Fiscal Conservatism and the BeeDecember 13th, 2007 by Steven Gardner
Three school districts in Kitsap County have decided to opt out of the Scripps National Spelling Bee because of a $99 fee per school that was added this year. (Full disclosure: Scripps owns the Kitsap Sun.) In CK the district closed two schools this last year because of funding issues and couldn’t see justifying the additional expense.
“When we noticed there was a fee, there was some concern, especially right now with the budget concerns we have,” said Melanie Reeder, spokesman for district, which had to close two elementary schools this year because of declining enrollment. “It became an issue, because some schools wanted to participate, but they didn’t want to spend the money.”
South Kitsap and Bremerton also opted out. There are some questions raised about the educational value of the contest, but the fee at least played a role in all three districts’ decision.
Kids can still get in by competing with the home-schoolers or by paying a family fee.
Most of the comments after the story are critical of the districts, so far. This could fall in a “priorities of government” discussion.
I agree with the comment that there is more to doing well at these things than rote memorization, but the question over whether it’s a valuable use of instruction time is legitimate.
For me personally, I just got back from vacation where the movie Akeelah and the Bee played a background role in our travels. We went to Southern California and on many of our drives my kids were watching the film on the vehicle’s DVD player. I’ve heard the movie more than I’ve seen it. Even though I make a living with words, I come away from the film (and the documentary Spellbound) with a greater appreciation for how the knowledge required to do well at the bee would be beneficial.
It’s worth noting that in the movie the kids got most of their spelling training away from the classroom.
For the record, I was in a school spelling bee in fourth grade and went out in the second round, failing to spell “acquaint” correctly.