By the LEV Policy Team

Children standing in front of a chalkboard - League of Education VotersIn the 2017 legislative session, Washington state is poised to make historic investments in basic education. But what will those dollars buy? The current program of “basic education” is not robust enough to meet our “paramount duty” and ensure that all students have the knowledge and skills to compete in today’s economy and participate in our state’s democracy. The upcoming investment provides an unprecedented opportunity to rethink our system of education and the resources and tools at our disposal to provide Washington students with the education promised by our Constitution.

What is required of our educational system will continue to change over time. We need to develop a program of basic education that can evolve based on current and future student needs and a funding mechanism that is flexible enough to support that shifting program. Let’s envision a program of basic education that is aspirational and that creates a new path forward for Washington state. The vision should include best practices, teaching and instruction that closes achievement gaps, supports that allow students to be the best learners, a program that doesn’t start with kindergarten and end with high school, but consists of the full education continuum—early learning through postsecondary.

Ample and equitable funding is necessary to build a robust education system that works for all children. However, money is a tool, not a solution. New dollars should be seen as a tool to improve our system for all students. We believe that this can be done by rethinking how we:

  • compensate teachers and staff
  • leverage funding and human resources according to meet student needs
  • recruit, retain, and train teachers
  • provide additional student supports
  • measure the effectiveness of our investments and improve practice

How should we redefine basic education? Well, we don’t have to look far. There are programs and practices across our state that are working but need the proper investments in order to be sustained and spread to other schools and districts. Over the next few months, we’ll share how money can be used as a tool to fix teacher compensation; recruit, retain, and train qualified teachers; and add necessary student supports that yield positive outcomes and close achievement gaps. We’ll also share stories from around the state on how districts, community-based organizations, and citizens are closing gaps and subsidizing “basic education” with local resources. Asking the paramount question: How can money be used to go beyond our current basic education?


Read Part 2 of our McCleary blog series, Teachers: The Most Important Part of Our Education System

2 comments on “Rethinking Our Education System

  1. While I am glad that more financial resources will be available to K12, I worry that the extra money will be used, simply by virtue of relieving existing pressures, to put concerns about efficient practices on a back-burner.

    One practice that is troublesome for me, as a homeowner and property-tax-payer (most of which seems to go to BPS already) is distinguishing between the role (and consequently the financial responsibility) of K12 versus Higher Education. I would like to see a clear line drawn between “K12” / Basic Ed subject matter, and Higher Ed subject matter. Calculus. Basic Ed? 4 years of High School Spanish. Basic Ed? I would like to see the subjects inventoried, and where overlap with Higher Ed is found to exist, classified as one or the other (K12 or HE) — otherwise, we are effectively paying for it twice — once in K12, and again in HE. Once classified, take appropriate action. Funding. Credit Articulation. Etc. Lets have a serious discussion about that. I’m paying more money than I feel like I can afford already (before the judgement came down) — and this is not a complaint, it’s an appeal — _I want the best bang for my buck_ — let’s take this seriously.

    Class Sizes. Lets get the list of complaints about paraeducators on the table. Sorry for the lack of soft-skills there, but this is the elephant in the room when it comes to PE’s. (I’ve got teachers and PE’s both in my family — I’ve heard some doozies from both sides). Lets address those complaints through training / education, and require whatever is appropriate — a specialized AA degree, or endorsement of some kind. Why not see Woodring at WWU have a ParaEducator program — actually teach them to work with and support teachers (and while we’re at it, teach the teachers to work with PE’s)? Can we use some of this windfall to create that program? Once you have this, use paraeducators to deal with class-sizes. The problem with class size is not that we don’t have enough people with teaching credentials to support the students — because that’s not what is needed. We only need one person in the room with that. What is needed, and at a MUCH reduced cost (e.g., no extra classroom required, no extra teacher salary required, no extra curriculum or vision, etc. — the salaried teacher already has that covered), is another person in that room to help with classroom management, and to support the teacher competently, reliably, with good availability, etc. And hey… Jobs!

    I am a big supporter of education. But I also need to get by — hopefully find a way to retire without having to choose between food and medication. Sorry if that sounds selfish — but for me it’s just practicality. Whatever else we do — let’s not “Let’s go shopping!” with this windfall. Let’s spend wisely and thoughtfully, and above all — ABOVE ALL — keep taxpayer accountability in the scope of every discussion. Fail to do that, and history will see this windfall as just a blip on the radar. Remember when we got those billions? Yeah…whatever happened to that?

  2. I agree with this “We need to develop a program of basic education that can evolve based on current and future student needs”

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