Inside Opinion

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Tag: Tacoma Public Schools

Feb.
10th

Get ballots in for Tacoma, Puyallup school bonds

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

For supporters of public schools in Tacoma and Puyallup, this is not a day for complacency.

Both school districts have critically urgent construction bonds on Tuesday’s ballot. Tacoma is trying to replace or renovate 14 worn-out schools, half dating to the 1920s or earlier. Puyallup is trying to expand or repair 11 schools, and move students out of its 220 portables, to easeovercrowding and handle rapidly rising enrollments.

Each measure would also pay for improvements across the district.

These bonds – $500 million for Tacoma, $279.6 million for Puyallup – are of utmost importance to public education in the two districts.

Tacoma voters, for example, haven’t approved school bonds since 2001.

A district with so many antiquated schools just can’t do its job without regular reinvestment.

A story in Thursday’s Seattle Times should correct any misconceptions that Puyallup or Tacoma are on a spending binge. It contrasted Seattle’s $695 million school funding plan with the Tacoma and Puyallup versions:

Measures on Tuesday’s ballot in Seattle and Tacoma would each fund dozens of construction projects over the next decade, with both districts focusing on rebuilding old elementary schools.

But while Tacoma officials are requesting about $30 million for each of the eight elementaries in their proposal, Seattle is seeking about $42 million apiece for the six it wants to build.

Compared with Seattle, Puyallup and Tacoma have relatively modest expectations. Consider building size.
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Jan.
26th

Yes on Prop 1: Modern schools for Tacoma’s students

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

A few dates will tell you why Tacoma must keep investing in its school buildings –
and why its Feb. 12 bond measure needs passing.

The Tacoma School District is both old and very large, with 28,000 students in 53 schools. At any point in time, it has a cohort of vintage buildings slipping into decrepitude.

The district once kept its buildings renovated with periodic bond measures supported by the city’s taxpayers. But bond proposals in 2006 and 2009 failed to win the necessary 60 percent of the vote.

In 2010, voters did approve a $140 million capital levy – which required only 50 percent approval – to reconstruct two middle schools and an elementary, and tackle urgent projects across the district. But that measure didn’t come remotely close to keeping Tacoma’s schools in timely repair.

The age of the schools to be replaced under Proposition 1 demonstrates the need.

Washington Elementary was built in 1906 – 107 years ago.

Grant Elementary was built in 1919; Wainright Elementary in 1922; Arlington, McCarver and Lyon elementaries in 1924. They date to the age of ink wells, biplanes and the Model T. They must be rebuilt for the digital 21st century.

Hunt Middle School and Wilson High date to 1957 and 1958, respectively – more than a half-century ago. Wilson was half-modernized with the 2001 bonds; Proposition 1 would finish the job for $40 million.

This isn’t just a matter of replacing old bricks and mortar with new bricks and mortar. At a certain point, old schools just can’t accommodate modern education.
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Oct.
23rd

Our choices for Tacoma Public Schools: Gordon, Vialle

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Tacoma voters this year enjoy an embarrassment of riches in their school board candidates.

Three of the best candidates we’ve ever seen have stepped forward to help govern Tacoma Public Schools, one of the most complex and challenging school districts in the country. And the fourth candidate is no slouch.

Tacoma’s schools need the best oversight possible. They struggle with poverty, an unacceptable dropout rate and a frustratingly persistent achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their more affluent classmates. This gap often breaks along racial lines, between white and Asian students on one hand and black and Hispanic students on the other.

The school board plays a crucial role in addressing these problems.

Running for Position 3 are the stellar Dexter Gordon and Scott Heinze.
Heinze has a remarkable breadth of experience. He’s been an aide to U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, a police officer, a homeland security adviser to state leaders, among other positions. He’s exceptionally bright and is currently working toward a doctorate at Gonzaga University.
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March
5th

Tacoma’s school money belonged in classrooms

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

News flash: The citizens who pay for public schools expect their hard-earned money to be spent on public schools, not on adults angling for business contracts.

Especially when money for teaching actual students is getting scarcer.

Had the Seattle and Tacoma school districts kept their focus relentlessly on the classroom, they wouldn’t have wound up duped by a rogue operation that claimed to be cultivating minority contractors while in fact squandering or pocketing money that should have been spent in the classrooms.

The Tacoma School District’s role in this is relatively minor, though it did wind up spending $105,000 without seeing much in the way of results. Along with the City of Tacoma and several other local governments, it bought into the Seattle district’s “Regional Small Business Development Program” (RSBDP), whose purpose was to help minority businesses bid for contracts.

According to the State Auditor’s Office, the Seattle School District got burned to the tune of $1.8 million by the new program, which misspent the funds on “services” that were either impossible to verify or never delivered – or turned out to be pretexts for siphoning money into private hands. A criminal investigation is under way.
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