My two daughters attended Crestwood Elementary, Mattson Junior High, Kentwood High School and graduated from Western Washington University and the University of Washington. Our older daughter teaches math at Auburn High School and my wife, Sandy, has both taught and substituted at Auburn. I also taught math for three years at the Air Force Academy Prep School, before I came to Boeing, where I am a 747 and 777 instructor pilot.
My wife and I recently went online and looked up various teachers’ and principals’ salaries. I’m aware of the district’s elimination of vice-principals and other cuts totaling $3.4 million, and the federal stimulus money (the idea of which is repugnant to me).
I am also very familiar with the deplorable conditions some of our teachers face in their classrooms. I have sat in my wife’s and daughter’s classrooms at Auburn High School the day before class started, gluing bindings on math books, so they would have enough usable copies for the classroom, but not enough that students could take them home to do their homework.
I understand that state representatives Geoff Simpson and Pat Sullivan wrote nice letters encouraging the district and teachers to come to an agreement. Well these letters are a nice gesture, but are a bit insulting. These legislators know the state constitution states, “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” But when they were handed the largest budget surplus in state history, the legislature went on a spending binge, resulting in a projected $9 billion deficit. (No, the economic downturn had very little to do with the deficit. The numbers show that this was a spending problem, not a revenue problem.)
Then, despite receiving billions of dollars in federal bailout money, choosing to not fund pension accounts, raiding money from other accounts and raising numerous fees, they still chose to cut the education budget by $710 million. In effect Mr. Simpson’s and Mr. Sullivan’s letters said, “We spent the money that could have averted this strike on things we thought were more important. So it’s up to you to come up with a solution.”
Unfortunately, we are stuck with these representatives for another legislative session. But I am running to replace Mr. Simpson in 2010. When I am elected, I propose that the legislature needs to do at least four things:
1. The Kent School District currently receives $800 less per student than the Seattle and Bellevue School Districts. Multiplied by 26,000 plus students in the district, that amounts to over $20 million! I am for re-evaluating whether funds are being equitably distributed among the districts.
2. Performance audits by state Auditor Brian Sonntag have revealed millions in potential savings. I am for acting on these recommendations.
3. I am for downsizing the current top-heavy state education bureaucracy. We should have at least as many teachers in our education system as we do other employees! After all, when we spend about $11,000 per student per year, that’s over a quarter of a million dollars per classroom! But only $.59 of each of those dollars actually make it to the classroom. In addition to the economic drain by this bureaucracy, the constant meetings and micromanagement from levels far above drain any incentive from teachers eager to teach young minds.
4. The money that is saved by these recommendations should be sent directly to the schools where those in the classrooms can best determine how to spend it.
Our legislature left us in a tough situation for the time being. But in the 2010 election, we will have a chance to make things better. The teachers’ unions typically support the Democrat majority party in our current state legislature. But the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It’s time to try somebody different.