Letter I wrote to my state legislators against a proposal to fund education first at the expense of other state services, HB-2533. Also see (below) good personal response I got back.
I think things like the Fund Education First bill just pits education against social services and other valuable things that the state does. It is kind of problematic to have the state constitution putting education ahead of all other functions of state government, or at least some ways of interpreting the constitution create this situation.
Seems like just about all functions of state government can be viewed as providing education. For instance state parks do a lot with visitor centers, museums, interpretive trails and programs that educate children and the public about history, the environment and so forth.
For some folks, the only access to a doctor could be things like the Washington Basic Health Plan. Contact with a doctor can be seen as an educational experience. Education on lifestyle, diet and so forth that is important. Things like public broadcasting and city libraries are important to education as well.
All of these things in the community can help the teachers and the schools do their job rather than pitting the schools against the other functions of state government.
It is true that there isn't enough revenue to meet all the needs. Still, the entire state needs to work together. Revenue increases for state government need to be considered also as a means to improve school funding as well as funding for the other services.
On the Internet, I listened to an interesting interview with education expert Diane Ravitch who was on Michael Krasney's Forum show January 18 2012 on KQED Radio in San Francisco. One of the things Diane said was that student achievement could be correlated with amount of poverty in the student's life. If this is the case, then it makes no sense to gut anti poverty programs for things like housing and healthcare in order to try and improve schools for better test scores.
The rest of the state programs can actually help the teacher do their job by addressing the situations that kids and families reside in.
We all need to work together to help the teachers and schools by, in part maintaining the rest of the state. Co-operation is better than pitting the schools against the rest of the state.
Robert Ashworth, Bellingham
Good personal response from Representative Kristine Lytton.
Thank you for your message regarding the Fund Education First legislation that has been introduced. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.
I share your concern that, during this challenging budget time, we are pitting important programs against each other rather than finding ways to work together and support all of the priorities of our state government. House Bill 2533 was heard in the House Committee on Education Oversight and Appropriations; although I am not a member of that committee, I am familiar with the ongoing conversation we are having in our state about this issue. Now is not the time to be pitting important programs against each other. We need to be cooperating to fund solutions because so many programs do positive work that relates to the work of other programs.
Washington's constitutional provision that identifies basic education as its "paramount duty" (Article IX) is unique among the 50 states. As a public school parent and former school board member, I am grateful for this provision, because providing a quality education to every student is the cornerstone to building healthy individuals and strong communities. However, I do not believe that HB 2533 is a productive step in addressing the state’s need to fully fund education and adequately provide for its citizens.
Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts. With so many difficult decisions ahead, I value the input that I receive and hope you will continue to share your views with me.