Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Education Funding Crisis

An Op-Ed piece in the Seattle Times has state representative Skip Priest claiming that it's time to solve the state's education-funding crisis. Priest is disappointed in the lack of strong direction shown by the Washington Learns group and finds the 30% dropout rate frightening. (Who doesn't?)

The district salary inequity issue is given just a blip in the piece. It is, however, one that many staff members find interesting in this state. Yes, there is a state salary schedule for both certificated and classified staff, but at the time it was created, some school districts paid more. (For the record, Everett has the best pay for certificated and Seattle---who lists their attorneys as classified staff---has the best rate of pay for classified staff members.) This inequity does make a difference, and not just in terms of which districts might be better able to attract teachers based on their salary scale. Every time there is a pay raise determined by the legislature, the districts with higher salaries get more money that those that strictly follow the scale.

Another blip in the article is the failure of the legislature to address the school transportation issue. Districts are currently funded according to "as the crow flies" measurements and a pre-determined number of stops. The problem with this is that if you're a district that has coastline, hills, or very rural areas, then you don't have many straight roads available...and housing is not evenly placed. Many districts spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars more---money that then cannot be used in classrooms---in order to make up the difference from the state allowance.

And SPED? A mere mention in the article, but there are enough problems here to fill several. I'm not even going to get started.

I'm not sure how we sort out one of these crises from the others---which is the most critical? Which one will have the greatest impact if we attempt to fix it first? How do we do triage with our educational funding in this state?

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