Seattle Public Schools and the Alliance for Education, a nonprofit that raises money for the district, have collapsed, but their share vision for improving schools is reason enough to resolve their differences.

Share story

Donna Grethen / Op Art

Seattle Public Schools and the Alliance for Education, a nonprofit set up to raise money for public schools, should take a step back and salvage what has been a relationship that benefits Seattle students.

The district and the nonprofit have worked together for 20 years, although their memorandum of understanding expired in March.With district officials disagreeing with the alliance’s priorities for the funding it provides, Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Larry Nyland proposed a restructuring, which the School Board is expected to consider Wednesday.

The board should table the vote and push the district and alliance leaders to set aside differences and figure out how to work effectively. The alliance is an asset to the district that should not be squandered.

Since it started, the alliance has shepherded more than $150 million into Seattle Public Schools, including $3.8 million in direct payments and program administration programs in 2014. The group serves as a broker between the district and donors, including companies and foundations such as Boeing, Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In an Oct. 7 letter, district officials expressed frustration with the alliance’s CEO, Sara Morris, and the alliance declining to fund some of the district’s requests.

“SPS needs a partner who will be a positive fundraising partner,” Nyland wrote in an Oct. 7 letter.

The alliance has to balance the district’s requests with how the donors want their dollars spent. And the district has made requests in the past for expenses that are more appropriately covered by the general fund, not philanthropic dollars, alliance officials say.

The alliance’s other functions include sponsoring events and awards, funding principal training and managing financial accounts for Parent Teacher Student Associations, which the district wants to continue.

A major source of contention is the Seattle Teacher Residency, a teacher certification and training program that is a partnership between the alliance, the district, the University of Washington and the Seattle teachers union.

The worthy program recruits diverse college graduates without formal teacher training to become teachers, earn master’s degrees, work with a mentor and teach in high-poverty schools in Seattle for at least five years. So far, more than 70 teachers have gone through the program in three years.

The district says the program is financially unsustainable, takes up too many resources and hasn’t generated enough recruits per year. It plans to cut its contribution from $230,000 this school year to $50,000 next year. We urge the board to reconsider and fully fund it.

As Jonathan Knapp, president of the Seattle’s teacher union that supports the program, notes that such programs are proven to improve teacher retention — an effort that pays off over several years.

The district and the alliance will have conflicts and should hold each other accountable. But the community would benefit most from the district and the alliance working together to achieve their shared goal: providing the best education for all Seattle students.

Information in this article, originally published Nov. 3, 2015, was corrected Nov. 3, 2015. A previous version of this story had a summary that incorrectly called the Alliance for Education as the Alliance for Children.