Partnership For Learning

Editorial: Focus on struggling students could resolve other issues

By The Herald Editorial Board

Figuring out how to pay for major funding reforms for the state’s K-12 education system might not be the toughest task facing the Legislature this session.

The state is nearing a 2018 deadline to meet a state Supreme Court mandate, also referred to as the McCleary decision, which held in 2012 that the state wasn’t meeting its paramount duty under the state constitution to amply fund education. Allocating more money, alone, won’t resolve the problems or satisfy the court’s justices, who have fined the state $100,000 a day since a 2014 finding of contempt, a fine that now totals more than $51 million.

There are vast complexities in drafting reforms that end the state’s unconstitutional reliance on local school levies to provide a significant portion of salaries for teachers, administrators and other staff; outline what should be considered basic education and the state’s responsibility; assure greater equity among the state’s school districts; and develop an equitable and fair model for pay for teachers and other educators.

A new report from Washington Roundtable, an advocacy group led by senior executives of the state’s major employers, could provide insight in addressing some of those issues by focusing on the needs of the state’s struggling schools and students.

A Washington Roundtable report in November estimated that the state can expect to see 740,000 job openings in the next five years, but nearly 80 percent will be jobs that will require a post-secondary degree or other certification. Currently only 31 percent of state high school students move beyond a high school diploma to earn a college degree or other training certification. With the goal of increasing the share of students with post-secondary credentials to 70 percent by 2030, the Roundtable’s report seeks more attention and resources paid the state’s struggling schools and students.

Read the full editorial here.