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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

December 1, 2008 at 3:58 PM

Education funding

Taxing is not the only way

Why is it our politicians feel the need to cut essential programs to force tax increases instead of looking at innovative approaches to funding increases [“Gregoire looking at massive state budget cuts,” Politics, Nov. 30]. Not all funding has to come from taxes.

How about advertising naming rights for schools, gyms and all athletic stadiums at each school that has them? Sell advertising billboards along the fences and walls of these same stadiums, like they do at Safeco or Qwest Field. Open up schools to advertising in creative ways, such as school clothes sponsored by various companies.

Eliminate school-operated lunchrooms and sell food-court rights to serve students. You can do this by setting reasonable health standards and fixed costs that vendors will meet if given enough school access for volume sales.

Increase the number of vending machines and charge more, providing a product line approved by the School Board. How about eliminating books and going to online materials that students can access from home? Kids don’t take books home anyway because there aren’t enough for each student, so they leave them in school and share them. Most of today’s kids are more savvy at the Internet anyway.

Rent out school facilities on weekends or at nights when possible to organizations and groups that will pay for usage. Do a transportation study and provide passes and maximize usage of mass-transit buses for high-school students instead of providing school buses for routes that are well-serviced. There is no need to add thousands of dollars of cost to students and families, just start thinking more creatively.

— Art Francis, Issaquah

Now is the time to increase funding

Washington state’s constitution specifically outlines its paramount duty is to fund public education. With the knowledge that voters overwhelmingly passed Initiative 732 and Initiative 728, it is extremely disconcerting that The Seattle Times would propose that we cut teacher pay and increase class size [“In tough times, suspend education initiatives,” editorial Nov. 26].

How many times do we need to list the cold hard facts: Washington state is 47th in the nation for class sizes, teacher pay is the lowest on the West Coast and far below the national average, and over the years many research reports and think tanks have said smaller classes and higher teacher salaries improve the quality of education.

The answer is quite simple: Even in hard economic times, we need to be working on improving teaching and learning in our state, and the baseline is class size and teacher pay.

As a teacher gains experience, just like a doctor or lawyer, he/she is also learning. Problems or challenges become easier to anticipate. There are more tools in his/her tool belt to assess learning and reteach, modify or increase instruction in particular skill sets. This information can then be passed to newer colleagues entering the field.

What is happening in education is a type of brain drain. Because of the high stress, huge workload and extremely low pay, teachers leave their field, their passion, to keep their families functioning. It is easy to criticize teachers and believe the myth that they are greedy and lazy. But there are few other professional and governmental jobs where pay is not guaranteed and workload continually increases without compensation.

Because we have a system that encourages a revolving-door type scenario, stability and knowledge are lost.

People also criticize the public-school system for students who fall through the cracks. There is always this wonderment of why someone could not learn to read by the time he/she gets to high school. The basic answer is quite simple: The larger the crowd, the easier it is to hide. When education is cut, supplementary services are cut. Even when learning issues are discovered, there could be very few options or tools available to the students, parents and teachers. When class sizes are smaller, it is easier to identify learning issues, and have the time to individually address the situation. Behaviors or attendance issues are dealt with at a faster rate. There is more time for a teacher to communicate with parents. There is nowhere for a student to hide.

Everyone wants to keep his piece of the pie when cuts have to be made. It is up the people and lawmakers to make these decisions. Budget items need to be prioritized. Washington state started this list a long time ago. The citizens and lawmakers understood the necessity of having a well-educated population. So they put it in the state constitution. It is our paramount duty to fund public education.

In the last few years, there has been some movement forward. We need to remain firm in our beliefs and not try and solve the budget problem with what seems to be a quick and easy fix. Education money needs to remain and continually be increased, even in hard economic times.

— Melissa Metzger, Seattle

Way too late

Children are our most important responsibility. They are the future. The knowledge required for Seattle (and our nation) to thrive in the global economy is already jeopardized by our broken education system.

The two initiatives you recommend suspending (better pay for teachers and reducing class sizes) are too little and very late, but at least they begin to tackle education problems. Our future is worth a lot more than the $1.45 billion you claim can be saved.

Shame on you and shame on us if we continue to relegate children and their education to the “good times.” We are surrounded with the results of such “good-time” thinking: rundown school buildings, students who can’t pass basic tests, teachers on food stamps and classrooms without text books.

— Loretta Jancoski, Issaquah

Education is more important

The problems that face our society can never be fixed as long as we continue to value entertainment over education.

Instead of trying to lure another mediocre NBA franchise to Seattle, let’s focus our efforts on keeping schools from closing and paying teachers a yearly salary that is more per year than what they owe for student loans.

Instead of shifting the 1 percent hotel tax (which is currently paying off the convention center) to generate $75 million in order to upgrade KeyArena, why don’t we shift it to generate $75 million for education?

Or better yet, If Steve Balmer and his apostles of American capitalism really want to do something of value for their local community and region, they should take the $150 million that they have pledged to upgrade KeyArena, and use it to upgrade the educational system. Maybe then they would see some quality returns on their investment in the long run.

It’s worth a shot considering we already have a pretty good idea about the kind of returns a middling professional sports franchise yields.

— Ryan Malone, Duvall

Comments | More in Economy, Education, Seattle School Board, Washington Legislature


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