The Slow Death of Educational ExcellenceJanuary 19th, 2011 by Rich Jacobson
Some recent committee decisions being handed down by our elected officials are sending a very troubling and disheartening message:
Olympia Doesn’t Care about Education
Olympia Doesn’t Care about Teachers
Olympia Doesn’t Care about Students
In a recent Kitsap Sun article, Rep. Kathy Haigh was reported to have introduced two bills into the State legislation that would further suspend two spending initiatives that had received overwhelming support by WA voters back in 2000.
Initiative 728 allocated money to reduce class sizes, provide training for teachers, and offer helpful resources for some pre-kindergarten children. I-732 provided annual cost-of-living raises for teachers.
Included in I-728 was funding for an annual stipend allocated to teachers who successfully passed the arduous National Board Certification process.
And now, thanks to our elected representatives, our class sizes will increase, making it more difficult for our kids to receive the personal attention they deserve. Greater demands will be placed on our teachers, but without compensating them for more work.
And already, it appears that this seemingly ‘temporary’ suspension will most likely become a permanent change in the years ahead:
Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, and a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, recently made the following observations:
“Over the long term, the only way we’re going to raise wages, grow the economy, and improve American competitiveness, is by investing in our people — especially their educations.
Yet we’re falling behind. In a recent survey of 34 advanced nations by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, our kids came in 25th in math, 17th in science, and 14th in reading. The average 15-year-old American student can’t answer as many test questions correctly as the average 15-year-old student in Shanghai.
Considering the increases in our population of young people and their educational needs, and the challenges posed by the new global economy, more resources are surely needed.
State cuts in public education have been under the national radar, but viewed as a whole they seriously threaten the nation’s future. Already, 33 states have sliced education budgets for next year, on top of cuts last year. For example, Arizona has eliminated preschool for 4,328 children, and cut funding for books, computers and other classroom supplies. California has reduced K-12 aid to local school districts by billions of dollars and is cutting a variety of programs, including adult literacy instruction and help for high-needs students. Colorado and Georgia have reduced public-school spending nearly 5 percent from 2010, Illinois and Massachusetts by 3 percent. Virginia’s $700 million in cuts for the coming year includes funding for class-size reduction in kindergarten through third grade. Washington suspended a program to reduce class sizes and teacher training incentives.
Why have we allowed this to happen? Our young people — their capacities to think, understand, investigate and innovate — are America’s future. In the name of fiscal prudence we’re endangering that future.”
I urge our elected government representatives to reconsider the suspension of these two voter-approved initiatives, and make the necessary budget cuts in other areas that do not adversely affect our kid’s education.