Wednesday, April 2, 2014

And, the other side . . .

In a post last week I shared an article written by WASA Executive Director, Bill Keim, where he talked about the importance of voters in the education funding debate taking place in our state.  I shared the chart below that he embedded in the article comparing funding per student over time in our state.  He was using the data to suggest that taxpayers need to step up and assume more responsibility to meet the basic education funding demands in the McCleary decision.

In a blog post today, Liv Finne from the Washington Policy Center shares a different perspective on the article that captures how complex and polarizing this issue is in our state and nationally. She shares the following information to suggest that record dollars are being spent today with poor results.

At the same time, the public schools that WASA members manage often fail to educate children, contributing to the achievement gap, a high drop-out rate and diminished life chances for young people. Here are some statistics on school performance in Washington state:
● 21% of all students drop out;
● 31% of low-income students drop out;
● 58% of all tenth graders fail in math and 16% fail in reading;
● 81% of Black tenth graders fail in math and 27% fail in reading;
● 80% of Hispanic tenth graders fail in math and 26% fail in reading;
● 34% of schools rank as only Fair or Struggling on the School Achievement Index;

Mr. Keim’s response to these failures is to blame the public, and to call for even more tax money from working people.

She concludes her post with the following words.

It’s fair to say that taxpayers have done their part, especially in this economy. Instead of calling on voters to get serious about paying even more in taxes, school administrators should get serious about educating children, by improving graduation rates, closing the achievement gap, improving reading and math outcomes, encouraging innovative charter schools and other effective reforms.

School administrators appear primarily interested in boosting their own budgets, and they come across as complaining and ungrateful for the real financial sacrifices people are making now. Given record spending on public schools, Mr. Keim could at least say “thank you”.

Is one right and the other wrong?  Is one good and the other bad?  Our actions at times promote simple questions such as these that continue to polarize us.  Meeting the needs of our young people will not be realized with yes/no questions such as these.  We must instead find the question we can ask that will result in greater collaboration and problem solving instead of what we are experiencing today.

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