Thursday, March 8, 2012

Vision or rhetoric . . .

I’m sharing Danny Westneat’s article in yesterday's Seattle Times not necessarily because I agree with his politics, but because it demonstrates the challenges faced by our legislators in Olympia and the political posturing we are experiencing. The article focuses on the Republican legislators verbal commitment to fund “Education First”, but when they gained control in the Senate last week they forgot this pledge and made cuts to both K-12 and higher education, something the Senate democrats did not do.  From the article:

"Our state constitution is clear: Education is the 'paramount duty,' " said state House Republicans when they released a plan calling for more school spending. To underscore it, they named their budget "Fund Education First."

. . . So what did the GOP do with its earthquake moment?

They slashed education!

I don’t agree with his choice of language that the Senate budget “slashed” education. It did include proposed cuts, but it is far from what was imagined just a few short months ago or what we experienced over the previous two years. Again, I don’t want to get into the budget itself, but more of the context we find ourselves in related to public education. When one party is on the outside of the power bubble it makes it easier to promote an initiative such as “Education First”. When then faced with the reality of controlling the budget process, it becomes a much more difficult task as witnessed by events over the last two weeks.

Matching rhetoric with actions becomes more difficult and tests the commitment to the stated belief of “Education First”. In this small case, the decision was to not move current reality closer to the stated vision of “Education First”. That makes me question if it is a “shared” vision and the beliefs driving the vision? Is it driven by a belief that we must meet the intent of the constitution and recent court decision? Is it driven by a belief that young people need a stable learning environment? Is it driven by a need to gain political traction knowing that some cuts will be necessary and saying this allows one to stand above the prosed cuts? I suspect that all of these and more are behind the initiative and until all can agree on a shared set of beliefs moving current reality closer to that vision will not happen. Once again, the lack of a shared vision of what school is for and how best to realize that vision results in what we see in this article. We were led to believe that last year’s legislation was intended to accomplish this, but lack of revenue and behavior suggest it is not shared at the level necessary to move forward with one voice and commitment.

Read the article if you are a democrat wanting to say told you so because it will validate your position. Read the article if you are a republican and want to get fired up once again at the liberal media, or at least this staff columnist’s support for teachers. Then if you have more time and want to get worked up, follow the comments that are numerous, combative, and not always closely associated with the article.

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