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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

February 19, 2009 at 1:57 PM

Federal and state education budgets

Gut the plan

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, “We have to educate our way to a better economy.”

I love this quote. I just wish it were followed up with an action plan on how to do it. Something like the final report of the state legislature’s Basic Education Finance Task Force?

I wish we had a plan that included an honest assessment of what children need to succeed in class from access to early education to a professional team including librarians, counselors and tutors.

I wish we had a plan that made sure new teachers got intensive mentoring and support, provided for built-in analysis of competitive pay, gave districts the resources to increase math, science and language courses and explained what was being funded and why, so citizens could see how they’re investing in the future.

Oh wait, we do have that plan. Fabulous! Because here’s what we have to fix:

Eighty-three percent of Seattle Public Schools graduates can’t get into a university. They don’t meet the entrance requirements.

In the state of Washington, giving kids the chance to go to college isn’t considered “basic education” and it isn’t funded as such. We can fix this. We can redefine basic education and clarify the state’s financial obligations. We can stop shifting the financial burden onto local school districts, which have neither the resources to pay for our schools and staffing, nor the legal ability to raise adequate funds.

Or, we can let the House and Senate bills that would implement the plan die. We can gut the plan. We can study it for two more years. We can continue with an inaccurate and irrational way to predict school costs. I mean, it’s just the future. Nothing pressing.

What’s it going to be, Olympia? Can you commit to our children and fix this problem? There are 46,000 kids in Seattle Public Schools. Sure would be nice to send more of them to college.

Sure would be nice if this Washington could educate its way to a better economy.

— Ramona Hattendorf, Seattle

Refresh the antiquated-funding formula

School boards in three of the biggest districts in King County — Issaquah, Seattle and Bellevue — all recently endorsed House Bill 1410 and Senate Bill 5444, upon the recommendations of the Basic Education Task Force. Their leadership on these bills show they truly understand we cannot afford to wait to make these long, overdue reforms to our education system.

After one and a half years of study by the Basic Education Task Force and two years of study by the Washington Learns Committee, these bills finally put a strong foundation in place to bring the Washington state definition of “basic education” up to the 21st century and clean up the antiquated-funding formula we currently have in place.

New high-school-graduation requirements will assure our kids will graduate ready to enter a four-year college, technical field or workplace without remediation. In a region with some of the most innovative technology in the world, we need to be preparing our graduates to enter the workforce in our own backyard.

I urge you, and I urge our legislators to fully support these bills and bring the Washington state education system up from 42nd in the nation.

Do what’s best for our kids.

— Deborah Parsons, Issaquah

Comments | More in Education, Washington Legislature

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