Twelve candidates have applied to represent District 7 on the Seattle School Board. Here's what we know so far ⁠— and what to watch for.

Twelve candidates have applied to represent District 7 on the Seattle School Board. Here's what we know so far ⁠— and what to watch for.

Over the weekend, the Seattle School Board finally released the applications of the 12 Southeast Seattle residents who filed to replace Betty Patu on the board. The District 7 seat, which Patu held for 10 years, was vacated July 1 and will be filled when the six remaining board members cast votes for their preferred applicant at the Aug. 14 board meeting.

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Chris Reykdal's vision for our schools is blurry at best

Have you read Superintendent Chris Reykdal’s “K-12 Education Vision and McCleary Framework?”

It’s an 11-page document that Reykdal describes as a “long-term” (six-year) plan for “transformational change” to Washington’s public schools.

But instead of outlining true change, I’m finding Reykdal pays lip service to closing the opportunity gap, using it like a buzzword without sharing any concrete plans to impact it except to reallocate money. He proposes tracking students toward different post-secondary options starting in 8th grade with no safeguards against the discrimination these practices will create in districts struggling to overcome racial bias. He talks of “system redesign” and “fundamental change,” but the crux of Reykdal’s “fundamental change” is to literally add more of the same by lengthening the existing school day, lengthening the existing school year, and offering universal preschool access.

Neal Morton of the Seattle Times summed up Reykdal’s six main proposed changes as:

  1. Provide preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds.
  2. Add 20 days to elementary and middle-school calendars, and make their school day 30-60 minutes longer.
  3. Start teaching students a second language in kindergarten.
  4. Pay for all high-school students to earn college credit before graduation — and no longer require them to pass state tests to get a diploma.
  5. Create post-high schools plans for every eighth-grader before they enter the ninth grade.
And, of course, 6: Finally resolve the landmark McCleary school-funding case — and Reykdal has some ideas about how to do that.


Let’s start with what I appreciate about Reykdal’s vision.

Universal preschool access is an excellent idea. Especially as Reykdal is guaranteeing access as opposed to making preschool compulsory, he would truly be giving families more choice and more affordable options. I like that.

I also like the idea of teaching a second language starting in kindergarten, and Reykdal says without saying it that the language taught would be Spanish. I wonder how that might play out, but it’s a nice idea, no doubt.

And to his credit, Reykdal’s first paragraph is his most inspiring, so his vision starts strong:

The goal of Washington’s public education system is to prepare every student who walks through our school doors for post-secondary aspirations, careers, and life. To do so, we must embrace an approach to education that encompasses the whole child. In the ongoing struggle to amply fund our schools, we have lost this larger vision. The challenge to amply fund schools to the satisfaction of the State Supreme Court is not the final goal – it is merely the first step in a much larger transformation that will propel Washington state’s K-12 public schools atop the national conversation in quality, outcomes, and equity. In our state’s history we have engaged in this transformative work only a few times. This is a once-in-a-generation moment to redesign our public schools to achieve our highest ideals.

 This could be the beginning of everything I’m looking for: preparing students not just for college/career but for life, embracing a whole-child approach, declaring equity to be a pillar, recognizing that McCleary is just a distraction, and acknowledging that transformational change is needed.

But instead of backing this up, it’s mostly milquetoast and money from here on out.

Reykdal considers a McCleary fix to be “the first step in a much larger transformation that will propel Washington state’s K-12 public schools atop the national conversation in quality, outcomes, and equity.” Unfortunately, it’s not often that more money is applied to an inequitable situation with greater equity as the result.

Meanwhile, throughout the document, Reykdal mentions the “opportunity gap” once. He mentions the “achievement gap” once. Here is the only concrete change Reykdal suggests toward closing these gaps, and it’s all about money:

“State-funded turnaround dollars should focus on the schools who experience large performance gaps and multiple gaps across several student demographics.”

So, basically, the monies will flow toward the students we’re failing from a demographic standpoint instead of more broadly to their low-performing schools. That seems good, but again, not an answer — or even anything particularly new. Just a slightly different method of distributing dollars.

I guess that’s not surprising. Reykdal’s vision for the future of education does not include community engagement. He gives no indication that OSPI will be listening to anyone but itself, or that he will be actively soliciting feedback from the students and families most impacted by systemic oppression. He even says as much about his current process: “In thinking about what this might look like, talking to experts, and researching what makes our students successful, I’ve put together this plan.”

He thought about it, he talked to “experts,” and he did research. He did not listen, apparently, to any actual students or families. Then he, a white male politician, wrote this plan to guide our schools from now until my eight-year-old is in eighth grade.

As a result, Reykdal is able to offer only the administrative perspective, and he never mentions any of the many innovative practices being shown nationally to impact opportunity gaps. In his “truly bold thinking,” as he calls it, culturally responsive teaching or ethnic studies never occur to him. He makes no mention of implicit bias testing for teachers, let alone training, or of diversity training for any staff. No mention of bringing more teachers of color into classrooms or of setting high standards for all students.

Instead, he talks about doubling down financially on a public school system we already know is broken, and about tracking kids in eighth grade based on standardized tests we already know produce inequitable results: “In the 8th grade, use the multiple state and local assessments to develop a High School and Beyond Plan (HSBP) for every student.”

A world exists where this could work out, but in a state like ours plagued by racial and socio-economic inequity in education, this will be executed inequitably. Unless we first provide intense DEI and implicit-bias training for all teachers, counselors and administrators, this will only amplify the disparate outcomes Reykdal claims to want to erase.

Even in the best-case scenario, it creates a culture where low expectations are allowed for some kids and not others. The kids are all capable. Yet Reykdal proposes to limit their future opportunities based on their past. That’s hardly cutting-edge.

My sense throughout last year’s campaign was that Reykdal was more interested in being a politician, in eventually being able to take credit for having fixed McCleary and fully funded our schools, and this vision of Reykdal’s seems to fit that profile.

He closes with this:

“We are in a highly competitive global economy and that means gleaning the best practices from around the world in our redesign. Success looks like a longer school day, a longer school year, substantially better compensation for our educators and support staff, and a completely new approach to developing globally successful students.”

That’s what success looks like? Based on what?

Is Reykdal really saying he’ll consider this a success if our kids spend more time in school, and the adults are better paid? Because he has not suggested anything resembling "a completely new approach" to education.

Shouldn't success look like empowering kids to grow faster and achieve more in school and in life? Shouldn't it be teachers that feel valued and push themselves to get better and better? You can lengthen the school days, but it doesn't guarantee students will learn more. You can raise teacher salaries, but it doesn't guarantee they'll teach better. Reykdal’s definition of success strikes me as one that doesn't move the needle. It’s certainly one that doesn’t take any risks.

How can we expect to close the opportunity gap without giving any kids any new opportunities? More instruction hours and more days in class will only produce more of the same if things haven’t fundamentally changed, and despite the number of times Reykdal tells us everything will be fundamentally different, his vision for the future is just more of the same, too.

That’s not good enough. Not when the status quo is already leaving so many kids high and dry.


Superintendent Reykdal will outline his 'long-term education vision' at a press conference next week

Washington State Superintendent Chris Reykdal announced today that he will discuss his long-term "K-12 education vision and the McCleary funding compromise" at a special press conference next week.

From OSPI's press release:

“The OSPI team and I have been working with and supporting legislators from all four caucuses since I took office,” Reykdal said. “And like everyone else, I’d like the Legislature to come to an agreement and pass a budget before July 1."
"But I also know that this isn’t just about solving a court case. We must ensure our funding is targeted to best support all of the students in our state as they reach for success. And we must also be sure our funding system is sustainable over time.”


For the most part, Chris Reykdal has been saying all the right things so far when it comes to equity and McCleary funding, but he still hasn't earned my faith in his ability to follow through. For starters, he's a career politician, which is a path I find hard to trust. Secondly, I don't respect his camp's work during the campaign to quietly try to undermine Jones' credibility as a champion for equity.

I bring this up not out of sour grapes, but to say that Reykdal has lived out the politics I expect from a career politician taking over as superintendent of schools. I expect this to be a stop on his career path, and as such I expect him to be less willing to take risks and to make the potentially unpopular decisions that will lead to true changes in our state's education system.

I hope he proves me wrong.

In fact, as a parent with a son in a struggling elementary school, and in the name of what's right, I challenge you, Chris Reykdal, to be as bold as our kids need you to be in the name of racial and socioeconomic equity in education, regardless of its impact on your career.

We are not in an era where you can straddle the fence. Our state's progressive values are not reflected in our pathetic educational outcomes and segregated schools.

It's you, Chris Reykdal, who's been elected to change that. You will have to risk your popularity and your future electability, but I'm trusting you'll do that because it's what the job demands. I look forward to hearing your plans next week, and to seeing you in your role as the person our most overlooked families are quietly depending on to fight for our kids.


  • WHAT:    Press conference with State Superintendent Chris Reykdal
  • WHEN:    Wednesday, May 17, 2017, 10:30 a.m.
    • WHERE:  Brouillet Conference Room, 4th Floor
                     Old Capitol Building (OSPI)
                      600 Washington Street SE, Olympia

RSVP:  Nathan Olson, OSPI Communications Director: 


Chris Reykdal feels all the feelings about playgrounds.

Chris Reykdal feels all the feelings about playgrounds.

Seattle teachers vote against McCleary walkout

The Seattle teachers union voted down a proposed one-day walkout meant to pressure the legislature to fully fund its McCleary obligation.

This would hardly be unusual for Seattle's teachers. In fact, this would be their third strike or walkout in the past three school years.

We've all been agreeing for years now that we need a solution that fully funds our schools. I'm glad to see the teachers recognizing that taking a day of classroom instruction away from their students will do more harm than good at this point. Or at any rate, it's not going to apply such pressure as the legislature hasn't already been feeling.

From Paige Cornwell of the Seattle Times:

Union members who voted no questioned the effectiveness of a walkout, as well as the disruption it would cause for students and families. Lawton Elementary teacher Lyon Terry said his experiences with the 2015 walkout and strike led him to vote no on the proposed walkout.
“We walked out to fund education, but we ended up having to strike anyway,” Terry said. “My interpretation was that it wasn’t effective in that way. I don’t think this one would be, either.”
In addition to possibly changing the last day of school, students in some Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes are scheduled to take exams on May 1. The AP exams, which students can take to earn college credit if they score high enough, can be rescheduled, union leaders wrote in an email to members. But the IB exams, which students in the program take to earn their IB diploma, can’t be taken on a different day. [Union President Phyllis] Campano said she has heard more concerns from members this year than the last time they voted on a walkout.


Interestingly, Seattle City Councilmembers Mike O'Brien and Kshama Sawant jointly told the city's teachers through the South Seattle Emerald, "If you decide to go on strike, we'll have your back."

I give Sawant a mountain of credit as a fearless voice for equity, but in this case, it seems like she and O'Brien might be seeing this issue for what they wish it were, rather than for what it is.

They write of the May 1 walkout as part of a larger show of resistance throughout the day, and they fold SEA's potential action in with other labor rights issues:

We applaud the incredible courage Seattle educators are showing in considering strike action on behalf of their students, their schools, and all those in our community under attack from the Trump administrations. Your bold actions are an inspiration for working people everywhere.
May 1 will be a historic day of resistance, with immigrants, women, students, and workers taking the streets across the country. In California, a coalition of SEIU locals, United Service Workers West, and workers center members (nearly 350,000 workers altogether!) are preparing to go on strike.
From the Fight for $15 to the NoDAPL campaign, Seattle’s movements of working people have again and again acted as a catalyst for change nationally. Now, Seattle’s labor movement is helping lead the way on bold May 1 action.
UAW local 4121, which represents graduate student workers at the University of Washington, are also voting on a similar strike action. And importantly, last week, the Martin Luther King County Labor Council passed a resolution in support of local unions taking strike and protest actions on May 1.
The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that the state legislature is unconstitutionally failing to fund public education, and yet this outrage has continued for years. Underfunding of public schools impacts students of color in particular, as well as young people from low-income households.

This misses the mark for me. Teachers' rights as workers are not at stake, unless you consider the gross under-representation of people of color in the field -- 80 percent of current Seattle Public Schools teachers are white -- so this walkout would have been a students' rights issue, not a labor issue.

And, thankfully, the union voted against it in the end. I appreciate that they will maintain continuity in the classroom while finding other ways to advocate for a legislative fix for McCleary.


Campaign for Student Success launched today to urge an equitable McCleary fix

A coalition of Washingtonians are banding together to ensure that the solution to McCleary is a solution for all students, including those our state typically overlooks.

Launched today, the Campaign for Student Success (CSS) invites all Washingtonians to participate in sharing their vision for an education system that prepares every child to be career- and college-ready. The coalition has pledged to collaborate with Washington legislators and Governor Jay Inslee to ensure that this vision becomes a reality.

So far, the growing list of member organizations includes the Equity in Education Coalition, Washington Roundtable, League of Education Voters, Stand for Children Washington, Statewide Poverty Action Network, Treehouse, School’s Out Washington, Thrive Washington and the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition.

Sharonne Navas, co-founder and executive director of the Equity in Education Coalition, addresses the crowd at today's Campaign for Student Success launch event.

From the CSS press release:

“In McCleary, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that because the state government is not providing sufficient education funding, it is violating the state’s constitution. Further, the Court found that inadequate funding from the state is leading to inequalities and disparities between wealthy and poor school districts. McCleary is a unique opportunity to reimagine – and bring fairness to – Washington’s public education system.”

That’s a promising start. I completely agree that we need to use McCleary as an opportunity to forge a bold new beginning for our public schools.

“We cannot afford to miss the opportunity presented to us by McCleary,” said Sharonne Navas, co-founder and executive director of the Equity in Education Coalition, at today's CSS launch event. “The choice is simple—will we meet the constitutional obligation by dumping money into an unfair system, or take the time to reimagine and reshape our education system into one that puts the needs and assets of children first and works for each and every child in our state? Our coalition has come together to fix a system that is inherently unfair by ensuring that every kid has access to equal opportunity. And it’s not just about the kids. The economy of our state and our way of life depend on a well-educated and diverse workforce.”

The Campaign for Student Success will function according to three key policy pillars: 

  • Funding & Fairness: “Sufficient funding must also be equitable and fair, meaning we must support those students who need it most;”
  • Talent: “Educator compensation must be funded with a focus on equity, growing the pipeline of excellent educators and matching them with students who need the most help;”
  • Accountability: “Funding and talent must be accompanied by a robust accountability system that sets clear goals, tracks progress over time, and provides appropriate supports and programs for under-performing schools and struggling students.”

“The Campaign for Student Success is giving voice to every parent in Washington,” said Regina Elmi, a mother in the Renton School District. “As a parent, I’m thrilled to be asked to be a central part of the conversation because my two daughters are counting on our legislators to get it right. As parents, we need to make sure our voices are heard in Olympia.”

I see so much to love about this campaign. I trust the leadership and the intention. Let’s hope they get the help they need to make equitable education funding a reality in our state.

Let's fully fund McCleary, but not at the expense of equity

By Matt Halvorson

It's been a common refrain among those attacking charter schools in Washington State to criticize charter advocates for not simultaneously shouting from the rooftops for the legislature to fully fund our public schools.

So, let's talk McCleary.

It's been four years since the McCleary vs. State decision. As causes go, this one's a layup. Should our schools get the "full" funding legally promised to them? Yes. Easy.

But reality isn't quite so simple. And those trumpeting the “McCleary-first” mantra seem to either ignore or remain oblivious to the complexity of our current public education situation.

A new study out of Johns Hopkins University discussed in the Washington Post found that white teachers expect significantly less academic success than black teachers when evaluating the same black student, and that "this is especially true for black boys."

When a black teacher and a white teacher evaluate the same black student, the white teacher is about 30 percent less likely to predict the student will complete a four-year college degree, the study found. White teachers are also almost 40 percent less likely to expect their black students will graduate high school.
The researchers analyzed data from the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002, an ongoing study following 8,400 10th grade public school students. That survey asked two different teachers, who each taught a particular student in either math or reading, to predict how far that one student would go in school. With white students, the ratings from both teachers tended to be the same. But with black students, boys in particular, there were big differences — the white teachers had much lower expectations than black teachers for how far the black students would go in school.

The public education system the McCleary-first crowd is proposing we fully fund is not teaching or caring for students of color or students from low-income backgrounds as well as it is white students from at least middle income. And the hidden truth here is that they are asking communities of color and their advocates to wait, as if somehow more money will buy equity, or as if funding a flawed system should absolutely take precedent over trying to fix it.

Nothing in McCleary that I've found speaks directly to these racial and social inequities. Our state House has voted to "close the opportunity gap" five times since the McCleary decision, yet the gap remains, seeming not to care that it has been rhetorically vetoed. There's reason for skepticism, even if the money was there.

So, yes, I demand that we fully fund our schools.

I also demand mandatory implicit bias testing for all public school teachers.

Take a look at this fascinating nugget from a Washington Post article about implicit bias among NBA referees:

“‘Racial bias is a malleable trait,’ says study co-author Joseph Price. ‘Large-scale public focus on a specific type of racial bias in a specific group can make it go away.’ Price says the same could hold true for any situation in which implicit racial bias plays a role – from police officers deciding who to pull over to teachers deciding how to grade an essay."

Let’s make sure our teachers know what their blind spots look like before we send them in to influence a classroom full of children.

Let’s make sure we can fully support the system we’re fully funding.