Letters to the Editor

Good and bad news for local education | Guest column

By GARY ROBERTSON, Federal Way resident

Last month, they announced on the local TV news that Gov. Christine Gregoire signed into law House Bill 2261, which redefines “basic education” for the first time in over 30 years, which makes it a “landmark” education bill and reform of our current education system.

That is definitely a "step in the right direction." That is the good news. The bad news is the governor vetoed two sections of the bill having to doing with "early learning" because it singles out a specific group of students — but the same thing happens with ELL and LAP students — and this program is critical to getting students off on the right foot, so I do not agree with her veto. Put another way, there is still work to be done.  Other public concerns with the bill are that it comes with no funding (like our ex-President Bush’s No Child Left Behind program) and it won't be fully implemented until 2018.

This bill will impact every school district in the state, hopefully in a positive way. But at the same time, it raises a multitude of questions that still must be answered. These include: 1) How does the state implement a new program with no money to fund it because that is one of the reasons the WEA gave for opposing it? 2) Does the bill really require additional funds and if so, how much or is it simply a case of re-allocating (based on a new formula) the money they already have? 3) Will this help with our funding of the 2011-2012 Federal Way school budget, which will be the next budget you will have to deal with? 4) Why does it take the state nine years to implement this bill? 5) If this will result in long-term additional funding to our school district, when we see the money and how much will it be? 6) Last but not least, will the school board drop its lawsuit against the state (the appeal I believe is scheduled to be heard this summer at the State Supreme Court) now that the legislation has been passed?

Like most of us, I was extremely disappointed at the continuing failure of our state legislators to meet their number one responsibility — and that is their “paramount duty” to properly fund education. Put another way, this is their number one priority and all other funding should take a backseat.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank Superintendent Tom Murphy and all of his staff who worked on developing the 2009–2010 budget because they did an outstanding job under “very trying circumstances” and I strongly urge you to support it. Unlike other school superintendents across the state who chose to layoff teachers left and right, our superintendent chose a different path with the students and staff the number one priority.

We are all very fortunate because he makes the job of the school board much easier and when it comes to school superintendents, he is literally “the best of the best.”

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