Parent slaps down opponents of FWHS project: 'If we want performance, we need a new school'
By GREG ALLMAIN
Federal Way Mirror reporter
September 26, 2012 · Updated 3:24 PM
As the time to vote inches nearer for the $60 million capital levy to replace Federal Way High School, support for the project is growing.
With students and Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) employees adding their voices to the conversation in recent weeks, parents were the one group that had seemingly been quiet.
During the Sept. 25 school board meeting, parent Steve Edmiston broke his silence. He expressed his exasperation at the reasoning being used by the opposition group to the Federal Way High School project.
"There appears to be two arguments being asserted by the opposition to this new school. The first really seems to be an attack on the the performance of the students, or the faculty, or the faculty and students," he said.
"And the second is process, we don't know enough going forward. Tonight, I'm going to talk about the first one only."
Edmiston continued, quoting the language used by the opposition group in the local voters pamphlet.
"I'm quoting from the very first sentence of the statement against in the voters pamphlet. 'The current Federal Way High School does not graduate many kids that are either prepared to succeed in college or gain employment in living wage paying jobs.' In other words, somehow it's OK to the punish the students now and in the future, by depriving them of a new school, because we've got a bone to pick about student success in the past."
The fired up parent said this argument uses faulty logic, using the Seattle Viaduct and 520 bridge as examples of what might happen when this kind of thinking is applied.
"That logic would suggest we allow the viaduct to crumble in an earthquake. We'd allow a cracked floating bridge to sink to the bottom of Lake Washington, because some people are speeding when they drive," he said. "It doesn't make sense."
Edmiston cited research dating back to 1993 that shows a direct correlation between infrastructure and student performance, saying the opposition group again failed the logic test in opposing the new school project.
"And I'm quoting now: 'Children attending schools in subpar conditions score up to 10 percentile points lower on standardized tests, even after controlling for poverty.' 10 points. If we want performance, we need a new school. Logic dictates…(that we need to) get an environment that is not falling apart around these students. Give them the tools they need."
Addressing the opposition's statement that Federal Way High School students do not leave high school prepared for college, or only get into second-rate colleges, Edmiston rattled off a list of colleges and universities that FWHS students have made it into, including: Stanford, University of California-Berkeley, Princeton, Brown, Cornell, Columbia and MIT.
Edmiston also pointed out the students who have been accepted to the challenging and exclusive military academies of the Air Force, Navy and Army.
Edmiston closed with an impassioned plea, citing the public comments of a group of students from the Sept. 11 meeting, and another group of students who were present for the Sept. 25 meeting.
"I invite all of you that were here tonight to coldly, objectively, measure for yourself, whether the obvious education, passion, articulateness, the vision, the drive, the sacrifice, the sense of community exhibited by these four students and those three girls last week, justifies that these students are deserving of a new school as much as any student(s), in any district, in any state in this country. I say shame on us, for ever publicly arguing that our students aren't so deserving. Shame on us," he said.
Opposition statement against the levy
The following statement, submitted by former Federal Way School Board member Charlie Hoff, appears in the voters pamphlet:
The current Federal Way High School does not graduate many kids who are either prepared to succeed in college or gain employment in living wage paying jobs. The school district should offer us a plan to change this before we spend our dollars on replacing this facility. Colleges are ranking the current school poorly and there are no employers who are seeking the school’s graduates. The school district needs to show the voters a specific plan, with an estimate of its costs, before the voters approve any expenditure for the replacement of Federal Way High School. We urge the school district provide a specific plan for the replacement of this school prior to authorizing the expenditure of our dollars. Simply replacing the buildings without addressing the needs of the community isn’t a wise choice for taxpayer’s dollars. Let’s not put the cart before the horse!
About the levy
In the Nov. 6 general election, voters are being asked to approve a $60 million levy.
The money will help rebuild FWHS, improve playground equipment at Federal Way elementary schools, and help standardize the district's security camera systems.
In the Feb. 14 special election, Federal Way residents said no to the levy in a 55-45 percent split.
The remodeling of Federal Way High School is the district's top priority as far as construction projects. The district has already saved $50 million for the project, which has a total estimated cost of $110 million.
The district says this capital levy will be less costly to taxpayers because there will be no interest payments involved. The school district anticipates the cost to homeowners for the capital levy would be $92 per year for every $100,000 of assessed property value.
To learn more about the levy, visit www.fwps.org/info/levy
Contact Federal Way Mirror reporter Greg Allmain at email@example.com or 253-925-5565 ext. 5054.