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My letter to Seattle Public Schools urging them to fully fund Native programming in our Public Schools

Dear Superintendent Juneau, Director Halfaker, Chief Academic Officer DeBacker, Executive Director Starosky, Director Bush, Senior Assistant General Counsel Boy, and School Board Members,

I am writing to urge you to reestablish the partnership agreement and the MOA with the Urban Native Education Alliance (UNEA) to secure Robert Eagle Staff Middle School (RES) building facility for Native programming. It is with deep disappointment and dismay that I write to you following your recent decision to terminate your partnership with the UNEA.

At a time of unprecedented inequality, when young people are fighting back against racial injustice, this is a serious step backward by Seattle Public Schools (SPS). After centuries of treaties being signed and then violated across the continent, it stunning though unfortunately not surprising that Seattle Public Schools is treating Seattle’s urban native community with the same indifference. Native peoples have had to struggle to maintain cultural heritage and murals at RES. This is an unconscionable decision, and I urge you to reverse it.

As reported by the Seattle Times, the Clear Sky Native Youth Council after-school program run by UNEA provides job training, cultural activities, and free meals, and most importantly, a network of caring community members who watch over and nurture the students. We cannot overstate the value of the program to students, community, and the school district. Across our education system, racial bias in school discipline, poverty, racial discrimination, homelessness and housing instability, lead to some of the lowest academic outcomes among our most vulnerable communities. In contrast, UNEA has for over a decade demonstrated 100 percent high school graduation rates for the students who have regularly participated in the Clear Sky program. This year alone, nearly a hundred students have participated in Clear Sky.

As UNEA have pointed out, “there is nothing preventing SPS from maintaining a modified partnership or MOU that honors the agreement made when the Wilson-Pacific site was re-purposed to allow UNEA to continue to access the sacred, historically and culturally significant site free of charge.  There is nothing preventing SPS from engaging with UNEA leadership to explore expanding their role in the school and/or district to one that is more robust.  There is nothing preventing SPS from amending your aligned partnership policies and procedures to also allow partnerships that align with broader district goals, with which UNEA unarguably aligns.

UNEA has reached out to you multiple times, seeking to discuss this issue with you to find a positive resolution. But Superintendent Juneau has not yet, to our knowledge, personally met with UNEA representatives. 

Once again, I urge you to reverse this decision, and reinstate UNEA in Seattle Public Schools.

Sincerely,

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Councilmember Kshama Sawant

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