February 1, 10:00 AM click here to comment > 3
Renewing our promise to Seattle’s youth and families
Children are part of our shared destiny, and we’ll have a better destiny if we help our children succeed. But we are failing them. By 2018, two-thirds of jobs available in the state will require a degree or certification beyond a high school education – but only 46 percent of students who graduate Seattle schools are prepared to attend a four-year college. We know that if a child is literate by the third grade, the likelihood decreases dramatically that he or she will drop out of school. Many other students leave school unprepared for a career. We don’t offer opportunities equally in Seattle, and large differences exist among racial backgrounds and neighborhoods. In 2010, only 13 percent of African American students and 24 percent of Latino students met the state’s 10th-grade math standard, compared with 68 percent of white students.
This is unacceptable and unjust. Seattle must do better. That’s why I am endorsing the recommendation of the Levy Advisory Committee to renew the Families and Education Levy in 2011. The $231 million proposal serves an important goal: All students in Seattle will graduate from high school ready for college or a career. The levy renewal will meet that goal by funding programs that the Seattle Public Schools budget doesn’t cover, to improve children’s readiness for school, students’ academic achievement and reduction of the academic achievement gap, and students’ graduation from high school and preparation for a college or career path.
The proposed renewal emerged from a series of community meetings in 2010 that were part of the Seattle Youth and Families Initiative. I launched the initiative to identify the biggest obstacles facing youth, and to mobilize community members, organizations, city departments and schools to create solutions. Former Mayor Norm Rice, who pioneered the first Families and Education Levy in 1990, Estela Ortega of El Centro de la Raza, and former Deputy Mayor Bob Watt co-chaired this initiative.
We brought people together, holding five large-group community workshops, 131 community caucuses and a youth summit. Three thousand Seattle residents from across the city identified 1,202 issues and concerns confronting youth and families in our community. They told us what needed to be done for our children – and what city government needed to do differently to help them.
On June 5, 2010, delegates from the caucuses, workshops and youth summit gathered at the Seattle Center for the Kids and Families Congress. The delegates reviewed the issues and concerns and refined them to 35 priority issues, which you can read HERE.
These priorities were central in guiding the Levy Advisory Committee’s planning process for the 2011 Families and Education Levy, meaning that the levy reflects the community’s agenda for addressing the problems facing our children.
In order to achieve the goal of all students in Seattle graduating from high school ready for college or a career, the Families and Education Levy will focus on the following priorities:
• Children at risk, including English Language Learners
• Schools with the highest level of academic need
• Children age 5 and younger likely to attend low-performing schools
• Students with the highest level of academic need
• Build on the success of previous investments where possible
• Use proven or promising practices to improve academic outcomes
• Strengthen families
To provide accountability, the Families and Education Levy will follow these principles:
• Measure success based on student outcomes and performance-based contracts
• Change plans as necessary if a program isn’t working, and remove funding for those that fail
• Report on student performance at least annually
• Continue sharing data with Seattle Public Schools
• Use strategic partnerships
• Support innovative academic strategies aimed at dramatically improving academic achievement
• Support academic elements of place-based community strategies for transformation of schools or feeder patterns of schools
Following voter approval of the Levy, the City’s Office for Education will work with agencies and the community to do detailed Levy implementation planning. The Mayor’s Office will submit a proposed implementation plan to the Council for approval. After City Council review and approval, the Office for Education will develop requests for investments and contracts to take effect September 1, 2012.
The Youth and Families Initiative is changing how we deliver services to Seattle residents. Participants made it clear that we need to not just fund programs, but also improve delivery of existing services. That’s why we are aligning our City budget with those educational goals. We have developed a plan based on the 35 priorities identified at the Kids and Families Congress, and are implementing action teams devoted to those priorities. We are also convening local educational institutions and funders to collaborate on education reform. And we are increasing community engagement and participation in internal city work as well as through Seattle’s Cities of Service plan.
I know that times are hard right now. That’s why I’ve given careful consideration to the Families and Education Levy renewal – and why I am convinced it is essential to Seattle’s economic future. Our city will not remain competitive unless we provide all children with a good education and a pathway to success.
More importantly, it’s the right thing to do. Too many youth and families in Seattle have suffered long enough from historic inequities, from unsafe and unhealthy communities, and from a lack of educational opportunities. That has to change. The 2011 Families and Education Levy is a good place to start.
Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn