What $107 Million Buys

The recently completed $107 million renovation of Garfield High School was the most expensive ever undertaken by the Seattle School District. To put that in perspective, the price tag on the new downtown Four Seasons condo/hotel is $120 million. QWest Field cost $360 million, of which the public covered $300 million.

The photo above shows the entrance to the new Quincy Jones Performance Center, and it, along with the rest of the renovation, is, in a word, inspiring. Inspiring because it’s an example of our wealth being spent on something that matters. I have long been astounded by how in one of the wealthiest and most highly educated cities on the planet, we can’t seem to figure out how to a better job with public education.

Some argue that we can’t just throw money at it, and of course that is hard to disagree with, as are most shallow generalities. But money doesn’t hurt. As noted in Worldchanging — Alex Steffan’s indispensable compendium of ideas for a sustainable future — according to an international survey Finland has the best public school system in the world. Finland also happens to spend more per grade student than any other nation. No doubt there are other social factors involved, and of them, this is perhaps the most surprising: Finnish students spend less time in class than students in any other industrialized nation. Hello quality versus quantity.

The impressive renovation of Garfield High School won’t eradicate the challenges faced by the school, but it will help. If nothing else it will impart a feeling of pride to the students, and a sense that the community cares about them. It can also be expected to have a positive impact on the surrounding neighborhood (but that’s a long story…).