Garfield High seniors to state: Don't pawn off our future
The ongoing state budget crisis has taken its toll on all aspects of government, but guest columnist Grant Bronsdon and Sam Heft-Luthy, seniors at Seattle's Garfield High School, urge the Legislature to stop taking cuts out of K-12 and higher education.
Special to The times
AS the great Will Rogers said, "When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging."'
The Washington State Legislature seems to be unfamiliar with this aphorism. Even after the King County Superior Court ruled that the state has failed to keep up its duty to amply fund public education, lawmakers met in Olympia Monday to consider further budget cuts that would significantly jeopardize funding for K-12 schools.
Public-school students from around the state have been irrevocably harmed by past education cuts and cannot bear any further damage.
The state constitution says "it is the paramount duty of the State to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders," yet the state has massively failed to live up to its constitutional obligations in past years.
Last year's court ruling said, "The State does not provide its public schools stable and dependable ample resources to equip all children with the basic knowledge and skills mandated by this State's minimum education standards."
As many superintendents testified, school districts are left to pick up the gap between promised and actual funding. Sometimes the community can raise funds, but more often school districts are forced to make difficult decisions to scale back their resources. Teachers, technology, and textbooks are all reduced to keep districts solvent.
The real-world effects of these cuts are apparent to us as public-school students. For years, our schools have gone through major funding slashes. We walk from class to class in buildings that suffer from incomplete renovations. We are forced into lower-level classes and schedule gaps because our schools are not fully equipped to handle student demand. We each slip into our seats, one of 32 students in a classroom built for 28.
We develop bonds with talented instructors, only to see them leave the classroom, either because it is cheaper for a district to lay off experienced teachers and hire new ones, or because they are overwhelmed with too many students and too little time.
Higher education is not spared from these cuts. The University of Washington Board of Regents recently voted to raise annual tuition by 20 percent, or $1,874 — its largest tuition hike ever. The UW, as well as colleges across the state, have been forced to accept more students from out of state in order to cover this funding gap, since out-of-state students pay a higher tuition rate.
As students, we are told that we are the future, but if we truly are the future, we must have a say in the choices that are made today. Education, the paramount duty of the state, must remain intact to ensure that we can live up to the dreams promised to us by the state of Washington. It is immoral to shirk this fundamental mandate.
We call for our legislators to provide a responsible and reasonable solution to the state's budget problem that doesn't put the weight on the shoulders of students. Whether that solution is new taxes, cuts to other programs, or a comprehensive re-evaluation of the current public-education system, we need a plan that will actually improve the quality of education our students receive.
Across-the-board cuts to vital education funding may seem like the easy solution at first, but they are nothing more than a poison-soaked Band-Aid.
By cutting the education of the present, we are pawning off our future, rather than funding it.
Grant Bronsdon, left, and Sam Heft-Luthy are seniors at Garfield High School. Bronsdon is the student body president and Heft-Luthy is executive editor of the Garfield Messenger.