We need more investment in Seattle’s schools to achieve equity. While funding Basic Education is the paramount duty of Washington State, we have seen our state legislators fail year after year to adequately fund locals. Yet despite raising property taxes on local homeowners, the new budget is estimated to fall $80 million short by 2019. Seattle’s Families and Education Levy has and will continue to play a role in funding community-based family support, early learning, school-based health programs, and wraparound programs aimed at closing the achievement gap. But we know that Seattlites are feeling squeezed by rising property taxes. That’s why we need developers to pay their fair share.
Pass Impact Fees
We must implement impact fees that developers pay as a small percentage at permitting. Impact fees are authorized by the Growth Management Act to pay for infrastructure to accommodate growth. Seattle schools have been growing steadily by nearly 1,000 students a year since 2010, and classrooms are very overcrowded, but school construction has not kept pace. All the mothballed schools have been reclaimed, and all the school capital levy spent. Seattle needs to do what 80 other Washington cities do: collect modest developer impact fees and use them for infrastructure.
Historically, Seattle has done a poor job of coordinating enrollment projections with Seattle Public Schools. We must strengthen coordination of enrollment and demographic projections with permitting and will commit to oversight of these programs.
End the School-To-Prison Pipeline
Instead of spending millions on youth jails, we must invest in restorative justice practices in our schools. I oppose the new youth jail and strongly support alternatives to youth-detention. We should expand city grants to organizations like Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) who are already doing excellent, community-based work to rehabilitate youth who offend. Schools all over King County and in Seattle are starting to invest in restorative justice programs. I support expanding access to these programs while reducing reliance on punitive discipline strategies in schools. In Seattle Public Schools, black students are 18.6% of the student population and are suspended at a rate of 12.9% while white students make up 43.2% but are only suspended at rates of 3.8%. I support ending out of school suspensions in favor of restorative justice practices.
My criminal justice reform platform explains in detail my proposals to end youth detention.
Protect the Rights of Disabled Students
Students in special ed programs and disabled students are three times as likely as non-disabled students to be suspended from school. Black disabled students are suspended at rates over 25%, compared with 6.8% in the general student population. Ending the school to prison pipeline is therefore not just a racial equity issue but a commitment we must make to our disabled students.
We must also ensure that we enforce state law that limits restraint and seclusion of disabled students. Washington State law states that restraint and seclusion may not be routine parts of a child's individualized education program but may only be used for reasons of immediate safety. Reporting from schools has been inconsistent and in one case, a student was confined 617 times in six months. We must require Seattle schools to report accurately and expediently and hold them to the state standard.