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Education Reform Must Begin With the Legislature
Says Former Seattle School Board President
This week, the Legislature begins its deliberations during this short session (60 days). The top priority will be “education” and the need to comply with the Supreme Court decisions on charter schools and funding.
The charter school issue should be the easier of the two according to Don Nielsen, former Seattle School Board President and author of Every School: One Citizen’s Guide To Transforming Education.
“Charter schools are simply deregulated public schools, and the legislature needs to pass legislation allowing public funds to be given to schools that are granted waivers from state regulations,” said Nielsen. “It they did that, charter schools would be eligible for state funding and the issue would be solved.”
The funding question is a more difficult challenge.
“My own opinion is that the Supreme Court has overstepped its jurisdiction in proclaiming that the Legislature is inadequately funding our schools,” said Nielsen, who is also a senior fellow at Discovery Institute. “First, how do they know? On what basis do they make that assessment?”
Perhaps equally important Nielsen added, is the question, “if what we are spending now is not enough, then what would be enough?”
The Supreme Court chose not to answer any of these questions and, as a result, put the Legislature in a very difficult position. In the last session, the Legislature added $3.0 billion to education funding, but it still was not enough and the Supreme Court is now fining the Legislature $100,000/day until they meet the non-defined amount of funding that the Court has decided is needed.
“Quite frankly, the best solution to this dilemma is to elect a new majority in the Court,” said Nielsen.
In Nielsen’s view, inadequate funding is simply not the issue with our schools. He maintains that more money has never increased academic achievement and it never will.
“The problem is the system itself,” explained Nielsen. “Our present system of education was established to meet a different need in a different era. It was never designed to effectively educate every child and it has successfully not done so for over 100 years.”
“The task the Legislature should tackle is the redesign of a school system,” Nielsen added. “Someday, one state in this nation is going to do that, and all others will then have to follow. Why shouldn’t the state of Washington lead the nation in that effort?”
If you’d like to interview Don Nielsen please contact Robert Crowther at 206-292-0401 x107, or at [email protected].