State superintendent agrees students are being “robbed” of their education; lawmakers can help by providing every student $3,000 in direct assistance

About the Author
Liv Finne
Director, Center for Education

As reported in The Seattle Times, State Superintendent Reykdal said Washington’s children are receiving a “sh-tty” education right now. This highest education official in Washington state is openly acknowledging that kids are feeling “robbed” of the education we have promised them. The legislature needs to step in and help families with direct educational assistance.

Districts across the state have withdrawn education services from Washington’s families. According to the state superintendent’s office, only five percent of students live in districts where more than 75 percent of their students receive in-person instruction. Most district officials are providing only remote learning, and have shut down the child care services they provided families before the pandemic. To keep food on the table, many working families have been forced to pay for expensive child care.

Let’s review some specifics. In Seattle the average monthly cost of child care is $1,680. A family with two children is paying $3,360 a month for child care. I recently spoke to the father of two girls in the public schools. He and his wife are essential workers. They have been paying child care since the school shut down in March. His savings are being depleted, and his future, and that of his children, are in jeopardy.      

I also spoke to a mother whose 16-year-old daughter has suffered severely from the school shutdown. The parents fear the emotional harm their daughter has suffered will mean she won’t  be able to graduate from high school. This family has received no compensation or assistance since the governor’s order shut down the schools.

In addition to the financial cost and emotional harm of the school shutdown, a study by McKinsey finds the academic learning loss from the shutdown is “a hurt that could last a lifetime.” 

State lawmakers can help. They could develop a plan to safely reopen the schools. They could give parents $3,000 per student in direct aid, to defray the costs imposed on families by the school shutdown. Direct assistance could be used to hire private tutors or other learning services so children can recover from shutdown-related learning losses.   

The legislature has the funding. The legislature has about $500 million in savings from the fall in student enrollment. Caseload forecast reports show that about 50,000 fewer students have enrolled since September. This number is growing with every month that passes, as families leave the public system.

Other savings are available. Schools have saved about $600 million in transportation costs.

In addition, the legislature is collecting nearly $1 billion more in new tax receipts, and state revenues are up by over ten percent.

That means plenty of funding is available, without a tax increase or defunding current services, to provide families with at least $3,000 per student as compensation for the suffering and learning losses imposed by the state’s months-long school closures.  Experts say that some children may never catch up, but shouldn’t state lawmakers at least provide parents with the resources to try?

Even this modest level of direct assistance would make a huge difference to struggling children across the state, so all students can be academically and emotionally prepared for the day when public schools are open again.




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