Submitted by Kevin Ballard, Candidate for Washington State Legislative Rep 28th District Position 1.
I write this as a product of a great public education system. I recall music programs, robust sports programs, healthy theater and arts programs, computer labs, gifted accelerated curricula and programs for those with special needs. I also recall teachers going on strike before a school year, and the impact it had on my family as a child. I remember the names of each of my educators from kindergarten through middle school. This public education system prepared youth for their next step in their academic journey.
Now I prepare myself to weigh in on a Washington State K-12 public education system ranked in the bottom half of US public education systems for both high school graduation rates and preparing our youth for post-secondary education. I am wondering why a state mandated (McCleary) public K-12 education system ranks so poorly, when our centers for post-secondary higher education are ranked among the top 3 in the nation. I found a few glaring areas for concern and reform.
Our children are not the focus of funding in our state. A prime example is the full funding of infrastructure of all school facilities during the COVID pandemic. Additionally, our school buses are working as delivery vehicles for school meals. Providing robust janitorial services, replenishing janitorial supplies and using school district busing to deliver school meals do not get our children any closer to high school graduation. My focus here is speaking directly about outcomes for our children in education. A separate discussion may be had for the impact of school layoffs, reduction of support staff, or how we ensure our children receive government provided meals. Funds for education must be targeted for improving equitable student outcomes. I argue there are efficiencies where facility costs might be redirected to families presently overburdened with “distance learning” …monies paid directly for tutors, childcare and technology in the form of direct grants or stipends. It is naive of us to believe that all children are safely at home with parents doing their distance learning, when mom and dad need to work to put food on the table.
Our COVID response also points to another example of how K-12 public education is failing to provide equitable outcomes for all students. The politics of the day should not affect the educational outcomes for your child. Here we see how the powerful teachers’ unions work tirelessly to ensure their members, and those aligned with their political interests are supported while at the same time stating their interests lie with student outcomes. The Washington Education Association (WEA) tells their members to refuse to return to school for in-person learning until it is safe to do so. Evidence from the CDC regarding the safety of returning to schools for in-person learning is being wholly ignored. The WEA is busy campaigning for legislators and legislation that will further their goals, but your children are often not part of the equation. I’m torn at times about the WEA, because they have achieved much in negotiating for the levels of benefits and compensation so befitting our educators, but we don’t see the sort of outcome in our K-12 education system we would expect from an organization whose mission statement is “to advance the professional interests of its members in order to make public education the best it can be for students, staff, and communities.”
Parents should be free to seek out education alternatives for their children when their local public school options are underperforming. This should not be an alternative reserved for the economically advantaged. HB 2933, currently in committee, would allow families to qualify for educational stipends for private education or home schooling. The WEA will lobby hard against this legislation, to the detriment of our children. School choice is precisely what we need to begin to improve the educational outcomes for our kids. Choice should not be isolated to the economically advantaged, and educational outcome in Washington State should not be tied to economic advantage, either.
Your choice for legislator will have far reaching implications for the education of children in Washington State. Carefully weigh the importance of keeping education choices local, within your school districts. Weigh the voting record of incumbents who seek to remove local control (e.g. voting for HB2184), as well as incumbents supported by teachers’ unions who are in the business of lobbying for the educational institution, and not the outcome for our youth.
Local control. School choice. Providing targeted education funding directly to students and families. This is how we improve K-12 public education outcomes in Washington State.