Bi-partisan bill would increase funding to school classrooms
The bi-partisan education reform bill, SB 5946, sponsored by senators Dammeier (R-Puyallup) and Frockt (D-Seattle) would direct more funding to the classroom to educate children, with a specific focus on early reading, the Learning Assistance Program, training new teachers, online learning and keeping kids in school. Opponents of the bill, led by the powerful WEA union, do not like any limits on their control over where the money goes within the education bureaucracy.
The bill sponsors are right to worry about how $1 billion in new education funding will be spent. Right now only 59 cents of every dollar to reaches the classroom, and in some districts children in class receive even less. Public schools now spend so much money on non-education activities that fewer than half of school employees are classroom teachers. In addition, many school districts have reduced services to children by cutting classroom hours and shortening the school day. Issaquah school children, for example, have had 42 full school days cut back and two classroom days eliminated entirely. Kent school officials wanted to cut back 30 full school days, but a revolt by parents has temporarily put the idea on hold.
This raises the possibility that parents would manage education dollars for the benefit of children better than district bureaucrats or Olympia politicians. Right now (2012-13) state taxpayers are providing $6,780 for every public school student. The Senate's bi-partisan budget would add another $1 billion, rising spending per student to about $7,720 in 2014-15. Instead of agonizing over reduced school days or service cut-backs, a system based on parent choice would let parents send their children to the school that serves them best.
A focus on parent choice would help end the heated debates about dividing economic benefits, like pay raises or reduced class hours, among the adults in the system and shift resources to educating children, such as delivering the five full days of instruction per week that students have been promised. Parent choice would promote two things that every child needs to thrive – less conflict and more learning.