Public school administrator blames voters for public school failures
Bill Keim, Executive Director of the Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA), blames the people of Washington for the failures of public schools that are run by the members of his Association (“It’s time for voters to get serious about school funding,” The Seattle Times’ Education Lab).
This odd attack raises the question, who is WASA? WASA is a powerful private special interest group that receives public education money through membership dues. The private association also collects fees for conferences and events. The funds are used for executive salaries and lobbying in Olympia. In 2011, WASA’s executive director received $144,607, and during the latest legislative session WASA paid six lobbyists $24,837 to promote its interests.
As a private association, WASA’s first priority is advancing the economic interests of its members, through higher salaries and benefits, all paid from public funding. For example...
● Administrators receive an average annual salary of $111,959, more than twice the average income of Washington taxpayers.
● Over one-third of public education funding is spent on administration. In private schools, administration typically consumes less than 10% of the budget.
● Parents have little or no control over how their child’s education funding is spent, how good teachers are rewarded, whether bad teachers are fired, and what school their child will attend. All these decisions are made by administrators, usually without parental input.
At the same time, the public schools that WASA members manage often fail to educate children, contributing to the achievement gap, a high drop-out rate and diminished life chances for young people. Here are some statistics on school performance in Washington state:
● 21% of all students drop out;
● 31% of low-income students drop out;
● 58% of all tenth graders fail in math and 16% fail in reading;
● 81% of Black tenth graders fail in math and 27% fail in reading;
● 80% of Hispanic tenth graders fail in math and 26% fail in reading;
● 34% of schools rank as only Fair or Struggling on the School Achievement Index;
Mr. Keim’s response to these failures is to blame the public, and to call for even more tax money from working people.
He appears insensitive to hardworking Washington taxpayers who are already providing record amounts of money to WASA members. In the 2013-15 state budget, public education is receiving $15.2 billion, an increase of over $1 billion, the highest amount ever and an increase of about $1,000 per student compared to the last budget.
Public school administrators are now spending about $11,300 per student, nearly double the tuition charged by many private schools. And Mr. Keim wants higher taxes.
It’s fair to say that taxpayers have done their part, especially in this economy. Instead of calling on voters to get serious about paying even more in taxes, school administrators should get serious about educating children, by improving graduation rates, closing the achievement gap, improving reading and math outcomes, encouraging innovative charter schools and other effective reforms.
School administrators appear primarily interested in boosting their own budgets, and they come across as complaining and ungrateful for the real financial sacrifices people are making now. Given record spending on public schools, Mr. Keim could at least say “thank you”.