It may not seem so at first glance, but parents in the Federal Way School District have their priorities in order. At a recent meeting, former School Board President Tony Moore voted along with a board majority to step away from his leadership post in light of a criminal investigation, in which he is charged with stealing tires for his salvage business.
But as a Times blog post reports, dozens of parents spoke up at the board meeting, not for or against Williams, but rather about the board spending more than $60,000 for trips to Europe, Australia and South Korea. The district is studying education in those countries in preparation for a global partnership program. In the age of Skype and other video-conferencing options, did the Federal Way School Board really need to travel around the world, stay in hotels and eat meals on the public dime?
I am not accusing the board of embarking upon international junkets, although parents interviewed in this KOMO 4 story did. I do think policy leaders need to get out of their silos and see up-close and personal the effects of their decisions. Moreover, Federal Way’s 37 schools are part of a global education initiative partnering them with 1,000 schools from 10 countries. The district website offers more details on the program touted as a way to bring innovation and deeper learning to Federal Way.
I get the desire to understand why South Korean schools are so darn successful. A new area of tourism has been practically carved from the large numbers of American educators making pilgrimages to South Korea, Finland and other highly educated countries. But the search for successful models must better fit the extraordinary economic times we’re living in. The state Legislature just a few months ago essentially robbed Peter to pay more for public schools. Sagging teacher compensation is the embarrassing elephant in the education policy room. And it is now considered normal, rather than dysfunctional, for music and arts education to raise their own funds to remain viable parts of education. Never mind activities like band and sports, which are almost exclusively funded by parents and the community. With so many drains on public education dollars — and with little in relief, in terms of a long-term funding plan, in sight — policymakers must be aware of the message their financial decisions send. What’s your take on this?