Seattle Culture

Back Page: Not Making The Grade

Seattle Public Schools Was Under A Harsh Spotlight In 1968

By Rob Smith October 27, 2023

Seattle magazine Cover Nov 1968

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2023 issue of Seattle magazine.

Before the 2023-2024 school season kicked off, Seattle Public Schools had some big decisions to make regarding a $131 million budget deficit.

Back in 1968, SPS faced similar challenges, as detailed in Seattle magazine’s cover story from November of that year. Staff writer Ruth Wolf cited a highly critical report that said students were being “educationally shortchanged,” citing racial tensions, shoddy buildings, funding woes and an “archaic tax structure.”

“(Superintendent Dr. Forbes) Bottomly looks tired, very tired,” she wrote. “A recent news item described him as ‘ashen faced,’ which was probably accurate, for never, it seems, have the Seattle public schools been in deeper trouble.”

Challenges remain, but today, high school graduation rates are rising, and the district receives solid rankings on “best of” lists for student achievement and diversity.

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