From Colleen Kimsey
You’d imagine that now, as the dust from the brouhaha surrounding the McCleary Decision
around how education is funded in Washington State has begun settling, there would be a baseline of adequate funding for our schools. When we walk past the big brick building on Mercer street, I think many of us picture a school that matches its exterior: sort of august and privileged, or at the very least, the kind of place that can afford to provide its teachers with enough Expo markers to teach. But as the recent expose by KOUW revealed, even wealthy Capitol Hill struggles to support Lowell Elementary in everything from adequately funding teacher’s basic needs, to keeping students safe throughout the school day day, to retaining quality teachers in a stressful teaching environment.
As Seattle Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Stephen Nielsen said in the KUOW article
“The headline is, obviously, we don’t have enough money to serve the needs of the kids,” Nielsen said. “We don’t have enough money from the state. We certainly don’t have enough money from the feds. And we want to do a very good job in serving these students, because we want them to get an education.”
And while every student has a unique set of needs that have to be addressed in order for them to get an education, Lowell’s students have more barriers than other student populations, even from within Seattle. Lowell has an enormous attendance area for students. Much of Capitol Hill, all of South Lake Union and the better part of Downtown are all needed to have a large enough pool of students to draw from to justify keeping the school open. This area includes almost all of the homeless shelters that house families in Seattle. The homeless children from those families make up twenty percent of the student population for Lowell. In a city that struggles to treat people of color with fairness and justice, 76% of students at Lowell are PoC and 25% speak a language other than English at Home. Sixty-seven percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, a metric that means their family makes 185% of the Federal Poverty Level or less. That’s a 17% jump from the 2016-2017 school year.
These demographics paint a picture of a school in tremendous need, located right in the heart of one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Seattle. While many parents in the community who can often choose a private school, or move outside the zoning area for Lowell, the parents of homeless children can’t opt out or work the system to their child’s advantage, disproportionately burdening the school with students who have a lot of needs that must be met before they can learn. Whether your child attends Lowell or not, we all benefit when the children of our community are well-educated. Well educated children grow up to contribute more to the tax base, have fewer health needs, and generally contribute more resources to the state’s coffers than they withdraw. It’s in all our interest to ensure that Lowell’s students are well supported as they start their education.
How can you help? Here’s a couple of concrete ways to get involved:
- Lowell’s website doesn’t have up to date information about supplies the school needs, current volunteer openings, or fundraisers that might be happening. A tech savvy someone who could commit for the school year to update their website with this information would go a long way towards getting those needs met
- Teachers at Lowell have asked for help teaching students self-regulation skills to help deal with the trauma of homelessness. Any yoga teachers, meditation instructors or mindfulness experts who could help teach these important skills during or after school would be doing a valuable service to the community.
- This list of classroom supply needs on Lowell’s website gives a sense of what the school needs to run smoothly. Top needs are 8 1/2 x 11 white copy paper, new art and craft supplies, snacks, and Kleenex.
- You can pay off the school’s lunch debt through mailing a check to Attn: Tammy Watson 1058 East Mercer Street Seattle, Washington 98102 for the “general holding fund
- Classwish allows you to donate to the specific need at Lowell you’re most passionate about, from musical instruments to science exploration supplies
- Vote for candidates on the local and state level that are strong on issues like zoning schools fairly to distribute high needs student populations equally, paying teachers a fair wage, and adequately
- Email the principal, Colleen Stump, about getting regularly involved through volunteering on the PTA, organizing or attending a fundraising event, or donating time and money in other ways at firstname.lastname@example.org
Colleen Kimsey is a resident of Capitol Hill and a graduate student in the University of Washington’s School of Public Health in the Maternal and Child Health track. They are currently working on their thesis on transgender adolescent’s crowdfunding practices.