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Councilmember Tim Burgess
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City View Newsletter

Volume 3, Issue 22  •  February 2010
Newsletter Archives

Education Reform

Education has been in the news a lot lately.

Yesterday, Seattle voters once again granted supplemental funding for our public schools by overwhelmingly approving two School District levies. The continued generosity of this city amazes me.

You might have also read about a court case regarding State funding for education. A King County Superior Court ruling last week eloquently articulated the importance of a good educational system: educated citizens are crucial to a healthy democracy, a robust economy, a fair justice system and a strong pluralistic and equitable society. In essence, everything we strive for here in City Hall starts with education.

"Paramount Duty"

The legal judgment of the Superior Court ruling is interesting. Article 9 of our state Constitution states, It is the paramount duty of the State to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex. Washington is special in this regard no other State Constitution says education is the States number one obligation.

The Court found that, despite some progress, the State remains out of compliance with this Constitutional obligation. Now, the State legislature must work harder to find and implement a consistent and ample source of funding for education.

The Citys Role

But, I believe, the City also has a very important role to play. We must be a strong partner with the Seattle School District, encouraging and providing accountability for their efforts. And we have our own work to do. As Chair of the Councils Public Safety and Education Committee, I am engaged in the early stages of planning for renewal of the Families and Education Levy, still two years away.

From my personal blog

In the news

On my desk

Through the lens

  • Watch as I talk about how Seattle is nearing the "tipping point" for education reform at a recent committee meeting.

Over the past year I have participated in very good discussions with others in City government, the District and advocacy groups about the potential for real reform in public education. We have looked closely at models like the Harlem Childrens Zone in New York and STRIVE in Cincinnati. Both of these groups are introducing creative and effective innovations in public education.

Joleen and I, and all three of our daughters, are products of the citys public schools. We all received an excellent education. Not every Seattle parent can make that claim and Im old enough to know that this has been the state of affairs for nearly 40 years in this good city. Whats needed is a groundswell of people power that will demand reformsmeasurable outcomes for both student and teacher performance, stopping the practice of staff layoffs based on seniority instead of capability and performance and incorporating social services for kids and families in a community school approach. Every child in every neighborhood deserves a high quality education in a safe and effective education environment. This is must do work!

I am pleased Mayor McGinn also takes this issue very seriously and is seeking extensive community input through his new Youth and Family Initiative. There is a lot of momentum and energy here. (View some of my previous blog posts on this topic.)

A New Youth Voice

Almost one-fifth of Seattles population is under 20 years old; not many can vote, but most can actively participate in the life of this city. To encourage this involvement, I introduced legislation on Monday establishing the Seattle Youth Commission. The Commission will be a continuation of a program started in 2003 by Mayor Nickels. Its new status and mandate will draw it closer to the Council and the Mayor. Twenty-five youth from all 13 districts of the City will serve one-year terms, during which they will seek input from their peers, develop policy proposals and lobby my colleagues and me on issues that matter to them. I look forward to hearing from them!

Improving our education system will not be quick or easy. The hardest work will always be done by educators themselves, but Im grateful for the opportunity to contribute.

Tim's signature
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