An open letter to the Washington State Legislature from Members of the Seattle Public Schools African-American Male Advisory Committee
January 10, 2017
Seattle Public Schools is facing a $74 Million dollar shortfall for the 2017-18 school year as the district formulates its budget. This shortfall is extremely alarming, as the district is facing an already critical, ongoing deficiency in serving the needs of African American males and other students of color.
Seattle Public Schools has the fifth highest achievement gap between black and white students in the U.S.; statewide and in Seattle, black students are almost three times as likely to be expelled or suspended as whites. The disproportionately high rate of discipline of African American students in Seattle middle schools sparked an investigation in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Education. The expected budget shortfall stands to deepen the very crisis Seattle Schools is trying to stop and turn around.
Even if the Legislature eventually makes up some of this deficit in its summer 2017 Biennial Budget, significant damage will have been done. Seattle Public Schools must proactively plan and execute severe cuts in staffing and programs because of Washington’s legal requirement of a balanced budget.
Failure to present a budget that fully funds schools leaves these most poorly-served students even more vulnerable than before. The ability to recruit new teachers, train and educate experienced teachers to resolve this crisis, and the overall environment under which these students must learn will all be eroded. Anything less than a fully funded budget stands to perpetuate the culture of failure that has consumed too many African American males in Seattle Public Schools.
We call on the Washington State Legislature to fulfill the citizens’ responsibility to the children of our state by performing its paramount, court-ordered duty of amply funding public education in Washington state.
2017 must be the last year in which Washington state school districts are subject to extreme, destabilizing funding insecurity. Members of the African American Male Advisory Committee strongly believe that additional resources are essential so our educators may fulfill their moral responsibility to lift our students to new heights. Given the magnitude of the challenge, you have the opportunity to impart a legacy of optimism within our educators and children for our collective future.
This letter has been drafted by members of the African American Male Advisory Committee, a group commissioned by Superintendent Larry Nyland to inform, support and monitor Seattle Schools’ progress in eliminating the educational opportunity gap.
Lois Brewer, MS
Audrey K. Querns
Christie Ray Merriweather
Dr. James B. Smith
Sheldon R. Levias, Ph.D.
Sarah J. Pritchett
Warren Brown, Ed.D.
Tanisha Brandon-Felder Ed.D
Rayburn Lewis, MD