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Welcome to The Seattle Times' online letters to the editor, a sampling of readers' opinions. Join the conversation by commenting on these letters or send your own letter of up to 200 words

August 27, 2010 at 4:00 PM

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Education in Washington: school funding and teacher testing

Posted by Letters editor

Sen. Patty Murray’s effort brought needed money to schools

Recent reports in The Seattle Times on the impact of the educator jobs bill overlook the number of education-support professional positions lost over the past 18 months.

Hundreds of school counselors, nurses, bus drivers, teacher aides, janitors and administrative assistants have either been laid off or their positions were not filled due to attrition. As a result, we will see too many schools this fall with too many students and too few adults to mentor, coach, mentor, teach and support those students.

Through her efforts to bring $208 million into Washington for educator jobs, Sen. Patty Murray is giving school districts the opportunity to fill hundreds of empty positions not reported in teacher-layoff numbers [“Murray errs on teachers’ jobs at risk,” page one, Aug. 24].

The Times reports did refer to the erosion of certificated positions. That erosion will have a lasting impact. We should not ignore, however, the other positions lost. These are important positions for every school and the impact of their loss to our students must be equally concerning.

— Mary Lindquist, president, Washington Education Association, Federal Way

Public schools are grossly underfunded

Norman B. Rice [“Union, district must come together for kids,” Opinion, Aug. 24] raises some good arguments in favor of changing how Seattle Public Schools evaluates and compensates its teachers, but we should also look at this issue in the context of public-school funding in our state. The debate about how to fairly evaluate teacher performance and rewarding successful teachers is complex. Part of this debate is complicated by the fact that our public schools are grossly underfunded by the state.

Over 30 years ago, in Seattle School Dist. No. 1 of King Co. v. the State of Washington, the state Supreme Court held Washington had failed to meet its “paramount” constitutional duty under Art. IX, Sec. 1 of the state constitution to amply fund basic education for all children. Washington’s constitution places public-education funding above all other state functions and no other state constitution has such a supreme mandate.

Yet, Washington ranks 32nd in the country in per-student spending. In addition, per-student spending, adjusted for inflation, has essentially remained flat since 1994. The state continues to rely on local levies to fund basic education, which the Washington Supreme Court has held is unconstitutional. Just this year, in McCleary v. the State of Washington, parents and school districts again won a court decision holding the state has failed to meet its constitutional duty to amply fund basic education for all children.

No doubt, we all play a vital role in ensuring the academic achievement of our children, but ample funding is also at issue. As our state Supreme Court held over 30 years ago: Ample funding for basic education is an absolute right of every child in this state.

— Michelle Gonzalez, Seattle

Politicians should also take a standardized test

Influential people are touting performance measurement [“Time to get on board, teachers,” Opinion, Aug. 1]. What a great idea! The little children, confined in the classroom, are tested and tested. College students are exhaustively examined. Job seekers are next in line for the obstacle course. Now teachers? Onward and upward. The pecking order counts.

So we need an initiative on the ballot as follows: To be eligible for a listing in the voter’s pamphlet, a recently taken, standardized, three-part qualification test will be required of the candidate. First part, ethics. Second part, ability. Third, knowledge of the responsibilities and duties of the office. Scores are to be seen in an easily comprehended percentile form, where a score of 50 is the median average and the highest possible score for that office is 99. The scores must be published in the voter’s pamphlet.

But then, if this initiative were passed, some people would refuse to run for office, wouldn’t they? Good.

— John Mathewson, Mercer Island

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