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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 7, 2009 at 5:00 PM

Education reform

Wait until we have money to pay for it

Sunday’s Seattle Times editorial urges passage of the education-reform measure, despite the horrendous economic problems the state faces [“Waiting on reform,” Opinion, editorial, April 5]. Bad idea.

We are entangled in the worst economic recession in generations. Washington will bring in nearly as much revenue in the next biennium as from the last. But we have added programs and expenses over the years that create a $9 billion gap. That requires our full attention

Two things should be noted about the reform legislation. One, it is written as an omnibus bill; all components are included in the bill. Many of these components are complex and controversial topics. But under the current proposal, we must vote up or down on all.

Second, for some unknown reason, the House majority leadership has seen fit not to schedule this legislation into the House Education Committee. That’s right, the committee charged with hearing, debating and voting on state education policy has not even seen the bill. Instead, the reform measure, which contains absolutely no money allocations, was sent to House Education Appropriations. These two facts combine to create a dangerous situation.

The Yakima Herald Republic has the right idea: “This is certainly not the time to require more giant fiscal commitments for the state. There will be time enough to focus on how we fund education when we actually have money to pay for it.”

— Kenneth A. Mortland, Bothell

Reform should include early learning

I applaud the recent Times editorial for stressing the importance of early learning.

In terms of redefining basic education, the real question is, does our current definition uphold our constitutional mandate of “ample provision for the education of all children …”? There is much discussion exploring the question of “ample” in terms of financial responsibility. The question of adequate funding is difficult and relatively subjective.

Another question to ask is whether this state meets the constitutional mandate of “all.” I would suggest that an objective response to this, simply put, is no. Scientific evidence has proved that a child’s early experiences directly influence his or her later ability to learn. It’s more than just a good investment. Learning begins at birth, yet our current definition of basic education explicitly excludes children under age 5.

Including early learning in a definition of basic education would be costly, especially if it covered all of our youngest citizens, not just a targeted group. However, it would not make sense to make major education reforms and not resolve the question of this state’s constitutional responsibility to early learning while trying to establish viable funding formulas for the future.

— Mike Sheehan, Shoreline

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