Sunday, July 31, 2005

Market This...

The Seattle Public Schools are attempting to stem their brain drain with marketing:

For Jane Harvey, the decision to move her son and daughter from their neighborhood school to the private Evergreen Academy this fall was agonizing.

....Harvey and the thousands of other parents who send their children to private schools represent yet another challenge for the crisis-weary Seattle district: how to burnish its image and put a stop to declining enrollment.

In a city where nearly one in four children attends private school, and where the population of school-age children is expected to dip over the next decade, it won't be easy.

Officials in the 46,400-student district -- which has long marketed its popular school-choice system through brochures and enrollment fairs -- plan to intensify their efforts and even recruit parents to help generate buzz about Seattle schools.

At stake are thousands of state dollars for each additional student the district can enroll.

....The district hopes to have a new marketing plan in place by fall, spokeswoman Patti Spencer said, likely focusing initially on one geographic area and targeting parents of incoming kindergartners or middle-schoolers.

The FLUBA Committee on Staying on Message thinks, given this, they will have an uphill battle:

Seattle Public Schools leaders asked the City Council yesterday to lend a hand in addressing a chronic budget deficit that threatens to destabilize schools again next year.

Council members were enthusiastic about supporting the district politically in [the state legislature at] Olympia. But they steered clear of bailing out the district financially.

During a joint meeting, School Board President Brita Butler-Wall asked for four commitments from the city:

• Make K-12 education funding the city's top legislative priority by, for instance, lobbying the Legislature to relax the school district's levy cap.

Waive the district's obligations to the city, such as utility bills and building-permit fees.

• Try to raise extra money to cover popular district programs not funded by the state, such as school choice, which provides students with transportation across the city. One example, Butler-Wall said later: a tax on soda-pop sales, which the district's teachers union pitched this spring. City Council members previously said they had misgivings about the proposal.

• Use city resources to supplement district efforts, such as donating the services of city auditors and marketing the value of the city's schools.

Council members swiftly rejected a free ride on the district utility bills and didn't respond to the idea of raising extra money to pay for district operations.

"The city has tremendous demands on our budget, as well," said Councilman Richard Conlin.

Message heard: 'We're broke. Send us your child.'

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