Seattle Schools BTA III Capital Levy Voter's Pledge sign now

Jan 19, 2010 Voters' Pledge. Petition for the creation of a committee that will represent the interests of taxpayers of Seattle, in the event that Seattle voters approve SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO.1 PROPOSITION NO. 1 CAPITAL LEVY on Febuary 9, 2010.

Ballot measure URL:

http://your.kingcounty.gov/elections/elections/201002/vpfulltext/seattleschoolprop1.pdf.


We, the undersigned, pledge to vote in favor of the aforementioned capital levy ballot measure (also known as BTA III), provided that the Board agrees to the provisions in this petition.


Sections

I. Major effects of provisions (3)
II. Rationale
III. Relevant Facts (6)
IV. Provisions (12)
V. Sign the petition and view signature count

I. Major Effects

If the Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors chooses to hold itself legally bound to abide by the provisions of this petition, the major effects of this petition will be the following:

M1. A new BTA III oversight committee will be formed, and this committee shall have only Seattle School District parents as members. District staff will make themselves readily available to the Committee for advice and information. The purpose of the Committee is to assure that the manner in which the BTA III Levy funds are spent by the District is in accord with the values, preferences and concerns of voters, and in accord with best practices in engineering and education. The membership, powers, and resources that this petition requires to be made available to the Committee all serve this purpose.

M2. If the capital levy ballot measure is approved by voters, the Board-approved BTA II budget proposal will be reviewed by three outside, disinterested experts, and revised by the District staff in order to satisfy the recommendations of outside experts. No levy funds may be spent, nor any reallocation of levy funds toward new projects or between November 19 2009 Board-approved projects be made without supermajority approval by a quorum of the Committee.

M3. The Committee will have the right, at District expense, to seek recourse from a Court of Law if the Committee has strong agreement among its members that the Board or District is violating any of the provisions of this petition, and shows an unwillingness to remedy the violation within a reasonable time frame.


II. Rationale

As discussed in Section III (Facts), members of the community are concerned that 1) the already approved BTA III budget is ill-conceived, 2) the District has a history of misuing levy funds, and 3) Board oversight has not been adequate to protect against these concerns. A strong community-based oversight committee could remedy this situation.

Neither this ballot measure nor Operations ballot measure call for an oversight committee. This petition calls for the Board to legally commit itself to creating a strong oversight committee for the BTA III Levy, should the ballot measure be approved by voters.

We believe that the probability of the BTA III Levy being approved by voters on February 9, 2010, will be greater if the Board formally agrees to the provisions in this petition.

We are concerned that many voters who would typically support school district levies may decide to vote against the levy, as an expression of frustration with recent mismanagement of District funds and non-responsive leadership. Our hope is that these voters, if they know that the Board has agreed to the oversight that this petition calls for, will cast a YES vote for the levy. In some elections, the margin of support is small enough that a few dozens or hundreds of votes gained - or lost - can mean the difference between success and failure.

If this ballot measure fails, the District can bring the same or a revised capital levy ballot measure before the voters as soon several weeks. It is our hope, that, if this levy fails, the District and Board will understand that, in order to win support on a subsequent attempt to get a levy approved by the voters, they must overhaul their approach to community engagement, and must make a concerted effort to re-align the District's goals and direction and Board decisions to accord with the community's values, preferences, and concerns.

III. Facts (6)

F1. This petition does NOT concern the Operations Levy.

The Seattle School District (SSD) budget for the current fiscal year is slightly more than half of a billion dollars; about $400 M of this amount comes from the State general fund. The effect of the Operations Levy, if passed, will be to provide the remaining 25\% (about $140M) of the District's general operating budget for each of the next several years. The Operations Levy revenues support day-to-day costs of Central District functions and school staff funding and expenses.

F2. This petition concerns the Capital Levy.

The approval or failure of the Capital Levy ballot measure will NOT affect school budgets and school staffing. The purpose of this levy is to pay for "construction, replacement, renovation, improvements and expansion of new and existing facilities, and for technology improvements, equipment and training, to meet the current and future educational programs." The capital levy will raise approximately 45 million dollars per year over a six year period. This levy is also referred to by the school district as the BTA III Levy. "BTA" stands for Buildings, Technology, and Academics.

The capital levy projects budget was approved by the Board on November 18, 2009. The Ballot measure gives the District discretion to cancel projects in the approved budget, and to spend levy money differently than as put forth in the budget. The Board-approved BTA III project list and budget can be found at this URL: http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/09-10agendas/110409agenda/btalist.pdf.

F3. State Law does not require that this ballot measure (nor the Operations Levy ballot measure) include an oversight committee. Neither this ballot measure nor Operations ballot measure call for an oversight committee.

F4. The BTA III Levy asks voters to pay for an extraordinary and costly mistake on the District's part. Forty eight million dollars of the levy will pay to reopen school buildings in the northern area of the District. This portion of the levy is needed to compensate for District error in its capacity management planning. Some parents are questioning whether the budget to re-open school buildings contains unnecessary expenditures. This budget will, for example, be paying for interactive white boards at some of the re-opening schools.

F5. From engineering, fiscal, and safety perspectives, architect and SSD parent Dora Taylor argues that a number of projects identified in the levy budget are ill-conceived. Melissa Westbrook--co-founder of the well-known Save Seattle Schools (SSS) blog, SSD parent, and long-time observer of SSD--also has concerns that priorities in the BTA III Levy are not well-thought out. Ms. Taylor and Ms. Westbrook informally discuss their concerns on the SSS blog [URL: http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2010/01/odds-and-ends.html].

Ms. Westbrook's Statement Against Seattle School District Proposition No. 1. Capital Levy can be found at this URL: http://your.kingcounty.gov/elections/contests/measureinfo.aspx?cid=33952&eid=1233. The oversight committee proposed in this petition would address these concerns.

At the January 20, 2010 Board Meeting, Mr. Don Kennedy, chief budget officer for the District, proposed to the Board that the District borrow funds from the BEX-IV levy fund to pay for part of the expense of a controversial, discretionary expenditure. More specifically, Mr. Kennedy presumed that the pending capital levy ballot measure would be approved by voters, so that the borrowed funds could be paid back at a later time out of the capital levy. This would mean shifting funds toward a controversial new project and away from projects already approved by the Board in the BTA III budget. This example, one of many such examples, reveals a cavalier attitude on the District's part toward levy funds, and points to the need for a strong oversight committee.

The provisions of this petition provide that such a proposal as Mr. Kennedy's could not be implemented without approval from both the Board and the proposed BTA III Oversight Committee.

F6. High Stakes Testing and BTA III.

In a recent letter-report to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the National Academy of Sciences Board of Testing and Assessment (BOTA) state that it supports greater use of standards and standarized assessments in K-12 education [http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12780&page=1]. BOTA stresses, however, that important decisions about students, teachers, and schools should be based on multiple sources of information, not just on student scores on standardized tests. To use standardized assessment scores as the SOLE basis for important decisions about students, teachers, and schools is called High Stakes Tesing. BOTA is very clear: High Stakes Testing is a misuse of standardized testing, and is NOT best practice in education.

In our estimation, there is $35 million dollars in the BTA III budget for projects that appear to have the purpose of establishing high stakes testing. These projects pertain to Core24, creation of a longitudinal student data warehouse, and creation of standardized district assessments for all core courses. This petition calls for a parent oversight committee that will convene study groups to determine 1) whether each and all of these projects conform to a) best practices in standards-based education and b) reasonable concerns of parents, and 2) whether the projects need to be modified and managed so as to avoid High Stakes Testing.

IV. Provisions.

P1. A BTA III oversight committee (hereafter referred to as "the Committee") will be established by the Board of Directors ("the Board") of Seattle School District No. 1 (SSD, "the District"). The Committee shall remain standing until all BTA III monies have been exhausted. Where the term "Board" is used in this petition, it refers to the Board as a standing entity, irrespective of changes in membership. "Parents" means parents and legal guardians of students enrolled in Seattle School District No. 1.

P2. Initial review. The Buildings and Athletic Facilities portion of the capital levy, if passed by the voters, will be reviewed by three outside, disinterested experts. The Committee will chose the outside experts. District staff will submit a revised levy budget that satisfies the recommendations of the outside experts, except wherever the District can successfuly argue that a particular recommendaton is inadvisable. The Technology and Academics portion of the levy will be reviewed to determine whether a) the academic and assessment priorities and strategies correspond to best practices in education, especially as expressed by the National Academy of Sciences Board of Testing and Assessment, and b) whether adjustments are needed to effectively and fairly address parents' values, preferences, and concerns, and to make the projects conform to best practices in education. No levy funds may be spent until these initial reviews are completed, and the Committee and the Board have jointly approved a revised budget.

P3. Charge of the BTA III Oversight Committtee. The charge for this Committee will be as follows. 1. To approve any deviations from the voter-approved levy, such as the District may seek, or such as outside experts or as a Committee Caucus may recommend. No deviations will be allowed from the voter approved levy budget, except when a deviation is approved by the Board of Directors and the Oversight Committee, and provided that the Committee approval satisfies provision P8(e). 2. Monitor BTA III Levy fund expenditures, so as to ensure that the District is responsibly using the funds in the approved manner. 3. Call for survey of parents to be taken when the Committee finds that such data is needed in order to make a decision about a deviation from the approved budget. The purpose of parent surveys will be to better ascertain what are the values, priorities, and concerns of SPS families, so that the decisions of the Committee can better reflect these parameters.

P4. Findings of Non-Compliance. The committee will make a Finding of Non-Compliance when it formally determines that the Board or District has violated any of the provisions in this petition. If the non-compliance condition has not been resolved within four weeks of issuance of a Finding of Non-Compliance, all spending of the Technology and Assessment portions of the BTA III funds must be suspended. The spending can resume once the non-compliance is resolved.

P5. Dispute resolution. When compliance disputes arise, the Committee and the Board/District will first try to resolve the dispute with the help of a disinterested third party. If mediation fails to result in an outcome satisfactory to both parties, then the Committee will seek a Court order to force the Board to comply with the provisions of this petition. The District will pay any and all legal and mediation expenses that arise in relation to the fulfilment of this provision.

P6. The Committee will have a budget for such outside expert services as the Committee deems necessary to help the Committee better fulfill its charge. The District shall provide such staff and expense support as is reasonable in order that the Committee may carry out its charge effectively. The District will bear the expense of and carry out, in accordance with Committee specifications, any survey that the Committee decides is needed.

P7. The District in accordance with approved Board policy shall indemnify Committee members acting in good faith in the course of their responsibilities.

P8. Committee membership, self governance, support, and budget.

(a) All matters relating to self-governance and which are not covered in this petition will be decided by the Committee. The Committee may change any of the self-governance rules specified in this provision, provided that one hundred percent of Caucuses approve of the rule change, and provided that the rule change leads to better democratic representation of demographic diversity.

(b) The Committee will have two members from each school. The term of office will be two years, with one of the two school representatives being replaced every year. In the first year, the principal of each school will appoint the school's representatives, and half of the appointees will have only a one year term. In subsequent years, the parents of each school will elect their representative. Only at-large members may serve consecutive terms.

(c) The majority racial group, and the largest minority racial group at each school will have one seat. The Committee may choose to add additional seats for every school if this leads to better representation of within-school and within-District diversity. The Committee is free to add up to five at-large members of its own choosing. The at-large members must be registered Seattle voters, must have expertise that is valuable to the Committee, and cannot be employees of the District.

(d) The Committee shall organize itself into caucuses. Each school can have membership in more than one Caucus. The purpose of forming caucuses is to improve the representation of diversity across the district, and to avoid the situation that a subgroup dominates Committee decision making. Twelve caucuses will be created at the outset: One caucus for Title I schools; four caucuses pertaining to geography: Southeast, West Seattle, Capitol Hill & Central District, North Seattle & Queen Anne-Magnolia; four caucuses pertaining to educational orientation: Progressive (alternative), Special education, Re-entry, and Magnate; and three caucuses for grade-range: elementary (K-5, K-8), middle school, and high school. The Title I Caucus will include schools that have at least forty percent of students qualifying for free-and-reduced-price lunch. The Progressive Schools Caucus will include all schools that have historically been considered covered by Board Policy C54.00. The Magnate Caucus will include option schools with a Montessori, Language Immersion, or International Bacculaureate program. The Committee can form additional Caucuses, provided this leads to better representation of within-District diversity.

(e) No vote may be taken at a meeting unless at least eighty percent of schools are represented at the meeting by at least one of their Committee members, and at least fifty percent of Committee Caucuses meet the attendance requirement for vote eligibility. A motion will be considered as approved by the Committee if the following obtain: 1) not less than eighty percent of members present at the meeting vote in favor of the proposal; 2) not less than ninety percent of eligible Caucuses vote in favor of the proposal; 3) the one or several Caucuses most affected by the motion vote "yes". An "eligible Caucus" is one that has least fifty percent of its members present at the meeting. The Caucus vote will be recorded as a "yes" vote if a simple majority of Caucus members vote in favor of a motion.

P9. Record keeping. The District shall provide and maintain a webpage in an appropriate location on the District website, so that the public can keep apprised of the Committee's work.

P10. The capital levy ballot measure and Board Resolution 2009/10-4 stipulate the following:

"Section 2. Authorization of Construction, Remodeling and Modernization. The District shall construct, remodel and modernize its educational facilities throughout the District. These projects shall include building reinvestments, including energy efficiency upgrades/sustainable technology retrofit and green school initiatives, roof replacements, mechanical systems and interior and exterior renovations, life safety and ADA compliance, improvements to drinking water quality, acquisition of technology and technical infrastructure, including internet wiring and administrative systems, and the construction, remodeling and modernization of science facilities and athletic fields and other academic facilities and other Capital Fund expenditures as may be found necessary by the Board of Directors. The District may repay any obligations hereafter incurred for the foregoing purposes. If available funds are sufficient, the District shall acquire, construct, equip and make other capital improvements to the facilities of the District, all as the Board of Directors finds necessary; provided that such funds may be used only to support the construction, modernization, replacement, and remodeling of school facilities or implementation of the Districts technology facilities plan. If the District shall determine that it has become impracticable to accomplish any of such improvements or portions thereof by reason of changed conditions or needs, incompatible development, costs substantially in excess of those estimated, or acquisition by a superior governmental authority, the District shall not be required to accomplish such improvement and may apply levy proceeds as set forth in this section. If any or all of the improvements have been completed, or their completion duly provided for, or their completion found to be impractical, the District may apply the levy proceeds or any portion thereof to other portions of the improvements or to other capital purposes of the District, as the District in its discretion shall determine. Notwithstanding any provision of this resolution to the contrary, levy proceeds may only be used to support the construction, modernization or remodeling of school facilities or implementation of the Districts technology facilities plan."

The Board agrees that the following legally supercedes the quoted section of the capital levy ballot measure and Board Resolution 2009/10-4.

"Section 2. Authorization of Construction, Remodeling and Modernization. The District shall construct, remodel and modernize its educational facilities throughout the District. These projects shall include building reinvestments, including energy efficiency upgrades/sustainable technology retrofit and green school initiatives, roof replacements, mechanical systems and interior and exterior renovations, life safety and ADA compliance, improvements to drinking water quality, acquisition of technology and technical infrastructure, including internet wiring and administrative systems, and the construction, remodeling and modernization of science facilities and athletic fields and other academic facilities and other Capital Fund expenditures as may be found necessary by the Board of Directors and the BTA III Oversight Committee. The District may repay any obligations hereafter incurred for the foregoing purposes. If available funds are sufficient, the District shall acquire, construct, equip and make other capital improvements to the facilities of the District, all as the Board of Directors finds necessary; provided that such funds may be used only to support the construction, modernization, replacement, and remodeling of school facilities or implementation of the Districts technology facilities plan, and provided that the BTA III Oversight Committee also approves such expenditures. If the District shall determine that it has become impracticable to accomplish any of such improvements or portions thereof by reason of changed conditions or needs, incompatible development, costs substantially in excess of those estimated, or acquisition by a superior governmental authority, the District shall not be required to accomplish such improvement and may apply levy proceeds as set forth in this section. If any or all of the improvements have been completed, or their completion duly provided for, or their completion found to be impractical, the District may apply the levy proceeds or any portion thereof to other portions of the improvements or to other capital purposes of the District, as the District shall recommend, and provided that the recommendation is approved by the BTA III Oversight Committee. Notwithstanding any provision of this resolution to the contrary, levy proceeds may only be used to support the construction, modernization or remodeling of school facilities or implementation of the Districts technology facilities plan."

P11. The Board and the Superintendent cannot curtail the authority of this Committee. By adopting this petition as a Board resolution, the Board intends that the provisions of this petition will take precedence where it may conflict with Board policies and with the ballot measure that this petition references. If any of the provisions of this petition are inconsistent with Board policies on Advisory and Oversight Committees, the Board permits these inconsistencies. That is to say, the provisions of this petition will prevail.

P12. The Board makes itself legally bound to uphold the provisions of this petition by taking the following two actions. 1. The Board publishes a legal notice in the Seattle Times, stating that, by publication of said legal notice, the Board is making a public declaration that, as of date of publication and until such time as one hundred percent of the BTA III levy funds have been spent, the Board holds itself legally bound to abide by all the provisions of this petition. The legal notice must state all information as is needed to make the signed petition and legal notice have the force of law. 2. The Board sends by registered mail a notorized copy of this petition, to which are affixed the signatures of all seven acting Board members to The Accountability Project/Seattle, 6532 42nd Ave. NE, Seattle WA, 98115. The notarized copy of this petition will be accompanied by a copy of the published legal notice.



V. Sign the petition and view signature count

We, the undersigned, pledge to vote in favor of the February 9, 2010 SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO.1 PROPOSITION NO. 1 CAPITAL LEVY ballot measure, provided that the Board agrees to the provisions in this petition.


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Gina CruzBy:
Politics and GovernmentIn:
Petition target:
Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors

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