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Parents force Seattle school superintendent to back down
Not one school will close!

By Vicky Jambor, SEA member | June 10, 2005 | Page 11

SEATTLE--Superintendent of schools Raj Manhas buckled to public pressure May 17 and scrapped a proposal to close 10 public schools in the 2005-2006 year. Also eliminated is the plan to expand or convert 14 other schools and programs.

"Through community meetings, e-mails, phone calls and letters, we have heard Seattle's voice, including the voices of our communities of color and our bilingual communities," Manhas said at the news conference to announce the scrapping of the proposal.

This announcement came after only three weeks, because of the overwhelming opposition of thousands of parents who protested the closures. Vital to the victory was a citywide campaign organized by a newly formed group, Communities for Public Education (CPE), that represented a united front against the closures of any of the schools and called for a rejection of Manhas' proposal.

Though Manhas backed off the closures, he said he will still urge the school board to eliminate school choice, essentially re-segregating schools, since students would only be allowed to attend neighborhood schools. This part of the proposal has been tabled until a school board vote next year.

Manhas initially hatched the plan to close a $20 million budget shortfall, but the closures would only have saved about $2.6 million the first year and $3.2 million after that.

Shamefully, the Seattle Education Association (SEA), the teachers' union, was one of the biggest supporters of Manhas' plan. Soon after Manhas' decision to scrap the closure plan, the union sent out an official response that said that school closures were the "necessary and financially responsible thing to do."

Now that the school closure plan is off the table, the union is claiming that 300 to 400 teachers must be laid off next year to finance salary raises that were negotiated in last year's contract. But the union shouldn't be attacking its own members--it should fight for more spending.

In fact, the Basic Education Act requires that the state allocate 50.4 percent of the general budget to public education, but our schools only receive 43.7 percent, a loss of $600 million.

More than 500 tax breaks have been given to corporations in Washington state, resulting in a loss in state revenue of $32 billion per year. The money for our schools is there. We should learn from our victory in pressuring Manhas and fight for the funding that our schools deserve.

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