Cary Moon’s Four Part Plan To Increase Equity In Education

As a mother and as a member of this community, I am frustrated with the rising inequity in Seattle. With all the wealth generated in our city and with our shared progressive values, how can we accept the deepening social, economic and racial inequity in our community? All our children deserve every opportunity to reach their full potential and the chance to pursue their dreams — no matter their zip code.

Our city has a long history of self-segregation within Seattle Public Schools, with a very clear divide between north and south. If we are determined to close the education opportunity gap, we must reassess our priorities and re-balance resources to bolster communities that are struggling financially and facing racial injustices in their daily lives. Our city must step up its investment in, and accountability to, communities of color and low income communities through our education system. Access to a great education is the first step to breaking down the cycle of generational poverty. We can’t shortchange our children by denying schools the resources they need.

While I stand firmly against mayoral control of Seattle public schools, I do believe the City of Seattle must collaborate more effectively with the school district and community leaders on these crucial issues. There are many important initiatives underway already thanks to the hard work of so many education leaders, but there is much more to do.

As Mayor of Seattle, I will:

1. Make the allocation of Families & Education Levy funds more equitable and focused on communities facing the hardest challenges.

The Families & Education Levy has provided needed funding to our city’s schools ever since voters first approved it in 1990. The levy is up for renewal next year and Seattle residents have repeatedly demonstrated this is a critical investment we are willing to fund. And unlike my opponent, I believe that levy money should remain focused on K-12 education as it was originally intended.

However, the city should evaluate levy-funding decisions based on need and in consultation with the community rather than relying solely on high stakes test scores. I want to acknowledge Nikkita Oliver and the Seattle’s Peoples Party for raising this issue during the primary election campaign, and thank the community leaders who have discussed with me the need to ensure we are doing everything we can to target levy funding in a way that benefits all children — but especially students who need additional support to succeed. Communities most impacted by educational inequities should help guide the process to decide how best to invest in their young people. The models and metrics decision-makers have historically relied on haven’t seen across the board success. We can and must do better.

We must also re-prioritize funding for crucial social services that low-income and homeless students need to succeed, including social workers, family support, school nurses, and mental health counselors. In addition, the city should provide greater technical assistance to programs navigating the grant application process for levy funds, and review grant-making policy to ensure the application and evaluation metrics create a level playing field for funding access. Finally, we should increase funding for critical thinking, civics, and arts education to provide all students with a well-rounded education.

2. Expand access to early learning

Last year the city rolled back the number of students served by the Seattle Preschool Program due to challenges with recruiting providers. We should evaluate broadening the eligibility guidelines for participating providers and removing unnecessarily stringent eligibility requirements. In assessing the administration of the city’s program, we should ensure overhead costs are streamlined in order to target more of the funding from the voter-approved Seattle Preschool Program levy to investments that directly support children and their families.

I want to work with the city council, the county, and legislators to prioritize training programs that allow our providers to obtain the important professional development they need to care for our kids. And we must find ways to decrease the ever-increasing costs to families to ensure their children are taken care of by the most qualified people in the best learning environments.

While the early learning pilot program continues to determine the best ways to achieve universal preschool for all of Seattle’s youngest learners, we must consider the ways in which the city can expand quality care to those yet to be included. I would like to see a program that benefits all families in Seattle and maintains parent’s ability to choose culturally-competent, local educators. This requires us to take a hard look at the way we support our child care providers who are not currently within the system, and the families who still rely heavily on those options. While this takes funding, it should be a priority if we are ever to achieve educational equity in historically under-served communities.

3. Prioritize closing the opportunity gap that exists for students of color

Last year, a Stanford University study found Seattle had the 5th biggest opportunity gap between white and black students among the 200 largest school districts in the nation. The study showed black students in Seattle test 1.5 grade levels below the national average and lag by 3.5 grade levels when compared to white students in Seattle. This gap is glaring proof that young people from communities of color face real and ongoing barriers in their education. Until we recognize these struggles are the result of deliberate policy choices, deeply ingrained inequities, and an uneven playing field, we won’t make much progress. We can and must do better.

This opportunity gap leads to low graduation rates for students of color. A report submitted last November by the Mayor’s Education Summit Advisory Group noted that “a shocking 43% of Seattle’s African American and Latino students do not graduate on time or at all.” OSPI data shows that students of color make up the majority (53%) of the district’s student body, but only 20% of SPS teachers are educators of color.

Another recent study found that black teachers are three times more likely to identify black students as gifted in reading than white teachers. Earlier this year KUOW noted that just 1% of the students in the district’s Highly Capable Cohort were black, even though black students comprise 16% of the student body, and Latino, Native American and Pacific Islander students are also significantly underrepresented in the program.

We need to prioritize increasing diversity in both the educator workforce and among school administrators to better reflect the demographics of the SPS student body. We need to increase resources and our commitment to including ethnic studies in the curriculum, teach students a deeper understanding of systemic racism and how we all much acknowledge and address it, and teach critical thinking and civics to empower students. We must listen to education leaders from communities of color who have laid out solutions to close this gap, and shift our resources accordingly. The promise of higher education is an empty promise unless we are doing everything possible to help all children succeed from early learning through high school.

4. Ensure Seattle has a strong presence in Olympia and a collaborative relationship with the school district.

Our state’s trickle-down approach to economic growth, and our deeply regressive tax system, benefit the super wealthy and large corporations at the expense of the rest of us. This model has left our school system starved for resources, hitting schools in low income neighborhoods the hardest. Low income Seattleites pay seven times more of their income as taxes than the wealthiest Seattleites. We must lead the charge to reverse this in our city and in Olympia by holding the wealthiest among us accountable to pay their fair share, and establishing sufficient revenue to invest in schools and ensure each one has the resources it needs. As mayor, I will work with our legislative delegation in Olympia and personally lobby for funding to benefit Seattle’s schools. In addition, I will ensure City Hall is collaborating as a constructive partner in education with King County and Seattle Public Schools.

Seattle must stand for equity and the empowerment of all people, and I am committed to doing all we can as a city to provide quality educational opportunities for all of our city’s children.