Councilmember Johnson on Funding Seattle Public Schools’ Bell Times Switch

Councilmember Rob Johnson (District 4, Northeast Seattle) issued the following statement after Council unanimously approved funds to support Seattle Public Schools switching to a two-tier bell system:

“As a Councilmember and a father of two daughters in the Seattle Public School system, I believe students’ health and academic welfare will be bolstered by supporting the change from the current three-tier start time to a two-tier system. The move better aligns the school day with the time of day students are apt to learn their best, and ensures kiddos get to school safely and on time.

“In response to requests from parents, and based on research from American Association of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has identified the need for a two-tier start time model, and made a formal request to the City to provide up to $2.3 million in one-time transportation expenses to implement this change. The groups made a compelling case, and I was happy to partner with them to enhance opportunities for student success.

“We have been working hard to identify the right funding source to support our goal. Last week I introduced an initial proposal to fund the $2.3 million from levy funds to keep options on the table so we could meet SPS’s June 15 deadline for funding approval. As we began exploring other options, we found broader support for using SDOT dollars instead.

“I am proud that we found unanimous Council support for a solution that meets the District’s deadline. At the end of the day, the goal is to ensure students get to school safely and ready to learn at their best. Our vote today supports just that.”

Sue Peters, President of the Seattle School Board said, “On behalf of the Seattle School Board, I thank the City Council for their consideration and support of funding a more reasonable and equitable bus schedule for our city’s 54,000 public school students. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate the invaluable partnership between the City and the District in our shared goal of best serving our city’s students, especially in these fiscally challenging times while we continue to wait for our state legislators to fulfill their paramount duty to fully fund public education.”

Sebrena Burr, President of the Seattle Council Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) added, “Moving to a two-tier bell schedule will immediately improve start times for 80% of the students in SPS. Our middle and high school students received the evidence-based benefit of later, healthier start times this year, and we need to extend the benefit of safe and healthy start times to all kids. Our most vulnerable students, with the great gaps to close, have the most to gain from this change. In order to improve academic outcomes and close gaps in opportunity and beliefs, we need kids in school – on time, healthy, and ready to learn. This is the most impactful system-wide move we can make to close gaps across the district. Thank you to the Mayor and City Council for partnering with SPS to provide the funds necessary to support this important change for our 54,000 students and their families.”

Erin Okuno, member of the Seattle Families and Education Levy Oversight Committee, said “We thank the City Council for finding new and appropriate funding to support buses for the two-tier school start time. We also appreciate the City listening to the community’s concerns about preserving the Families and Education Levy’s focus on closing achievement gaps. We look forward to continuing to work with the City, School District, and communities of color to close opportunity and achievement gaps.”

Summer Stinson, Vice President of the education funding advocacy organization, Washington’s Paramount Duty said, “We thank Councilmember Rob Johnson and the Seattle City Council for the necessary one-time, $2.3 million band-aid so that Seattle’s children can get safely to school and have age-appropriate and healthy school times.  We will continue to advocate for the state to amply fund Washington’s public schools, as is the state’s constitutional paramount duty.”

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