Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed piece.
By Frank Ordway
This time it really matters.
Cutting through the clatter of political campaigns can be difficult. For many, understandably, the noise and negativity are simply too much to digest. But for parents and kids, this election and the legislative session that follows really matter.
If you care about your kids, you should care about this election.
The people we elect this year will make momentous decisions that will impact every kid, from Pre–K through college. This why we, as parents, should pay close attention, vote, and follow how our new Washington legislature and governor handle the challenges that await them.
The challenges could not be more vexing. They involve taxes, debates about where the state’s responsibility for education begins and ends, and where to invest precious public dollars to have the biggest impact for our state’s students. The future of our education system is literally at stake.
Recent data shows our state is in the bottom five when it comes to how much invest per student. By any measure we do not invest enough in the education of our kids. Washington state is unique. We have a state constitution that elevates public education above every other priority of state government. It is the paramount duty of our state. This means that all citizens, including you and me, share the responsibility in fulfilling that duty.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that we were failing in our responsibility. The Court found, unanimously, that we do not fund our schools adequately. As importantly, the Court ruled that the way we fund them is not stable, secure or equitable. We must invest more, and do so more effectively.
This ruling reinforced that children in Washington have a constitutional right to an amply funded education that prepares students to compete in today’s economy and meaningfully participate in the state’s democracy.
This is a tall order, and one we ought to embrace. It is not just about money, but the results we get for our investment. Our state has passed significant reforms in recent years that set the table for more effective investments. Now is the time to put these into action.
Each Washington student should be prepared for life opportunities after high school — either college or work. A system that increases positive outcomes for kids will require investments in early learning, K–12 and higher education. We must provide all kids with the early education they need to arrive in K–12 ready to succeed. We must provide every student the opportunity to earn 24 credits in high school and graduate college and career ready. If we do these things, our kids’ schools can become springboards for their success.
So parents, do not allow the din of the political season to turn you off to what will happen in our Legislature in 2013. Vote for education champions. This election and the decisions that follow will have profound impacts on our kids and the options they have in life.
Frank Ordway is the Director of Government Relations at the League of Education Voters. He has three school-age children in the Ferndale Public Schools.
The League of Education Voters Foundation (LEV) is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization made up of parents, students, and leaders who believe in a quality education from cradle to career. LEV is the only Washington-based organization working to improve public education from early learning through higher education. We shape the debate, build powerful coalitions and grow the grassroots to achieve meaningful reform and adequate resources for education.