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Bill Would Split Seattle Into Two School Districts

Seattle's Department of Transportation is providing $2.3 million to go toward a change in start times for Seattle Public Schools.
Flickr Photo/tncountryfan
File photo.

Two state representatives want to divide Seattle Public Schools into two smaller districts.

“Seattle public schools is a broken system for many students for many families and something has to change,” said Sharon Tomiko-Santos, a Democrat from South Seattle.

The gap in test scores between white students and black students in Seattle supports her point. Among black fourth-graders in Seattle, 56 percent read at grade level. By contrast, 90 percent of white students make the grade.

Tomiko-Santos, who represents the 37th district, says that smaller classrooms create a better learning environment for a child – as do smaller school districts.

“Research shows that same concept of strong relationships, focused on specific students’ success, is what helps students succeed,” Tomiko-Santos said.

Poorer students in smaller districts typically do better than their counterparts in larger districts.

The proposed legislation, HB 1860, would limit school district size to 35,000 students.

Tomiko-Santos introduced the bill with Eric Pettigrew, also of the 37th district, which includes the Central District and Rainier Valley.

Sherry Carr, Seattle’s school board president, disagreed. Seattle isn’t failing, she said.

“Whether you look at test scores or graduation rates -- our improvements have outpaced the state, we are above state average,” Carr said. She said that across the U.S. are larger school districts that thrive.

“Size provides an opportunity to leverage your dollars and get your dollars into the classroom,” she said.  

Correction 02/03/2015: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the district that Sharon Tomiko-Santos represents.

Year started with KUOW: 2006