Submitted by John C. Alessio.
Marilyn Strickland claims to have increased the high school graduation rates in Tacoma while serving as the mayor. She states on her webpage: “We raised the high school graduation rate in Tacoma from 55% to 89% by making education a civic priority.” This has been a hallmark of her campaign, as evidenced in her many public presentations. Yet, anyone who has studied social change knows that a 34% improvement in anything that involves human social behavior would likely require an act of supernatural force. It rarely happens – especially over just an 8-year period.
As it turns out, I am not the only one to question the graduation rate being reported by Strickland. In 2016 David Spring, a 20-year educator, did a study of high school graduation rates in the state, and found irregularities in the way some school districts (about 20%) were calculating their graduation rates. By artificially reducing the number of 9th graders, which is used as the denominator in the equation, schools can create a higher graduation rate outcome. As stated by Spring, “The least honest school district was Tacoma which under reported the number of 9th graders by 27%.” If the correct number of 9th graders is used, there is no change in the Tacoma graduation rate from 2010 to 2014, a period during which Strickland claimed a 27% increase. Likewise, the 80% of schools that used the actual number of 9th graders in their calculations showed basically no difference in graduation rates between 2010 and 2014.
Employing census data, Open Data Network makes graduation data available for all school districts. Those data show that between 2010 and 2018, the years when Strickland was mayor, there was very little change in the graduation rates of the four largest cities in Washington: + .8% for Tacoma, + 2.2% for Seattle, +2.1% for Vancouver, and +1.8% for Spokane. While all the rates derived from those data are notably high (over 85% for both 2010 & 2018), rates are calculated the same way throughout the entire time-period for all cities investigated. There is no motivation to produce differences.
After investigating the issue of graduation rates in Washington State, I have concluded, as I suspected, that the rates being touted by Marilyn Strickland cannot be anything close to reality, and are most likely flat out numerical fabrications. But this is just one factor to consider when voting. Strickland’s record on all the issues we care about are extremely important:
- she fought against the $15 minimum wage and improving sick leave benefits for workers;
- she protects insurance companies and opposes a single payer healthcare system;
- she supported the Tacoma Methanol and Liquid Natural Gas Plants;
- as documented in the Intercept, she looked the other way while police, who generously supported her campaign, used excessive force against people of color.
In short, Strickland is not a defender of the common good. Her commitment is to business and corporate bottom lines – her political career. Her campaign is accepting corporate funding. Beth Doglio is a champion of environmental protection, workers’ rights, defending the disadvantaged, full funding for education, and single payer healthcare for all. She doesn’t accept corporate funds. There is a clear and honest choice in this election: Beth Doglio for Congress.