This week’s Link Love is inspired by a story I heard on KUOW recently while driving. It was the story linked below, called School Closure Jockeying.
For some reason, Seattle is closing down schools. I admit I don’t know exactly why (we live in the Renton district), but I think it has to do with budget shortfalls. An elementary school in a white upper middle class neighborhood in West Seattle was on this list to be closed, which obviously alarmed parents. They rallied. They raised their voices. They made t-shirts. Parents in West Seattle saved their own school by throwing an “under resourced” school under the bus.
They so much as admitted it on the radio – that they took advantage of their socio-economic status to influence the school closure decision –
AND SHE ADMITS: SOME OF THE FACTORS THAT LED ARBOR HEIGHTS TO POINT THE FINGER AT COOPER AND RAINIER BEACH ARE THE SAME THINGS THAT GIVE ARBOR HEIGHTS AN ADVANTAGE IN THE CLOSURE PROCESS.
ARBOR HEIGHTS DOESN’T HAVE A MAJORITY OF FAMILIES IN POVERTY. COOPER AND RAINIER BEACH DO. POVERTY AFFECTS A SCHOOL’S POPULARITY, WHICH IS A FACTOR IN THE CLOSURE PROCESS. AND RILEY SAYS POVERTY ALSO AFFECTS HOW EASY IT IS FOR PARENTS TO ORGANIZE WHEN THEIR SCHOOL IS UNDER THE GUN.
Rainier Beach High School seems to be spared for now, but this saddened and angered me. I am saddened that children in these “under resourced” schools (which is the new code word for “at risk” schools) continue to face obstacles in achieving success. I am angered by the arrogance and conniving of the West Seattle parents, who disregarded the already fragile nature of “under resourced” children in “under resourced” neighborhoods.
I have only been involved in Renton’s public school system for four months, so I don’t pretend to have it all figured out. But I’ve seen a glimpse of this fact: children and families need neighborhood connections to succeed. This much I know.
Our school’s socio-economic demographic is very similar to that of Rainier Beach, which I suppose is why this issue concerns me so much. What follows is a timeline of stories from KUOW relating to education in Southeast Seattle. I apologize for the all caps in some places – I’m not shouting at you, but simply copied and pasted the formatted text from KUOW’s website.
Seattle’s Southeast Education Initiative and School Reform
An hour long discussion on how to draw neighborhood students back into Rainier Beach High School. The perception vs. reality of the school is discussed, as well as ways the district is working to increase class options and other programs.
This story aired September 2007. Little did they know at the time that all the effort and resources to help make this a more successful school would be potentially derailed by a group of parents and school board members from West Seattle – half a world away, in so many respects, from Rainier Beach.
“Schools are the responsibility of the entire community. If schools are going to be successful in Seattle it’s going to be because parents are at the table.”
“The extra curricular activities are not supported by the school district, they’re supported by the parents. And parents who are struggling economically do not have the time and resources to put into the classroom and to donate to the schools.”
Why parents bail on Southeast Seattle schools
GOODLOE–JOHNSON: “I’m always interested in getting perspectives about why parents make choices and how we can be stronger in systems and if there’s things we need to look at that perhaps we haven’t thought of before.”
School Closure Jockeying
SHELLEY WILLIAMS HAS TWO KIDS AT COOPER. SHE WENT THERE WHEN SHE WAS A KID. SHE COMPARES THE CLOSURE PROCESS TO A BOARD GAME. AND SAYS A LOT OF PARENTS AT COOPER DON’T EVEN KNOW THE RULES.
WILLIAMS: “We have 6 parents I can think of right off the top of my head who have been in this country less than two years, and spent more than two years prior in a refugee camp. They don’t even know this system.”
SO SHE WONDERS, HOW CAN THEY POSSIBLY BE EXPECTED TO ORDER T–SHIRTS, SHOW UP TO SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS, GIVE PUBLIC TESTIMONY, AND TALK TO THEIR SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS?
High schools spared
THE CHOICE POLICY LETS PARENTS TRY TO GET THEIR CHILDREN INTO ANY HIGH SCHOOL IN SEATTLE. IT’S GIVEN SCHOOLS IN MIDDLE–CLASS NEIGHBORHOODS HUGE WAITLISTS, WHILE IT’S DRAINED SCHOOLS IN POORER NEIGHBORHOODS AND GIVEN THEM STUDENT BODIES THAT MOSTLY LIVE IN POVERTY. THOSE SCHOOLS HAVE BEEN THE MOST VULNERABLE TO CLOSURE.
Everyone is looking out for themselves – the parents, their children,