatever reason. And we haven't asked them why. 

And to me, there's a balance that we're missing here with the happy talk. We have to acknowledge it. We have to, when we're talking to our public, and our legislatures, and our voters, and our families. Where we've come. And how painful that has been at the same time, talking about where we want to go in vision and values. And that closures and consolidations are coming. 

[00:19:22] Jane Tunks Demel: And one board member was absent, President Brandon Hersey. He had a work conflict. And Director Sarju was there, but she did not have any questions.

And then they got into the brass tacks, sharing what the projected deficits are for the following two years. 

Fred Podesta said that even though it's a $104 million I have to cut, it's actually only 8 percent, and he feels like that's doable. 

[00:19:47] Fred Podesta, COO: I've balanced public sector budgets for a very long time and an 8 percent issue in a public agency is a big deal. But it's also not an apocalypse. We can get through this. And we will. And we did last year. 

[00:20:03] Jane Tunks Demel: Dr. Jarvis said that he's been through this before with school closures and consolidations and he complimented the board on where they've come and where they're going. And here's what he said. 

[00:20:16] Art Jarvis, Deputy Superintendent: But in that I wanted to give a compliment as outside eyes, if I may, to the board and the superintendent and the senior staff that has done this. Because in essence in that red block was a statement to the community: We will do everything within our power before we make the kind of cuts that we need to make and consolidation and closure and changed the system. 

[00:20:45] Christie Robertson: And the red block he's talking about is the rainy-day fund that they spent down. 

[00:20:51] Jane Tunks Demel: At the time last year when that happened, it seemed like a bad idea to me. Why would you use all of your rainy-day fund when you already know you're going to have $104 million to cut the following year. And now I realize they just want to show they've done everything they can do, and now they have to make the real cuts. 

[00:21:09] Christie Robertson: So here's a gallows humor coincidence. We've heard the estimate a couple of times that you could potentially save about $1 million per school that's shutting. And just by coincidence, the amount of millions of dollars we have to save is the same as the number of schools in our district

[00:21:28] Jane Tunks Demel: Yes, that's true.

[00:21:30] Christie Robertson: So they could save the whole amount by closing all the schools.

I think the directors took this meeting as that cheering them on because they're stressed and worried about this. So I don't know, who was rah-rah-ing who — the staff was rah-rah-ing the board or vice versa.

[00:21:47] Jane Tunks Demel: No, I mean, it's true. It's good that they're all coming together and trying to constructively work together to get through this very difficult time. 

[00:21:55] Christie Robertson: I still did not hear anything in this conversation that referred to other things they might do to save money besides consolidating schools. But presumably that'll be part of the October conversation.

On October 18th, Bev Redmond will give a report about the well-resourced schools meetings. And Dr. Jones will discuss general strategies. That will be a very action-packed meeting. 

November 15th, the superintendent will present the strategies he recommends. And that will be presented to them for action on December 13th. And I believe that will be after the new board directors are sworn in?

[00:22:34] Jane Tunks Demel: Yeah, they're sworn in on November 29th. So it will be interesting because they're setting this process in motion with the current board, but we will see who gets seated in the new board. And I wonder what will happen.

[00:22:47] Christie Robertson: Right. So somebody might be able to sway that vote. But they won't be able to control the direction of the conversation.

[00:22:53] Jane Tunks Demel: Yeah, yeah, it's going to be interesting.

[00:22:56] Christie Robertson: January, they will update on the budget development. 

In March, they will have a legislative update, meaning they'll have an approximate number from legislature funding.

Then they will actually preview the budgets from all three years, 24-25, 25-26, and 26-27 in April. 

And do a final budget vote in July. 

[00:23:19] Jane Tunks Demel: When they closed schools in Bellevue, it was about 65 days from the initial announcement to the final decision. So it'll be interesting to see how that plays out this year in Seattle.

[00:23:29] Christie Robertson: Okay, hang in there, folks.

[00:23:31] Jane Tunks Demel: Since these cuts are obviously going to be deep, one thing that we should all consider as community members in Seattle is really demanding that The legislature amply fund education. The legislature has to amply fund K-12 education. And it isn't right now. And even though the upcoming year is not the budget year for the Washington State Legislature, Seattle Schools is not the only district that's having these problems. It's all over the state. And we really need to demand that our legislators step in. 

And then at this part in the conversation Director Hampson started talking about a financial policy. She's mentioned a few times in the past few meetings that there's a new financial policy she's working on. And here's what she said about it. 

[00:24:18] Chandra Hampson, School Board Director: I believe we'll have opportunity to talk later about the financial policy that I believe we'll be, have the opportunity to bring forward with some of my colleagues. And I think that it's expressed there, but that it really is about how is the way in which we're expending our dollars contributing positively or negatively toward our goals, such that when we have to make hard decisions, we're able to avoid unintended consequences of derailing our own strategies. The district strategies toward achieving the goals that we've set and/or positively support those, 

[00:25:07] Jane Tunks Demel: And Director Hampson, she's in her last few weeks of being a school board director, so she definitely wants to get this through. What I think she's proposing is that this would be a financial policy for now, but later when they update the guardrails, that they would have one or both of these policies as a guardrail 

[00:25:27] Christie Robertson: Yes, I think so, too. 

Superintendent Jones asked to hear about the policy 

[00:25:33] Brent Jones, Superintendent: I just want to open it up real quick to Director Hampson to talk about the financial policy that she was going to speak to. I think there's a nexus in alignment to what we're trying to do. 

[00:25:45] Jane Tunks Demel: Leslie Harris tried to halt the conversation because she said they shouldn't be able to talk about something that's not on the agenda. That's one of the rules about open meetings and so she's concerned about the legality of that. 

[00:25:57] Leslie Harris, School Board Director: I'm beyond thrilled to see this. I wonder where this shows up on the board's work plan. There are some really radical paragraphs in here that excite me beyond measure. 

But we're talking about something that wasn't necessarily attached to the agenda this evening. And probably should have a draft watermark on it and post it as soon as possible. I don't know if Greg Narver is on the line or not, but I feel very uncomfortable. 

I am beyond excited. Hear me clearly. Paragraphs eight and nine are revolutionary. But I think our public has a right to see what we're talking about. 

[00:26:49] Christie Robertson: Greg Narver is their lawyer by the way. So that made us very curious. And so we're going to talk a little bit about what's in it, and we will put it up in our show notes if you would like to take a look at it. 

There's a lot of stuff in here that kind of made me sit up and notice. 

In student outcomes-focused governance, the goals are phrased in positive language, and the guardrails are phrased in negative language. The superintendent is charged with the goals, and he can achieve them any way he wants, as long as he doesn't violate the guardrails. The guardrails are what he can't do. So this is phrased in kind of this weird negative language: "the Superintendent shall not...."

The first thing that stood out to me was number 5. "The superintendent shall not fail to propose and negotiate pay scales aligned with multiyear fiscal capacity. So as to ensure equitable pay and benefits for all labor partners and other staff and mitigate the risk of compensation concentration in any class or subclass of labor class."

It's something that Director Hampson raised in a recent meeting that they don't want one class of workers to be able to get salaries that are way out of whack with all the other salaries. So for example, SEA, as the biggest union, has the most power. And some of the employees that are in smaller unions feel like they don't have as much negotiating power. 

[00:28:15] Jane Tunks Demel: Number 8. I thought that one was interesting too. 

[00:28:18] Christie Robertson: Number 8. "The Superintendent shall not. in any way, allow building or other leaders to solicit or fundraise in support of building, departmental, or district budget, if that funding is not (a) sustainable, if one-time funds, or for one-time needs, and/or (b) aren't clearly shown as matched by the district through a balancing mechanism consistent with the board's goals and resulting district's strategic plan."

So, to me, that says this is trying to tackle the PTA problem, 

[00:28:51] Jane Tunks Demel: Yes, that's what I thought, too. 

[00:28:54] Christie Robertson: Right? They've been trying to figure out a way to tackle the problem of PTAs raising exorbitant amounts of money at some schools and other schools having to, for example, cut their jazz bands.

[00:29:07] Jane Tunks Demel: But one thing, Christie, I want to remind everybody is that even though PTA funding is clearly inequitable, it's really a drop in overall budget for Seattle Public Schools. The overall budget is $1. 1 billion  and ... PTA funding , I don't know what the amount is. But there are some schools that raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, but most schools, if they raise anything, are raising, like, $55,000.

[00:29:36] Christie Robertson: It is unfair and it breeds resentment and it is not something that you can rely on parents to control on their own. So you should just tell the principals, "Don't take this money." And I think that's what they're trying to do. Take the weight off the principals and the parents and just make a rule. 

So 9, ooh, 9. I'm really excited about 9. 

[00:29:59] Jane Tunks Demel: Ooh, what's number 9. 

[00:30:00] Christie Robertson: 9 is "The Superintendent shall not agree to staffing ratios with any bargaining unit that are not flexible enough to ensure alignment with established goals and guardrails related to ensuring student overcomes." I think they mean "outcomes."

And then so that's closely tied with 10, which is: "The superintendent shall not utilize funding models and staffing ratios that (1) center adult over student need and (2) are not flexible enough to ensure alignment with established goals related to ensuring student outcomes, (3) are inconsistent with the board's policies and statement of values, including the board's goals and resulting district's strategic plan."

Okay, to me, this is the long list of expletives special education programs. That is the very strange way that Seattle Public Schools manages special education, where they specify staffing ratios as both 9 and 10 mentioned that are based around. "Well, like it's easiest for us if we just put that program at this school and then we'll bring the kids over to that school where the program is." Which is what happened to my kid in first grade and happens to kids still today all over the district, where they get moved away from their home school to go to a program because of the staffing ratios. 

It's been an extreme detriment to inclusion and equitable treatment of disabled kids that our special education delivery is divided up into these programs that they move kids around to. 

And also prevents kids from going to schools that may be helpful to them. For example, option schools would often be better for a lot of kids with disabilities, and they can't get into them because the answer is always the staff isn't there or there isn't room in that program. 

[00:32:00] Jane Tunks Demel: I also like the part where it talks about centering adult over student need. Because I've seen some BLT (buliding leadership team) decisions that are centering the adults over the students. 

[00:32:11] Christie Robertson: Keeping in mind that teachers, especially teachers in special education, have an insanely hard job, and their needs are often not met. And it's, they can't meet kids needs if their needs aren't met. 

But that being said, they have to find a way to ditch those ratios. So I think this is a message to the bargaining team. 

[00:32:32] Jane Tunks Demel: What else did you think was interesting here?

[00:32:35] Christie Robertson: So 11 was interesting: "The superintendent shall not present budgets that utilize student or family fees as the majority of revenue to support programming, equipment, and/or materials that student/family fee revenue are insufficient to support at other schools without a demonstrated alternative financial source providing equitable access to the same basket of programs, equipment, and/or materials."

[00:33:03] Jane Tunks Demel: That sounds like what's happening with sports now in middle schools.

[00:33:08] Christie Robertson: Yes. So what has recently happened that kind of caught everybody by surprise, insisting that all schools have only two teams per sport would be, if this were in place, an answer to number 11. Of course, there's gonna be kinks to work out in that. Not having no-cut sports is a really big problem to underprivileged kids who have not had access to all the pre-training but to me, it seems like a start. 

[00:33:36] Jane Tunks Demel: Yeah. But another thing, Christie, is that, if a middle school is 600 students or a middle school is 1,000 students, it's still two teams per sport. And it would be much harder to get on a team at a bigger school, so that part needs to be considered too. 

[00:33:53] Christie Robertson: That is true. 

And then the last one I thought was interesting was number 13, which is: "The superintendent shall not propose to retain static student assignment plans, school boundaries and transportation standards, if modifications will create or maintain efficiency in association with the proposed budget and aligned to high standards of service."

So this I'm thinking might be, to the well-resourced schools, saying if there's a way that you can provide the same services in a more economically efficient way, you need to propose that. You can't just keep what's there because it's easier not to change things. 

So isn't that interesting?

Okay. So that's it. 

Share your thoughts with us at 

And if you're the sort of person who has made it this far, we want to hear from you.

[00:34:50] Jane Tunks Demel: We'd love to interview you if you're part of the Seattle Schools community. Parents, teachers, staff, school board members, and even Superintendent Jones, you're always welcome here. 

[00:34:59] Christie Robertson: You can subscribe to our podcast at 

I'm Christie Robertson. 

[00:35:07] Jane Tunks Demel: And I'm Jane Tunks Demel. We'll be back with more episodes soon, and we hope you'll join us next time on Seattle Hall Pass. 

Superintendent Jones set the scene, and board reactions
Introducing Art Jarvis, beware the Wolf
Our case for small schools
Jarvis envisions well-resourced schools
The Prototypical School Model and Weighted Staffing Standards
Superintendent Jones and the directors take an asset-based approach
On the other hand . . .
Brass tacks
The budget-planning timeline — one year of meetings
Introducing the new DRAFT financial policy
Draft Financial Policy (DFP) #5 — Equitable pay and benefits
DFP #8 — Equitable fundraising
DFP #9 and #10 — Staffing ratios
DFP #11 — Student/family fees
DFP #13 — Economic efficiencies, aka well-resourced schools