A Few Questions About The Seattle Public Schools

Why is it that one of the wealthiest, most highly educated cities on the planet can’t do a better job with its public schools? For fuck’s sake, it’s so completely, despicably infuriating.

Why are the Seattle public schools a never ending saga of budget crises, overcrowded classrooms, dilapidated buildings, overworked teachers, cutbacks on the arts and sports, crappy lunch food, teaching to the test, inconsistent leadership, and in the end, mediocre educational results?

Why are so many Seattle families forced to endure massive stress over whether or not their kid will be lucky enough to get into one of the “good” public schools, some pushed to such extreme levels of worry that — like some neighbors of mine did — they’ll rent out the house they own and get an apartment in another part of the city to make sure their kid doesn’t get stuck in an inferior school?

And why are Seattle families being threatened with the trauma of school closings for the second time in two years?

Uh-huh, there are some pretty solid reasons for why nearly one third of Seattle’s children attend private schools, the highest city-only rate in the country as of the 2000 Census.

Is it simply a matter of money? If so, the school district should ask for more. This is city that believes in education, and surely most Seattlites would be willing to pay a little more in taxes to support meaningful improvements in the public schools.

Yes, it is extremely challenging to teach children who come from troubled homes. But does that mean it’s literally impossible to provide high quality public education in urban areas where there are significant numbers of less fortunate kids in the school population?

Why can’t we figure this shit out? Cause it matters. A lot. For so many reasons. We all know it.

And it matters more than ever now, in this era of climate change, peak oil, and ecological breakdown — an era in which channeling growth into our existing large cities has become a critical path to sustainability. Anyone care to guess how many Seattle families have been pushed over the edge by this latest round of closures and have decided to move out to the burbs where they know they can find quality and consistency in the public schools?

Imagine if Seattle had the best public schools in the Puget Sound region. Families with children would be attracted, but to live in Seattle would mean accepting a higher density environment. For many, this would be no sacrifice, while others who might have viewed it as a tradeoff, would discover a surprisingly high overall quality of life. As more families came, it would justify increased investment in the public realm amenities that make high-density livable. In short, exemplary public schools are perhaps the single most potent catalyst there is for promoting the diverse, vibrant, walkable, and socially coherent urban communities of a sustainable future. So get on it, Seattle. Please?