Will More Money Save Our Students?

Statewide System Failure

For years education officials have demanded more funding for smaller classrooms, more experienced teachers, higher paid teachers, pre-school, new state-of-the-art school buildings and more special programs, with the promise that these “solutions” will provide the answers to our state’s education problems. But can we now agree the sweeping education reform model designed by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and passed into law by the state legislature in 1993 has been a catastrophic failure for our students?

By almost all measures student performance has remained essentially static and in some areas like math and reading, student achievement has declined. The drop out rate has reached 30 percent and more are at risk of not graduating because they have not passed the math portion of the WASL.

Rep. Glenn Anderson, a Republican who serves on the House Education Committee said, “I don’t get it. We’re okay sending all the students that are unprepared out into the world without the skills they need to succeed? I’m not okay with that and I suspect parents aren’t going to sign off on that idea either.”

It’s time for a course correction and we better do it fast because our children are paying a very high price for this statewide system failure.

Results Not Even Close to Taxpayer Investment

Washington residents were promised a set of concrete results for all the money we shoveled into our state’s education system. Among them we were promised that by the year 2000:

-The high school graduation rate will increase to 90 percent
-Students will demonstrate competency in the challenging subjects of English, math and science.

What has been the return for our investment?

-Almost half of the state’s high school sophomores failed the math portion of the WASL last year.

-A full 20 percent of students scored at the lowest level on the 10th grade math WASL indicating they only have an elementary knowledge of math.

Washington state taxpayers now spend an average of $9,688 per pupil. We have dramatically increased teacher salaries, reduced the student/teacher ratio to 18.5, increased special education funding by 25 percent and poured money into the state’s Head Start program. (These figures are from 2003 and are likely higher today)

Despite this whopping upsurge in spending we have not seen a correlated gain in student performance.

Governor Gregoire admits the system is failing the students and her suggested “course correction” is the proposal that students will not have to pass the math section of the WASL to graduate from high school until 2011. In the meantime we will need a flood of, you guessed it, more money. The collective wisdom of the State Board of Education is suggesting we need more math teachers, longer school days, a longer school year and of course, a community outreach program to educate us that math is important. Oh yes, this will instill parent confidence in our schools.

Power Up Valid Solutions
Enough already of the idea that pouring more money into the same failing programs will save education! Look outside the box at other highly successful math models that have well-defined, sequential instruction. They are out there and they are working! Acknowledge that some programs have no long term academic benefit to students and redirect the dollars to programs that will effectively increase student achievement. And most importantly, allow funding to follow each student so parents can chose the first-rate school their children deserve.