Interdependence of education and democracy
Last updated 2/1/2018 at Noon
“The original purpose of U.S. education was to shape citizens who share a common ideal and have the knowledge, skills and inclination to uphold the tenets of democracy,” explained Anna Saavedra, policy researcher at the Research And Development (RAND) Corporation.
While the future success of America rides on the success of its school system, the relationship between education and government is one of interdependence: schools need the organization and support of legislation to improve the quality of American education just as much as the government thrives on a well-educated public.
To organize their efforts and advocate for student success before legislators, representatives from Lind and Ritzville School Districts joined together with members of the Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA), Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA), and Washington Association of School Business Officials (WASBO) for the 2018 Legislative Conference and Day On The Hill.
Superintendent Matt Ellis, Ritzville Business Manager Dana Telecky, WSSDA Area Director, Ritzville School Board member Scott Carruth and student representatives Crystal Silva and Emma Aldrich traveled to South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia on Sunday, Jan. 28, to hear leaders in state education discuss “hot topics.”
These topics represented WASA, WSSDA, and WASBO’s priorities and served to unify each district in preparation for their meetings with elected officials on Monday.
During the legislative conference, Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal spoke on the “State of the State of Education.”
“We have an equity problem,” he repeated to the audience, following with his plan to overcome the problem. This gave rise to the need to advocate before legislators.
Among the topics discussed were modification proposals for EHB 2242, also known as the McCleary Funding Plan to support basic education.
Advocates spoke to increase per-student special education funding, to promote equity by reinstating the state salary schedule, and to delay the implementation of the mandatory levy of $1.50 per thousand dollars of assessed property value for all districts.
It should be noted that, in compliance with EHB 2242 as it is currently written, Ritzville voters will see the mandatory $1.50/1,000 levy on their February ballots: a reduction of $1.31/1,000 from the previous levy, $2.81/1,000.
It is the hope of the district that the state will provide levy equalization assistance to make up part of the approximately $500,000 lost in the state mandated levy reduction.
Other WASA, WSSDA, and WASBO priorities included the funding of new school facilities, specifically through Senate Bill 5553 to fund grants to rural school districts with under 1,000 students.
Also discussed was the delinking of math, English/language arts, and science state testing requirements from graduation.
These issues, constituting Washington’s education priorities, were discussed by many leaders, including Governor Jay Inslee, all in preparation for Monday’s Day On The Hill experience.
For Student Representative Silva, the conference provided a deeper understanding of how leadership throughout the state is working to resolve the equity problem. “ I thought the speakers had good, valid points… [for the] schools and the students of Washington.”
On Monday, the “hot topics” were brought to the Capitol Building. Ellis, Telecky, Carruth, Silva, and Aldrich advocated on behalf of the districts, meeting with Representative Joe Schmick, Representative Mary Dye and Senator Mark Schoesler.
“I loved talking to the representatives and senator because we students were given a chance to speak our opinion,” said Silva.
She continued, “We, as the student representatives, are the voice of the students at our district.”
The legislators were receptive to the students’ perspectives.
“They loved having students’ voices heard,” she reflected. “That was great.”
As the elected officials familiarized themselves with the student perspective, the students enjoyed a similar chance to learn.
“I learned that [legislators] are actually doing plenty of things to help out the students and schools of Washington,” Silva reported, “which most people don’t realize.”
Ultimately, the experiences at both the Legislative Conference and the Day On The Hill reinforced the interdependence of the school system and the government.
An opportunity for a great education is beneficial for all, and it is therefore the collective responsibility of educators, legislators, and voters to strive for improvement in schools.