Monday, February 11, 2013

Why not education first . . .

One of the bills in the House is HB 1174, a bill that House Republicans have introduced to Fund Education First.  As the name suggests, the proposal is to first develop an education budget  signed by the governor before any additional appropriations can be made.  If enacted, it would be supportive of our work, but at what cost?

This editorial in the Issaquah Press questions the motives of the House Republicans with this proposed legislation.

House Republicans said their proposal to split the budget was meant to address the state Supreme Court’s 2012 decision that the Legislature wasn’t funding education properly. That might be more believable if they hadn’t been pushing the measure every year since 2006.

In reality, the plan had little to do with education and more to do with stripping funding from the sorts of social programs the GOP has never liked to begin with.

If education were funded first, there would be less left over for everything else, and “everything else” contains some important programs which also contribute to education.

I don't question the motives that the editorial raises, but I struggle with the outcome if the bill were to become law.  It could mean devastating cuts to non-education programs that support young people and families, cuts that would then impact the capacity of  young people to experience success in school.  Though I would very much like the stability of an education first budget, it is difficult to support this proposal because of the potential impacts on other current government programs.  What are your thoughts, do you support this bill?


Scott Mitchell said...

TEA and WEA do not support funding education first for the simplicity that the very social programs many of our families depend on would inevitably be cut because of no new funding source. The following article is from the TEA January Newsletter and is on our webpage.

"House Republicans proposed House Bill 2533 this year to Fund Education First. The bill was heard Jan. 31, 2013. It requires that K-12 education funding be separately approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor before any other appropriations are made. This bill would take the politics out of education, they claim, because education would be funded before anything else would be considered.

On the surface, this seems like a huge boon for education and families in Washington. Smaller class sizes, increased teacher salaries and training, extra resources for students needing extra attention. However, the positives highlighted in this bill hide the negative reality: with no new revenue, with no increase of funding, the only way to fully fund education with existing funds is to make further cuts to social services, of which health and human services are the largest part. This means that we might have smaller class sizes, but those classes would be filled with hungry and homeless and sick students.

The wide reach of this bill wouldn’t end at the classroom door, but would affect the communities themselves: lack of health and human services means that the mentally ill, the homeless, and the addicts wouldn’t have resources, and would be out on the streets and in the emergency rooms.

For these reasons, House Bill 2533 just doesn’t make sense. We want education funded, but not on the backs of the vulnerable. To provide more money for some services is to reduce the money available to others. It’s a game of musical chairs, and no one can win."

I think that the impacts of funding to these critical social programs are a huge impact on the education of children and the stresses to our families.

Jonathan said...

Some people want the government to care for our most vulnerable, and others do not.

The reality is there is not enough support to increase tax revenue to fund the current government programs, let alone extend support to K-12 education as required by the Supreme Court.

So, we're left with choices to make, and people will suffer.

Personally, I am disappointed that so many are suffering with no solution in sight but we are not the ones who created this problem. In fact, educators have far more often worked to ease other’s suffering that add to it. Educators should not have to internalize the shame that belongs with our community as a whole.

Let's not forget, though, that prioritizing education is a long term solution for solving many of our social ills and has long been underfunded.

Non-governmental solutions may have to cover those left exposed by receding governmental support.

Honestly, I’m not sure I believe this, but, as callous as it may seem, the ‘best ’ solution may be to fund education separately from other programs.