This is a repost of the original article written by my co-editor Carolyn Leith titled An open letter to Patty Murray on the ESEA rewrite: We need funding, NOT charter schools and posted in November, 2015.
We felt it was time for a repost because now that the ESEA has been passed, OSPI will be having community “conversations” about the newly instated set of regulations that we are to march in lockstep to.
Another education journalist also shared with us the fact that although it is promoted as an opportunity for each state to develop their own programs, all of the programs will need to be first approved by the US Department of Education.
So much for autonomy.
Dear Senator Patty Murray,
I saw on Twitter that you got into politics because of school funding cuts.
Your tweet explains how after going to Olympia, you were dismissed by a state legislator because you just didn’t seem important. Instead of giving up, you went home and organized.
He dismissed me because I didn’t look like what they thought everybody important should look like. So, I drove home and started calling all the other moms, and they called the moms they knew – all were mad – and we were back at the State Legislature. The resulting grassroots campaign restored the cuts.
This year I’ve had a similar experience.
One month into the school year, both of my kids’ schools were faced with devastating staff cuts. Instead of getting on the phone – like you did – I took to Facebook and connected with other moms who were angry about their schools losing staff.
Together we organized a Half-Baked Bake Sale on the lawn of district headquarters to highlight the absurdity of trying to fund education – and offset staff cuts – with car washes and bake sales.
This month, right after the district pleaded no money to save school staff, the school board decided to give our Superintendent a raise. As you can imagine, this move really upset parents.
This lead to the Thirteen Thousand Dollar Question, where my new activist friends and I, asked parents across the district what problems their schools could solve with the Superintendent’s proposed raise.
Through this action, we learned how desperately underfunded our public schools really are. One student wrote us suggesting the $13,000 be used to “buy books for our library and notebooks for classrooms. We really need school supplies for all students so our teachers don’t have to buy them.”
Since you’re moved to Washington D.C., I don’t know how closely you’ve been following the school funding issue here in Washington State.
The Supreme Court has found the Washington State Legislature in contempt for not fulfilling its duty to fully fund basic education.
The federal government made this situation even worst when it allowed aid to states to expire in 2012. This money was being used by states to keep our public schools running.
Given the precarious state of public school funding in Washington State, I’m confused by your willingness to include generous funding for charter schools in the ESEA.
Not only did the Supreme Court rule Washington State’s charter law unconstitutional, but charter schools have a track record for all kinds of financial scandals. Don’t believe me? Just google “charter school scandals” and take a look.
We can’t afford to have any dollars diverted from our classrooms. Any dollar lost to scandal is one not being spent on the 1 million public school students in Washington State.
Another alarming aspect of charter schools is how they siphon off funding from regular public schools. Our schools are already financially strapped, fostering and generously funding charters will make this dire situation even worst.
Take a look at the damage done by charter schools in cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City. We want a school system that takes care of every student, not those lucky enough to attend a school with full funding.
Our public schools need real dollars for: smaller class size, librarians, counselors, nurses, art, music, an aid for every student with an IEP, money to build new schools, an aid for every English Language learner, competitive teacher salaries, money for full school days, paper, pencils, band instruments, full time PE teachers, tutors for struggling students, money to rebuild crumbling schools, full time cafeteria workers, recess monitors, after school enrichment programs.
Please join me in the fight for funding that provides every child in Washington State the resources they need to be successful, not just the lucky few.
Readers: You can contact Patty Murray toll free at (866) 481-9186.