He makes a lot of claims without backing up his stats or explaining his thinking.
We graduate only 18 percent of our high-school students work-ready or college-ready. Let’s break that number down: One-quarter of our high school students fail to graduate. Of those who do graduate, barely half enter post-secondary education, such as college or workforce training. Of those, half of them require remedial help. The result? Only 18 percent are actually college- or work-ready.
This translates into an almost unfathomable 82 percent failure rate from our K-12 system.
Personally, I would never believe someone who throws out such a dismal stat without any kind of back-up. I'm sure there's an 18% in there but do I believe that 82% is the failure rate of our state K-12 system? I do not.
Yet, this year we failed to fund more than 25,000 qualified 3- and 4-year-olds for even the most basic early learning.
That’s 25,000 of our toddlers we have kicked to the curb for a lifetime of unemployment, minimum wage and even jail. We repeat this year after year, knowing that quality preschool is the basic foundation of a functional education system and the evolution of a successful adult citizen.
Again, I find it fascinating that so many people - at the same time - have gone and gotten themselves on the same page. Today it's preschool. I know many people who have advocated on this point for years but elected officials have thrown up their hands. What's different now?
Also, what "qualifies" a student for preschool if it's "Preschool for All?"
One thing that might help Blethen's thinking is the very study at the City's Preschool for All webpage. There are real numbers of parents who either want their child at home or want their child with a family member. Having preschool isn't necessarily going to change that.
And saying that toddlers "were kicked to the curb?" That implies a level of lack of caring that I'm not sure I believe.
Also, the Burgess/Murray Preschool for All presumes a big lift from Seattle Public schools, both with curriculum and space. And yet, as he says, the district's mandate - every district in the state's mandate - is K-12. If he wants the "paramount duty" to include pre-K and higher ed, that falls to the Legislature where it was first defined. Don't get mad at the teachers union or anyone else for the definition the Legislature has legally created.
He goes on to talk about college/university issues.
- We have severely restricted access through unconscionable state disinvestment and underfunding.
- We have invoked unacceptably high student taxes — so-called tuition
- And we have fostered unbearable student debt.
He then goes off on a tear about McCleary:
Two years ago our state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in a case, which has come to be known as the McCleary decision. The Seattle Times cautiously agreed with their ruling that the Legislature needs to spend more money on education. Indeed, we hoped this would become a catalyst for spending in the two areas of serious underfunding: early education and higher education. And that it would accelerate the reforms needed to improve our abysmal K-12 outcomes.
However, we were uneasy because of our belief that the Supreme Court made two errors:
- That our constitution limits our paramount education responsibilities to only K-12, which is certainly not the case in terms of providing an adequate education in today’s world.
- That they seem to be indicating money is the only thing that matters in K-12, and not outcomes.
Also, again with data, how does he possibly know that fully-funding education - meaning, more money to our schools - will not bring better outcomes? Because if you look at state spending, those states who spend the most - Mass, New Jersey - DO have better outcomes. I love the way he finds data to suit his beliefs without saying that Washington State is about 45th in the country for per pupil spending. We don't even spend to the national average.
To say that fully-funding our schools won't show some different outcomes is just wrong.
He also calls out the class size initiative 1351. He seems to imply that it's all about expanding the number of dues-paying members of the WEA. (If I were the WEA, this is NOT the way I would get more members. )
He may not want it (or believe it has any real impact) but teachers and parents disagree.
I also note that the age range he believes the "paramount duty" should cover - 3-23 - is the exact same one that Arne Duncan wants to create a database to track. Great minds and all that?
Then he gets to his real point - McCleary and 1351 would cost too much money.
If the Supreme Court is successful in its McCleary effort and the WEA is successful with their dues-expansion program, the consequences are truly devastating. Our state biennium general fund is about $33.8 billion. K-12 already receives about 45 percent, or about $15 billion. (Higher education receives about 8 percent or $2.7 billion; early education receives less than 1 percent.)
Each of these two actions would cost about $3.5 billion, resulting in about $7 billion in increased taxes and diversion of funding from other parts of the budget.
This would devastate funding for early education, post-secondary education and much of our social-service system, including our critical needs in foster care and mental illness.
Or, we could pass a state income tax.
I do agree with his last bulleted items. Those are worthy goals.
- All children should start kindergarten ready to learn.
- Children who fall behind, at whatever grade level, must get the help they need.
- All students should graduate high school ready to go to college or vocational training.
Imagine what might happen if our public education system was fully-funded.