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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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December 08, 2005

Close Those Seattle Schools

Once again, the people in Seattle are told that they must close some public schools. The crucial figures were in a story early this year by Justin Mayo and Sanjay Bhatt. On average, elementary schools are 80 percent full and middle schools are 70 percent full. Simply, the district is keeping too many buildings open.

It is really a simple issue. There is only so much money. The money spent on keeping buildings open, and keeping them fixed up, cannot be spent on hiring more teachers to improve the class offerings, or to get the student-teacher ratio down. Money spent on excess buildings is wasted.

The superintendent Raj Manhas, came out with a plan last spring to close down some schools. The plan was almost universally denounced as ill-prepared, unfounded, etc. I didn't study the plan, so I don't know whether it was or not. But I recognize the rhetoric, and I know very well that any plan would be denounced as "ill founded" even if it was excellent. Neighbors defend their schools. Nobody wants the school in their neighborhood--especially if it is a good school--closed.

The parents' big argument was that Manhas's plan did not give schools any points for being educationally successful--that he was trying to shut down successful schools, that that made no sense.

Actually, it makes a lot of sense. If you are shutting down schools, what you are discontinuing is not students or teachers or instruction, but classrooms and hallways and gyms. It is not an educational decision at all; it is a facilities decision. The schools that ought to be considered first for shutdown are the ones in worst repair--the ones with rusty plumbing, leaky roofs, buckling linoleum. The old ones, not worth renovating. That some of these old ones have good teachers and successful students is totally irrelevant. Move the students and the teachers and they will be just as successful.

Shut down the schools, save the money, and spend it on education, not plumbing contractors and roofers.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at December 8, 2005 11:04 AM



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