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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 29, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Seattle school closures

Solve the budget problem now or be forced to cope later

It is a proven fact that children thrive in small-school settings when they are given personal attention and can form bonds with their teachers. However, nobody benefits from a lack of funding in an entire school district.

A community uproar, like the current Seattle schools commotion, kept the Northshore School Board from closing Woodin Elementary last year. Since this decision, the rest of the Northshore schools have had to compensate for the lack of funding that was supposed to be avoided by closing Woodin.

As an Inglemoor High School student, I have seen price increases in our sports fees and parking permits; we now have fewer transportation options for special-program students and have been forced to cope with fewer campus supervisors and school nurses.

Seattle schools face a massive $24 million budget shortfall next year. Closing the five schools and programs in question will save the district from only two-thirds of the budget problem. In other words, it will only mostly solve the problem.

To the people who are doing their best to keep these schools open, find out how this budget problem will be solved if you get what you want. Someone has to make up for the lack of funding.

— Samantha Valtierra Bush, Kenmore

Under-enrollment is no accident

While it would be difficult to find any members of the Seattle community content with the impending school closures facing our city, I view the situation with a bit less negativity than the hundreds of protesters who marched and picketed this past weekend [“Rally against school closures,” Local News, Jan. 26]. I am not happy to see the schools go, but I consider such acts necessary to the evolution of our school district and the future of our children.

Seattle is different from most public-school systems, wherein students are assigned a school and their only alternatives are private school or home school. As I am sure readers are aware, Seattle has an open-enrollment policy, allowing parents and students the option to enroll in any school in the district. This creates a model where schools “compete” for students by offering differentiated bundles of services such as course offerings, educators, athletic programs, extracurricular options and any other qualities that make one school different from another.

The upcoming closures are the result of under-enrollment, which occurs when families take students out of the schools at hand such that the district can no longer financially justify keeping them open.

Perhaps more students are enrolling in private school. Perhaps some are enrolling at Seattle Public Schools elsewhere in the city that better meet their preferences. Or perhaps the size of the school-age population in Seattle is decreasing. Regardless of the underlying causes of such enrollment shifts, they are the result of a group of families acting voluntarily, according to their own preferences. This is not so different from a group of families no longer choosing to patronize a certain store or business. If enough families make the same choice, the business fails and ceases to exist. New, vibrant, and innovative businesses spring up to take its place.

While I certainly agree that the government should delegate more money to schools, I cannot agree with those who believe that the district should keep open those schools that the people of Seattle have chosen to leave behind.

— Samuel Francis Fisher, Seattle

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