The Crucible of State Funding: How can we forge a stronger education system?

November 23, 2011 at 9:36 am Leave a comment

When the Governor released her new proposed budget she talked about making painful cuts to education.  However, what was not discussed is even more important, and that is the fact that these statements about what to do with education funding are not addressing the choices necessary to really change our education system for the better.  Over and over again the conversation is about the same things:  the budget is tight, we need to make cuts to weather the storm. 

What’s missing is the bigger picture.  We need to change the conversation in Olympia and reset our priorities as a state to focus on how much better we need to do for students now, not when the economy gets better, now.   

Expecting a broken system to do more with less is simply not a solution.  Instead of merely cutting back the system in its current configuration, we need to look at this crisis as a unique opportunity to rethink school finance and education policy in a way that better delivers the services needed and the outcomes desired.    Because this economic crisis is not going to resolve overnight, and this budget is not an exception but the new normal we can expect for the foreseeable future.   We need to adjust accordingly and reinvent our system to work more efficiently and effectively today.

Instead of talking about filling the budget gap by cutting school days , we need to talk about prioritizing programs that cut the opportunity gap like full day kindergarten, high expectations for all students, and ensuring every child has an effective teacher in their classroom.  The persistence of opportunity gaps has resulted in the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession, representing both the largest loss to our economy related to our education system, and the greatest opportunity for economic growth.  Yet Washington is one of only 9 states where the opportunity gap continues to grow, and at the rate we’re going it will take more than 100 years to close that gap.  The only solution to our long term economic stability is to reverse that trend, and we cannot continue to do what we have been doing if we expect to get there.

Cutting school days  is the absolute wrong direction. 

Instead we need to focus on prioritizing funding supports to improve under-performing schools and close opportunity gaps, prioritizing funding with the greatest impact on student learning, and prioritizing funding for our youngest students to cut expensive remediation costs down the line directly. 

That is why Stand for Children is supporting programs like full day kindergarten and WaKIDS to help get our youngest student started on the right foot and avoid expensive remediation costs later on.  Recognizing that effective teaching is the single greatest in-school factor impacting student achievement, we support new teacher and principal evaluations to help educators improve instruction and teacher mentoring programs to improve and retain new teachers.  We also need to set higher standards, through stronger math and science graduation requirements, so that all students graduate college and career ready.

If we really want to solve our budget problems, we need to stop talking about how students can weather the storm.  We need to talk about making real changes that put student outcomes at the forefront of our public education system.  Strategies to get there, like the ones Stand supports, are what the conversation must be about.  Because our students cannot afford to wait. 

 Shannon Campion
Executive Director, Stand for Children – Washington

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Entry filed under: News Updates.

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