Seattle mayoral, City Council and School Board candidates focus on education in forum

Education — and what those running plan to do to ensure equity for students of color — was the sole focus of a forum featuring the 12 candidates in the mayoral race, two City Council races and three School Board races.

In many of Seattle’s political races, education has gotten little attention, with debates and campaign promises focused on issues like the economy, affordable housing and transportation.

But Tuesday evening, education — and what those running plan to do to ensure equity for students of color — was the sole focus of a forum featuring the 12 candidates in the mayoral race, two City Council races and three School Board races.

And in a departure from the usual format, where each candidate speaks to the audience, the Seattle Candidate Forum on Education divided participants into groups with different topics and had candidates rotate among the groups.

The forum, held at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service in South Seattle, was the first of its kind to focus explicitly and intensely on what communities of color need to succeed in the city’s education system, said Erin Okuno, executive of the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition, one of the group organizers.

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One topic area, and a focus of questions in others, was the city’s Families and Education Levy and the Seattle Preschool Levy, both of which are up for renewal in 2018. The levies are separate from the school district.

Mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan announced in August that she wants the city to pay for two years of community-college tuition for all Seattle public high school graduates, using the Families and Education Levy as one of the funding sources. In a four-part education equity plan released Tuesday, candidate Carrie Moon said she thinks levy money should only center on K-12 education “as it was originally intended.”

In another topic group — expanded learning opportunities, such as after-school and summer programs — community members asked candidates what approaches they see best helping students of color.

Moon sees out-of-school programs as an area that can address racial inequity head-on. Durkan said she would like to see more a connection between the city and student-program providers.

City Council Position 8 race candidates Teresa Mosqueda and Jon Grant both said they want to listen more to community members about how to reach families that don’t feel…

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