Councilmember Bagshaw left office on December 31, 2019. This website is for archival purposes only and is no longer updated.

Back to School

Across the developed world, and across the political spectrum, everybody agrees about the importance of education.  It’s good for society, which needs the contributions and economic productivity – not to mention the tax – of skilled workforce, and it’s good for individuals.  People with more education earn more, are more satisfied with their work and leisure time, are less likely to be unemployed, more likely to be healthy, less likely to be criminals, more likely to volunteer their time and vote in elections.”

– Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett

The Spirit Level, Why Greater Equality makes Societies Stronger

As I meet with civic leaders and families all across the city, no issue creates more passion than public education.  One friend from Queen Anne told me he nearly wept when his eleven-year-old daughter was accepted at their preferred neighborhood school.   Yet year after year, despite the best efforts of teachers, parents and civic leaders, our school system does not meet community expectations.

It is easy to state the ultimate goal — to have an excellent public school system that provides a first-rate education for all students — but apparently very hard to achieve.  I have lived in the Seattle area for over thirty years, and the problems articulated now are virtually the same problems parents focused on three decades ago when my children were little. 

How about this as a definable and measurable goal:  that our Seattle Public Schools have a deserved reputation as being so good that parents move into Seattle so their kids will go to school here,  rather than seeing parents move outside of the city boundaries so their kids can enroll elsewhere.

Accomplishing this goal is hard.  So how do we succeed when so many other efforts have not?

We start by making education the most important community priority.  Parents, teachers, Seattle Public Schools, labor leaders, business leaders, elected leaders and students must make this commitment and know we can make progress happen.

We begin by acknowledging that our School District is primarily responsible for our students’ public education and we support the District’s efforts to be accountable, not threaten to dismantle it or take it over with a new form of government.  For us to have strong schools we must have strong and willing partners for the long term.  

Of course, parents and teachers provide the primary daily support for individual students’ education, but all of us, community advocates, labor, students, business leaders, and, last but by no means least, the City of Seattle, must recognize the importance of our roles if the ambitious goal is to be reached.  Since our Family and Education levy is being shaped for next year’s vote, I will focus on the steps that the City can take to make our schools a model for our nation.

I’ve drafted twelve points that I feel will help us achieve goals both immediate and long-term. I’ll post them to my blog on Monday, and I hope you’ll provide me with your feedback and help me further fine-tune them.

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