Thirty Pieces of Silver

When people do evil, and the rest of us have to pick up in the aftermath, I always wonder, was the high cost worth it.

In the case of our lawmakers taking money from the NRA and other pro-gun interests, what’s puzzling to me is that they take not a whole lot of money for a hellishly high cost to all of us.

A word on semantics: when I say gun lobby, I’m referring to the morally bankrupt pro-mass-shooting political beast that blithely lines the pockets and deafens the ears and blinds the eyes of public officials to the high social cost of gun ownership run amok. I’m not here to rip on hunters who use appropriate firearm safety or farmers who keep a shotgun on hand to keep the rabid skunk out of the hogs.

I’m addressing the collective insanity of our totemic worship of semi-automatic weapons to the extent that we fail to ensure that the people purchasing and using them are not going to use them to optimize the number of people they kill when they decide to take their beef to church, work, or school.

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Thirteen Thousand Reasons

There’s a movement afoot in Seattle to suggest to our superintendent, Dr. Larry Nyland, what a better use of the $13,000 he referred to as “the smallest raise in the district” might be. Sure, when you’re getting over $300,000 a year in total compensation (annuity contributions, salary, benefits, $700/month car allowance) that $13,000 isn’t a heckuva lot of cheddar.

As you can imagine, lots of parent activists and other people with brains have any number of fine suggestions about what $13,000 means on the ground.

It’s quite parallel to the arguments being made about our state legislature, getting fined $100,000/day for failing to comply with the McCleary decision. In a $1.5 Billion (or, more accurately, $5.8 Billion) education budget, six figures a day looks like chump change.

I was awake on percentages day in math class. I know that these are not hearty slices of the education budget pie. These two instances: a cavalier attitude toward the pittance of a $13,000 raise and the paltry pocket change of $100,000/day in fines could make one think that these officials charged with the paramount duty of educating our children are too busy to screw around with the margins. They’re not worried about rounding errors. Nope. They are going to work on bigger pots of cash. Bigger by orders of magnitude. Right?

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An Open Letter to my Washington State Legislators

McCleary Compliance for Mental Healthcare: A Common-sense Intervention for Gun Violence

I’m writing in the wake of yet another mass shooting in the Pacific Northwest. I’m proud of the recent steps we’ve taken in Washington to minimize access to guns: the passage of I-594 to close background check loopholes and the unanimous passage of HB 1840 to restrict firearm purchases by people with restraining orders against them. I was heartened that the father who provided the guns in the Marysville shooting was convicted on unlawful possession charges. These are all good, common-sense steps that any state can take to reduce the proliferation of firearms and deter would-be accessories to mass shootings from casually providing weapons to terrorize our schools.

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The Issue that Built my Soapbox

This originally appeared as a diatribe I posted on my Facebook page in the wake of the UCC shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. Having worked in higher education in Oregon prior to moving to Seattle, the news out of UCC was personally very poignant. I realized that one of the things that kept dogging me, impelling me to speak up during the teachers strike was this issue that teachers are increasingly on the front lines of mass shootings. 

I got a little soap-box-y earlier this month during the Seattle teachers’s strike. Here’s why.

The day of the Newtown shootings, my oldest was a kindergartener. And there has not been a damn day since then when I’ve had to drop off a kid at school or daycare without the thought that THIS teacher, this underpaid person, cares enough. Cares enough to do untold thousands of things to ensure that my child develops, grows, and reaches her potential. But also cares enough that I’ve never had a doubt that any one of them would have done everything he or she could to put him or herself between my child and a mass shooter. 

I just want you to think on that for a second. That person who cannot afford median rent in Seattle on teacher’s pay. That person who gets the state medicaid program sign up information in their hiring packet because if they are supporting a family they’d qualify?

That person. We’ve set up a society so that THAT person has to be ready to respond to some nutbar armed to the teeth hell-bent on taking a score of six year olds with him to the afterlife?

It’s distracting, frankly. I’m trying to sit with the idea that I need to learn the new math curriculum and figure out how to help with writing homework without going out of my gourd and all I can think about is that we’re paying you peanuts to someday have to shove a clutch of little kids into a broom closet and fend off an active shooter with a bunch of school supplies that parents provided?

Aw hell to the no.

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An Open Letter to the McCleary Workgroup

On September 24, Governor Inslee will convene a work group on McCleary — the Washington State Supreme Court decision that upholds the state legislature’s paramount duty to fully fund public K-12 education. Rather than fulfilling that obligation, our state legislature is presently in contempt of the decision and paying a fine of $100,000 daily. If you want to get caught up, check out the grassroots group Washington’s Paramount Duty or use their handy list of relevant documents and articles here


Dear Senators Ericksen, Rivers, Rolfes, and Billig and Representatives Sullivan, Lytton, Magendanz and Smith,

I am the mother of three daughters; the oldest two are elementary students in the Seattle Public Schools. I am writing on behalf of these members of the Class of 2025, 2028, and 2033, in the hope that you apply sensible, bi-partisan solutions for Washington state to finally fulfill its paramount duty to fully funding public education.
Our state has unparalleled natural, agricultural, intellectual, and technological resources to marshal in providing for both our most vulnerable and for our future. By not fulfilling our promise to our children, we risk bankrupting our 21st century economy. The funding shortfall means that working, middle-class families are juggling constant requests to make up the budget at school, which always competes with the budget at home.
Here are the requests we have received to provide basic academic classroom equipment or supplies since the beginning of the school year:

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7 Ways to Keep the Strike Going All Year Long

Even if the Seattle Educators Association votes on the tentative agreement as a fair deal, the community support around our educators and students needs to continue for real change.

  1. Keep the pressure on state officials. Why is a state with a positive trade balance with China 47th in the U.S. for education funding? Demand serious results out of these McCleary work groups. Increase calls for Governor Inslee to call a special session. Pressure your legislators to get out of contempt. Don’t ever, ever forget that funding education is the state’s paramount duty, enshrined in our constitution. We can’t bakesale our way out of this. 
  2. Work to end PTA funding inequality. Why do students with wealthy PTA supporters get music, library books, and more staff while schools across the opportunity gap are locked out? If your school’s PTA raises hundreds of thousands of dollars, you have a moral responsibility to share those funds with under-funded schools in our district. The de-facto privatization of our most affluent schools who overcome this funding gap through wealthy backers has no place in a progressive city with an eye for the public good. Suggestions like donating a percentage of funds raised or creating a ceiling where funds in excess go into a pool for underfunded schools should be explored district-wide.
  3. Think long and hard about the makeup of our school board. Do you want to retain a board who moved to take legal action on educators before the strike deadline and one lone dissenter voted WITH our teachers? Get educated on who’s running. Put time into a campaign that will back educators. There have been calls made to recall the current board. Bottom line: our votes got them there and our responsibility doesn’t end with the ballot.
  4. Turns out the teachers really love the support. It’s going to be a strange start to the year, and they need to know you’ve got their back. Remember to write thank-yous to your teachers. Work in collaborative, respectful partnership around your student’s development. Volunteer. Bring in coffee. Take flowers. Buy a gas card for a teacher with a 45 minute commute.
  5. Consider opting your student out of standardized testing. Standardized tests are a great moneymaker for the companies dictating curriculum. I’d love for my students to use the library for reading and learning rather than excessive testing. We have the right to opt our children out. At some point, enough students may opt out of the tests that administering them won’t be worth the time and money.
  6. Keep up the witness at the administrative offices at JSCEE. Play-ins, parent pickets, and vigils. If every time the board, superintendent, and the 100 top-paid employees in the district (whose collective pay rose by $1,400,000 from 2012-13 to 2014-15)* walked past a group of parents in red, they’d remember who they are serving.
  7. Equity matters. Be the village. Promises around ratios for special education, caseloads for nurses and therapists, and equity committees must be honored. Stay connected with parents and schools across the city to broadly advocate for equitable treatment and hold the district accountable for its promises.

*Numbers from SPS budget hobbyist Meg Diaz, shared in a post by David Edelman in the Facebook group Soup for Teachers on 09/11/15.

Incoming Kindergarten Parents: Fear Not

A little story from the family archives regarding the start of the school year getting delayed.

Three years ago, armed with the school assignment letter, the transportation letter, the back-to-school night class assignment, and a welcome letter,  we arrived to drop off our firstborn on her first day of kindergarten only to find that she wasn’t on the list.

That’s right. A five-year-old who is stratospherically excited to finally start school and somehow between back-to-school night and actual back to school, the district computer system had eaten her record.

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Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around