Federal Way children's education not a bargaining chip | Inside Politics

Bob Roegner - Contributed
Bob Roegner
— image credit: Contributed

Are you mad at the Federal Way school district over the school board’s travel, the superintendent’s salary, or the grading system? If so, how mad are you?

Are you mad enough to vote no on the upcoming levy, just to teach the school board and the superintendent a lesson?

Are you mad enough to take it out on the children we are trying to educate and prepare to be responsible adults? Are you mad enough to eliminate resources, some teachers and other staff that help our children learn? Are you mad enough to shoot yourself in the foot?

And do you really think that reducing school district funding by 20 percent is the answer?

Some members of our community are suggesting just that approach. But it is the wrong approach at the wrong time. If the controversy surrounding those issues troubles you and you want your school board to be accountable, that is a reasonable expectation. But those points were made last fall in the manner they should be made.

With board members up for election and community focus on education, voters said they wanted some changes. They elected two new board members, Carol Gregory and Geoffery McAnalloy, who campaigned on a platform of more parent, teacher and student involvement. They heard the message.

They stated that their views on travel, salary, graduation rates and the grading system were different and they were open to change. They have only been in office a couple of months, give them time to establish working relationships with the other board members and the superintendent and put their views into practice.

Superintendent Rob Neu certainly read the tea leaves and heard the community. He announced new higher graduation rate targets and started to move in another direction on the grading system even before the two new members joined the board. He revamped parts of the system and is starting a citizens committee to provide additional input.

There has been some criticism that he will control the process by appointing the committee. But board members have stated they will be involved and provide oversight. Any changes or recommendations will still be held out to public view.

Some have said they will vote no because of rumors of behind-the-scenes intrigue in the community regarding the former principal at Federal Way High School who was placed on leave for unknown reasons. There is a perception that the district is keeping things quiet until after the levy election.

While the citizen committee and the principal of Federal Way High School may be legitimate areas of concern to students, parents and teachers, they are also the responsibility of the board and the superintendent. Are the rumors true?

We don’t know, but if the issue of the Federal Way High School principal is an important issue to you, then keep the pressure on the board and superintendent. But don’t use our children’s education as a bargaining chip. If you don’t like how they do their job, there will be another school board election.

More importantly, those issues distract public attention from the greater need of our children’s education. The levy is a four-year replacement levy to keep resources as they are. It is not an additional tax.

Now is the time district residents should lobby Olympia for more money as the courts required in the McCleary verdict. What message do you send to our legislators if you defeat the levy? It is probably not the one you intend.

That message would suggest that state money should go elsewhere. Legislators from other parts of the state could use your “no” as a way to avoid the court’s direction or, worse yet, include more education money in the budget but send it to another district. Public debate is the sign of a healthy community.

But cutting your children’s educational resources by 20 percent is an overreaction to some of the district’s decisions. The Mirror and the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce studied the issues and are endorsing the levy. Voters should do so as well.

Focus on what counts, providing the best possible school district we can, with as many resources as possible. Not just 80 percent.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner, a former mayor of Auburn: bjroegner@comcast.net.



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