Look What You’ve Done – An Open Letter to My Mother

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When you announced your plans, at your 70th birthday last summer, to vote for him, I patiently explained why a vote for Trump was a direct vote against the safety and well being of your only two grandchildren. You didn’t listen. You spouted rhetoric about how much you hated Hillary and didn’t trust the government. As we drove away from your house that day I knew in my heart that it would be the last time I would bring my children there. Something in the way your husband blurted out, during lunch, about his gun not being secured while Beezus was alone in your house made me realize that this was no place for my most beloved humans, my children, your only grandchildren.

Over the next few months I tried to appeal to your rational side. I don’t believe you are racist and I know you’re not homophobic. I’ve also always known you to be a feminist, maybe you’ve changed and I just didn’t notice. Maybe I assumed you were still the mother I had in 1969, 1974, 1980. I kept sending articles your way and sharing the writings of your very astute LGBTQ 12 year old granddaughter. You did not budge.

And then the morning after, when the rest of the nation was mourning our loss, when my 6 year old was too sad to go to school-trying to grasp why grown ups would elect a bully for their president, you went on Facebook to gloat in his victory. You told us that he would fix everything that was wrong with our country. When I reminded you that you had chosen to vote against your own granddaughters’ well being, you chose to ignore me.

And now it has begun. First he and his cronies, white men who have never known a day without extreme privilege, have made plans to dismantle my children’s health care coverage. We are income eligible for Apple Health and since enrolling after the ACA was enacted my children have received free medical and dental coverage. In the past, when my daughters, your granddaughters, were uninsured we didn’t take them to the doctor except in the most extreme of circumstances. It has been such a relief to know that they have finally been receiving the medical and dental care that all people deserve. Beezus is worried about how we will be able to afford to continue with their now regular dental visits. I’m worried too.

I’d like to take a brief aside to mention why it is that my children are eligible for free health care coverage through the state. Am I unemployed? No. I work full time, more than full time usually, about 50-55 hours a week. I am also a college graduate, Dean’s list UW 1996. But I happen to do “women’s work”. I am a child care provider, one of the most feminist and necessary occupations in our country. I am here every day making sure that six other American families can go to work. I make about $11 per hour.

But I digress, back to health care. We should be ok, we’ve gone without healthcare before, but I worry a lot about my friends’ children with asthma and life threatening allergies, and of course all of our friends with Type 1 Diabetes. What about you and your other friends with MS? You use Medicare, didn’t you think to worry about all of your friends with pre existing conditions and how a lifetime spending cap would affect them? My elderly neighbor feels lucky he had his heart attack early in November. His 11 day ICU visit to Harborview came in at just over $200,000-his portion will be about $1,500. But what will it be for my neighbors who have their heart attacks after Paul Ryan has his way with Medicare?

But maybe you’re like your president and think my neighbors don’t matter? After all many of them are black and brown and certainly some of them don’t pray to your Christian God. My next door neighbors are Muslim, recent immigrants from Iraq. The next house down, Muslim also, from Somalia. In fact of the twenty children who live on my block, only 2 of them are white, your granddaughters. Maybe you were counting on their whiteness to save them from this new administration and it’s devastating policies?

But it won’t. Because you made me a liar. And this is what pains me most of all. When your granddaughter came out at age 9, I told her this was the best time, best city and best family to grow up gay. Your granddaughter already knows Mike Pence thinks she should be electrocuted. And now Donald is sponsoring the anti LGBTQ “First Amendment Defense Act” that would legalize discrimination against your granddaughter in all aspects of her life.

Your vote made my daughter unsafe. Your vote made my friends’ trans kids unsafe. Your vote made my friends’ gay sons unsafe. You know who made me an ally though? You did. You worked at the phone company in the seventies when it was one of the only safe work places for the LGBTQ community. They were relegated to working as phone operators on the night shift with all of the others who were seen as weirdos and freaks. And you being a night owl, and something of a freak yourself, loved that shift and loved going out dancing at Shelly’s Leg after work with all your wonderful Gay and Lesbian friends. You were the one who taught me about the struggles of trans people when our friend Kelly, who had once been our big beautiful black friend Eric, was going through his transition and surgeries. You were the one who introduced me to Gay marriage when I was 4, in 1974, when we went to your friends’ house and they showed me the photo album of their recent nuptials and I mistakenly asked, “but where’s the bride mommy?” I’ll never forget how those two lovely men took my hand and explained to me that THEY had gotten married. I have carried that moment and their pure joy, with me always.

And what about your granddaughters’ education? That’s something that has always been important to you. They’re both Special Education students, you know that, so maybe you know that your president’s pick for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, didn’t know about the federal protections my children are afforded through IDEA. She would prefer I be given some vouchers so that my children might attend a parochial school or one of the full day online, screen time schools. Betsy DeVos doesn’t care about my children and their right to an amply funded high quality education at a public school by highly trained union teachers. But I know you did. You and my father made sure that I attended the finest public schools in our city. In fact, you were so discouraged with the lack of racial diversity at my neighborhood school that you enrolled me as a “voluntary racial transfer student” in 1978. I rode the bus all the way from Lake City to John Muir Elementary because you believed it was important for children to grow and learn in diverse schools.

I believe that too. That’s why my children go to a very diverse public school. A science school, by the way. Up until recently science didn’t seem very revolutionary but it is now that our Forrest Service is on the forefront of the resistance movement simply by speaking their truth and the daily evidence they see of climate change. Our science school is breeding its own resistance movement. Twice already the middle school students have held classroom walk outs in opposition to your president and his position on our Civil Rights. Both of your granddaughters were out on the sidewalk in front of school chanting, “This is a Safe Place!”

And they are right. Our city, Seattle and our friends in nearby Burien, have declared our cities, Sanctuary Cities. Your president has said that he will withhold funding to penalize us for this but our city’s Mayor Ed Murray held a press conference yesterday in direct defiance of that threat. We shall not be moved.

And then there is the earth. But if you couldn’t bring yourself to vote for the safety of the children, and your own friends, I’m guessing you don’t care about the earth either. Your granddaughters do though. They wept when I showed them the photos of the brave people who have camped out all winter to protect all of us, and our Mother, from the pipeline. Water is life.

But your president is only concerned about protecting the life of the unborn. Smugly signing away funding for Women’s access to reproductive health care services by global organizations, simply because some of those providers might also provide, or just mention abortion services? That photo of he, and the other white men in their suits signing away women’s health care was so vile, so unsettling-their hatred for women so palpable.

I still feel powerful though. I can thank you for that too I suppose. You didn’t know how to drive so we walked and bussed all over this city when I was a little girl. Often just the two of us, after dark. You were never afraid. If anyone tried to bother us you always said, “Move along now, move along,” quietly but firm. I took that quality from you and I’ve passed it to my girls. But I am loud. Our girls are so powerful, too, marching through the streets with 150,000 of our friends who believe that your president is wrong. We had signs from their Uncle Derek and the girls had pussy hats from my old friend Sara in Jersey and DIY buttons. They looked like mighty Power Puff versions of young revolutionaries as they chanted and marched for miles and miles.

I believe that me and my people will make it through this time, but I also believe that you and the people you have chosen to lead us are going to do a lot of damage that will not be easily repaired. Irreparable. What you’ve done is irreparable. I will work to clean the mess. I will march and post. I will display signs of commitment, Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights Matter, Muslim Rights Matter, Immigrants Rights Matter, LGBTQ Rights Matter, Worker’s Rights Matter. And most important, I will do my job as a Citizen and a Mother to raise 2 voters who always think of the greater good of ALL people and our earth, first. When that time comes, we will truly be able to say it was WE not he, who made America great again.

-Shawna Murphy
Editor’s note: To learn more about Shawna’s work, please read Fighting for Fairness: A Family Portrait in Activism from Seattle’s Child. 
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A Student Perspective on Staffing Cuts to the Center School’s Arts Program.

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photo courtesy of Ted Zee

Through most of middle school I was homeschooled. I was artistic and I didn’t learn in a conventional way.

I hated public schools and thought I’d never go back to them. Then towards the end of my 7th grade year, we found The Center School, and immediately started making plans to enroll. My mother passed away a few months later, and even in the months leading up to it she was so excited for me to go somewhere where I could express myself through art and learn in a way that would work for me.

I started taking classes at The Center School in early October of 2013. I immediately got immersed in the arts integration the school featured, and though I struggled with many classes, I always succeeded in Visual Communications, an introductory art class taught by Kevin McCarthy, a professional sculptor, painter, and digital artist with a passion for teaching and art like I’d never seen before.

Mr. McCarthy once called my father after school, my dad was obviously alarmed, he figured I was in trouble. To his surprise Kevin said, “Y’know, tonight I had to make some calls to parents about how bad their kids are. How disrespectful or whatever. But that gets depressing so every couple phone calls I call a parent to tell them the opposite.” He spent a couple minutes praising my art skills to my father. I’ve heard the same story from other students, a girl in my class cried when it happened, saying “It was the first time a teacher had ever told her I was good at something” as she sniffled.

But as of recently this school, and this amazing man have run into some trouble. Enrollment is dropping for some reason, and as a result the school is receiving less funding. They send a certain amount of cash per student, and this system is designed for schools with upwards of 800 kids, not less than 250.

As a result the school has had to make some tough calls. They had to figure out what to do. What to cut, what to change. My American Studies Teacher, Andrew Bell said of the meetings where this voting happened, “I have never been in a room where the air was more tense and thick”. The drop in funding is forcing the school to cut or at least limit the fine arts curriculum of the school.

As of the current plan, AP Art, Adv. Drawing and Painting, and Sculpture could be cut, and by extension, Kevin McCarthy, a teacher who changed my perspective of art classes, and changed another student’s perspective of her academic self, may have to leave forever.

There was a stirring in the school when this info started to trickle out. Kids were mad, kids were sad, kids were confused. I was all of the above and more.
I got tired of inaction so I made an impulsive and simple decision. I made a facebook event encouraging students to walk out of the school in solidarity, sign a petition saying they want the arts back, and march to the district headquarters to deliver it. Within a few hours over a sixth of the school was on board.

From there I started canvassing the school at lunch. I had just finished getting my 75th signature when I got in touch with a group of other students. Ella, Christine, Isabelle, and Reilly, a group of Sophomores who I didn’t know very well. They told me that they though my walkout sounded a bit drastic and harsh, they wanted to come at the problem from a more diplomatic and reasonable angle. We argued, discussed, and eventually decided to work together.

We five formed a group called the CSCAF, the Committee of Students Concerned About Funding. We’re coordinating hundreds of angry and confused students, giving them information, helping them work together, and helping them let their voices be heard.

A group of students are working on a press release, another is working on a documentary film, more are making art, and even more are planning a benefit event.

Currently we’re planning the walkout, trying to make it as safe, coordinated, and effective as possible. It will be on: May 3rd at 9:00 AM (30 minutes after school starts)

From there we’ll hop on the Streetcar and make our way to the Seattle Public Schools Building and present them with our demands and signatures.

At the core of the whole thing is a passion for art, a passion for learning, and a need to feel listened to. We want our school to get the money it needs to function at full power. We want to have a voice in how the money the school receives is spent.
And we want Kevin to stay, damn it.

-By Frank Hillary, Grade 11 at Center School

McCleary Crime Scene Special Session Coloring Sheet

 

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art courtesy of Susan DuFresne

As parents with kids in public school, it takes a tremendous amount of restraint when describing the just completed session of the Washington State Legislature.

A profanity laced tirade feels justified, maybe even appropriate. How else to explain the lunacy of the extreme arrogance and cowardice on display in Olympia?

Contempt of the McCleary Ruling

Much has been made of the Supreme Court fining the Legislature $100,000 a day for contempt of the McCleary ruling.

What’s not talked about is the Legislature’s refusal to even create a fund to collect the fines.

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The Governor was politely asked by the Supreme Court (see pages 8-10) to make sure the account and fines were collected. Inslee, showcasing his wishy-washy leadership style, decided not to rock the boat and let the Legislature wiggle out of this symbolic slap on the wrist.

Nothing stings more than a token fine, collected in imaginary dollars, deposited into a non-existent bank account.

Public School Funding

The next jaw-dropping absurdity was lawmakers’ approach to the public school funding crisis.

Members of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee held much hyped public forums – which not only managed to insult parents who have been patiently waiting and advocating for much needed funding for their resource starved schools – but seemed specifically designed to push the Senate’s preferred solution, a state property tax dependent levy swap.

The State Budget Director tried to excuse the continued foot dragging by stating:

State Budget Director David Schumacher even said early in the session that nobody expected lawmakers to meet the requirements of the McCleary decision until 2017 because the court set a 2018 deadline.

Surprising no one, the Legislature passed and Governor Inslee signed the infamous Kick-the-Can Plan. A perfect example of bipartisanship of the most craven sort.

Sorry public school students, no funding for you. Better luck next year.

Charter Schools

Confirming the Bizzaro World bubble which has sealed off the Capital from reality, charter schools received lavish attention from lawmakers.

Never mind that these schools have been:

  • ruled unconstitutional
  • serve less than a 1000 students and have been open for less than 8 months
  • operate under a legally dubious ALE scheme engineered by Randy Dorn and the Gates Foundation.

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President and CEO Nina Rees perfectly sums up the inverted logic in Olympia.

Worth noting: Rees was the education advisor to Vice President Richard Cheney, afterwards moving on to work for Michael Milken in his education business. (Take a moment to let that sink in.)

“We celebrate the parents who led this charge, and the school and movement leaders who refused to take no for an answer,” said National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President and CEO Nina Rees. “Their amazing efforts on behalf of Washington’s students has led to one of the most remarkable victories in the history of this movement.”

Translation outside of Bizzaro World: The money we poured into PACs, lobbyists, and TV ads during Seahawks games finally paid off.

Lessons from the 2016 Regular Session

Public school parents, the system has failed us and our children. Nice isn’t working. Outrage is a fitting response. Time to say goodbye to get a long, to get a little strategy.

We must hold lawmakers and the Governor accountable for their criminal neglect of our kids and public schools. Every day, 1 million public schools students’ Constitutional rights are being violated.

Angry? We sure are.

Here at TRAP Headquarters, we demand lawmakers immediately begin to treat the Constitution as THE LAW as opposed to a suggestion which must be followed only when it’s convenient to do so.

If this isn’t possible, time to #ArrestTheLegislature.

Happy coloring.

-Carolyn Leith and Shawna Murphy, cofounders of TRAP (Teacher Retention Advocate Parents)

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What our Washington State legislators CAN do to equitably fund educaton

its-timeI’ve seen enough dancing around the real issues of funding education in Washington State by our legislators and it’s time  for them to get serious or get another job.

From the Washington Budget Policy Center (who made a great presentation at the Stanford Center last year about funding education in our state hosted by the Seattle PTSA and the League of Women Voters):

Declining Revenue Projections Show It’s Time for Policymakers to Get Serious about Meeting Washington’s Needs

The new forecast of Washington state tax collections makes it clear that lawmakers can no longer assume the growing economy will automatically generate the resources needed to fund court-mandated improvements to schools, mental health, and other important priorities for our state.

The Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council’s projection that state tax resources will be more than $500 million lower than previously forecasted over the next four years means policymakers must get serious about generating new revenue to invest in the progress and well-being of our state and its people.

The diminished tax resources ($78.2 million lower for the current 2015-17 budget cycle; $435.6 million lower in the 2017-19 budget cycle) present a significant challenge to House and Senate budget writers. The writers should be cautious about tapping budget reserves to make up for the reduction in revenues. Doing so would only be a temporary fix. And depleting savings now could jeopardize the state’s ability to maintain core public investment in schools, public health, parks, and other vital services that serve us all if the economy were to enter a downturn.

A better approach is to preserve the things we rely on by raising additional resources. The Legislature can do this by ending wasteful tax breaks and enacting the new tax on capital gains as proposed by Gov. Jay Inslee in late 2014. It wouldn’t be right to continue giving tax breaks to large profitable corporations and wealthy investors while cutting back on financial aid, making K-12 class sizes bigger, or eroding the independence of seniors.

Given the forecasted shortfall in resources, these new sources of added revenue are key to ensuring that all Washingtonians have the opportunity to live in healthy, thriving communities.

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Now get with it.

Dora Taylor

Paramount Duty: A highly recommended event

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Paramount Duty

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

The Stanford Center Auditorium

2445 3rd Ave, South

Seattle 98134

In January of 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court decided in a decision titled McCleary versus the State of Washington that the State was not adequately funding basic education.

The Supreme Court ruled that the state had not met its “paramount duty” in providing adequate funding for schools which includes school buildings, maintenance, adequate class space, classroom resources, teacher/student staff support and transportation.

Two years later, in 2014, after two State Legislative sessions when the legislature failed to even provide the court with “a complete plan for fully implementing its program of basic education” by the 2017-18 school year, the Washington State Supreme Court declared the State Legislature in contempt of court.

The Court decided to wait until the conclusion of the 2015 Legislative Session, which begins in January and usually last for two months, to impose sanctions if the legislators do not comply with the court order.

It will be an interesting time in January and many have concerns that to fully fund education some of our representatives will want to cut corporate reform style backroom deals to agree to a bill that satisfies the requirements stated in the Washington State Constitution.

The Seattle Council PTSA, the Seattle Education Association and the League of Women Voters are sponsoring an event that will be interesting and very informative titled Paramount Duty.

The speakers:

Tom Ahearne, the trial lawyer for the plaintiffs in the McCleary case, will speak on how Washington State is not meeting its “Paramount Duty” to fully fund education. He will also talk about the latest “contempt” decision on holding our legislators accountable.

Andrew Nicholas from the WA State Budget and Policy Center will talk about the challenges of financing basic education and the reforms to the revenue system that can make that possible.

It is free and open to the public but you will need to reserve a ticket at eventbrite to ensure you have a seat in the auditorium

Dora Taylor