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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 12, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Seattle Public Schools

Stability and security, not mobility

Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson evidently thinks the public supports her school-closure proposals and the Seattle School Board will approve them. I think she is mistaken and urge the Board to vote no.

The more people learn about the ramifications and impacts of the proposed closures, the more they oppose them.

Goodloe-Johnson was quoted Thursday morning as saying the district “would need to make sure the move didn’t disproportionately affect students living in poverty and students who already are struggling in school.” The topic was high schools. She doesn’t seem to have this concern about closing schools now.

The majority of students at the African American Academy, T.T. Minor, Meany and Cooper are poor (eligible for free and reduced lunch) and of color. Under the proposed closure plan, more than 3,000 students, disproportionately poor and of color, would need to change schools.

But stability and security are central to academic gains among at-risk students, while mobility is highly associated with no gains. This sounds like a recipe for failure. The costs to children are too high and the theoretical dollar savings too low.

If the future is like the past, up to 20 percent of displaced students will leave the district, and the cost in lost revenue will offset a substantial part of the estimated savings.

The alternative: Put the whole process on hold while the district and the community do a more thorough analysis, including the new school-assignment plan.

Improve the schools and market them; don’t have a “going out of business sale.” Lobby or sue the state Legislature to provide full funding. The state constitution says it is the “primary duty” of the state to provide for the education of its children, but this is not being enforced.

Washington state students are about 45th among the 50 states in per-student funding. If Seattle schools received the funding to which they are entitled, the district would have a surplus, not a deficit.

Meanwhile, don’t make the neediest children pay the price!

— Jonis Davis, Seattle

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