Fully fund public schools with a Basic Education Grant for every Washington student
Today in the Seattle Times, Neal Kirby, the principal of Edison Elementary in Centralia, says urban teachers should not receive more pay than rural teachers. He is reacting to a recent proposal from the Compensation Technical Working Group convened by the legislature which calls for increasing funds to schools by $2 billion a year to increase pay for teachers.
Principal Kirby, the Compensation Technical Working Group and the Legislature continue to struggle under the mind-boggling complexity of education funding in Washington, which tries to impose a single salary pay scale for all teachers in the state. University of Washington researchers Dan Goldhaber and Marguerite Roza recommend throwing out the single salary pay scale and starting over. They point out that the single salary pay scale is based on seniority and paper credentials earned from schools of education, which they have shown are not associated with effectiveness in the classroom.
It is time to get rid of the arbitrary single salary pay scale. Officials in Olympia do not know what local schools need. Officials in Olympia cannot predict dynamic local labor market conditions. A teacher pay scale created in Olympia cannot accommodate the great variation in economic conditions in the 295 districts across the state, from the Olympic Peninsula in the west to Spokane and Pullman in the east.
In 2011-2012 the state is providing $6,614 per student, which includes extra funding for special needs, transportation, learning assistance, and bilingual students. Local and federal funds contribute another $3,623 per student, for total per student funding of $10,237.
Yet students do not benefit from much of this funding, because the single salary pay scale and complex staffing formulas deliver less than 40 cents of every dollar to the classroom.
What should we do? The state constitution says, “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of every child within its borders.” The constitution does not say that the legislature is to fund a single salary pay scale or complex staffing formulas. Rather, it says the state should provide for the education of every child.
Accordingly, the state should provide a direct Basic Education Grant for every student which the legislature should increase every year for inflation and rising costs.
Olympia should send student money directly to local community schools, with 10% or less going to district administration. This way Principal Kirby would decide what to pay his teachers in Centralia, and principals in Seattle and in other communities would decide what to pay their teachers.
By funding a direct Basic Education Grant for every student, Principal Kirby and the other 2,300 principals in Washington would control actual education dollars and hire teachers based on local conditions and true student needs. Giving Principal Kirby and other talented principals control over their actual dollars would allow them to pay teachers fairly, hire more teachers, and serve the educational interests of their students.
A state-funded Basic Education Grant would provide fair and equal funding for every student, without discrimination based on geography, and provide a quality public education for every child in the state, just as the constitution requires.