School district letters inadequately notify parents about their federal right to school choice and free tutoring

August 22, 2014

School administrators across Washington are sending letters this week informing parents that families may now have the right to choose a better school and get free tutoring for their children under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Many school officials, however, are reluctant to explain the matter clearly to parents. 

The public education operates as a monopoly, so administrators are fearful about any family choices that might disrupt their protected position in the system. If a school is doing well, administrators leap at the chance to trumpet the fact, celebrating an A rating earned under the State Board of Education’s official Achievement Index. If a school rates poorly, school administrators do whatever they can to keep parents from finding out. 

This year the federal government is forcing school districts to notify parents about school performance. Since they must send letters to parents, many school administrators are using blocks of thick bureaucratic text to discourage parents from learning about new education options for children.  

Here are some examples: 

The Seattle School District, the largest in the state, has sent 33 different letters to parents whose children attend low-performing schools. The two-page single-space letter looks like the routine welcome-back-to-school-we-are-committed-to-your-child’s-education notice parents receive every year. The parents who wade through it find it raises more questions than it answers. Few parents will discover they now have the choice under federal law to transfer their child to a better school and get free tutoring. 

The Everett school administrators sent a letter that does not directly tell parents they have a right to free transportation to a better school and to receive free tutoring for their child. Instead school officials complain they will lose control over money that parents use to seek better education choices for their children. 

The Lake Stevens school administrators sent parents a formidable four-page letter called the Achievement, Accountability and Actions letter, filled with rosy generalizations about their own performance. In the envelope with the letter is a separate single-page notice titled “Federal Regulations.” How many parents are likely to even see this notice, much less read it? And even fewer parents will soldier through to the very bottom of the page, where it finally states that parents have the right to choose a better school and free tutoring. 

So, if you are a public school parent and local schools are performing well, administrators will give you a letter trumpeting their success. If local administrators are doing a bad job educating children, you will be given a multi-page letter filled with incomprehensible jargon. What they are trying to avoid is giving parents the choice to send their children to a better school and get free tutoring. Administrators of poor-performing schools know that family choice in education means public money might go to better schools where children will be taught by someone else. The reason they are sending confusing letters to parents is to keep that money in their own budgets.






Our founding fathers knew

Our founding fathers knew that providing a free and public education was at the heart of a true democracy. Stay here and read Ms. Finne's half-truths and blatant misrepresentations, or go to the blogs below and read thoughtful posts by teachers trying to move past the obstructionist mandates from federal and state regulations and trying to fulfill our founding father's vision.

Teachers around the state are collaborating, blogging, sharing, and working in new and innovative ways to provide higher levels of learning for traditionally underserved students than ever before. But I guess that doesn't make as good of a story and tearing apart ridiculous letters that the state legislature had every opportunity to keep from being sent in the first place.

Clarity needed

I'll have to ask SPS about these "33 letters." I find that hard to believe.

Well, first, I can understand if the district is not explaining the tutoring. Under the thumb of Duncan, schools would have to offer free tutoring to 97% of Seattle school students. That would put quite a dent in the budget.

Second, transfer to one of those 3% schools? For everyone? How would that work? It's not plausible and WPC knows it but insists on saying it anyway.

Also, those charter schools you want? They would be subject to the same conditions and if free tutoring was required, it would probably break the bank for most charters.

Misspelling of school district

Let's correctly spell, Lake Stevens, shall we? Correctly editing key school district names should be a number one edit check before publishing.

Letter to parents

Gee, who gets to send the letter to the parents who don't help their children study, let them play video games all night and believe that if their kid isn't learning it's all someone else's fault. Blaming the school is just the easy way out. It's always someone else's fault!