by Erin Okuno
According to Seattle Public Schools, enrollment increased by 1,400 students this past school year and is expected to grow by 10,000 students in the next decade. To accommodate the growth and alleviate overcrowding, the district is looking to move elementary and middle school boundary lines. In the North East corner of Beacon Hill,, students’ assignments will take families from Beacon Hill International School to Thurgood Marshall, then to Washington Middle School in the Central District. Kimball Elementary students will matriculate to Washington Middle School instead of Mercer Middle School, and John Muir to Meany Middle School. Other parts of Beacon Hill are also seeing significant shifts as well.
School Board Director Voting 411
One of the unintended consequences of this shift is that many Beacon Hill residents will lose the ability to vote for school board members who represent our students’ assignments in the primary election. Much of Beacon Hill resides in School Board Director District VII, yet Thurgood Marshall and Washington Middle School are in District V.
Seattle Public Schools has seven elected board members. Each board member has a slate of schools they represent. During the primary election ONLY those residing in the director’s district are allowed to vote; the top-two candidates advance to a city-wide general election.
School board directors are an important part of a well-functioning and high-performing school district. They are responsible for approving the district’s budget, assuring sound legal and fiduciary practices, student assignments (as presently happening), and representing the public’s voice in school district decisions.
The problem comes for those families who are a part of the boundary change. Beacon Hill to Thurgood Marshall, Kimball students moving on to Washington — our students will be sent to schools in District V. This means we lose the ability to vote in the primary election for a school board member representing our student assignment. This problem already exists in the north-end neighborhoods of Ballard, Crown Hill, and possibly other areas.
As South End residents we have more to lose by losing a vote in the primary election. Southeast Seattle schools aren’t performing as well as their North End counterparts. Voting for a school board director that represents our Beacon Hill students, how funds are allocated, and where students attend school is important.
What You Can Do
Now is the time to speak up and ask Seattle Public Schools what their plan is to address the discrepancy. Tell them how you feel about the boundary changes and wanting to keep Beacon Hill students in Beacon Hill. Let Seattle Schools know that it isn’t ok to take away this important voting right in the primary election.
As another neighbor wrote, Seattle Public Schools cannot afford to disenfranchise voters. As taxpayers and citizens we have a right and a duty to pay attention and vote in accordance to our values. I hope you will join me in pressing the need for Seattle Public Schools to pay attention to this important voter right. A feedback form and more information can be found here.