Waiting on education funding | Superintendent Nancy Coogan

  • Tuesday, May 16, 2017 9:00am
  • Opinion

Five years and five months have passed since the Washington Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers are not meeting their constitutional duty to amply fund basic education. Since then, legislators have racked up more than $63 million in fines (and counting — $100,000 per day) by failing to make any significant progress to fix the problem.

And still, we wait. Teachers wait. Parents wait. Students wait. Legislators are in a special session with no traction toward a funding solution. In the Tukwila School District, our budget planning is in limbo until we know what our revenues will be next year. Because schools are accountable to immovable legal deadlines, we will have to implement worst-case-scenario measures such as notifying some staff members that they do not have guaranteed contracts for 2017-18. Those valued educators may look for and get jobs elsewhere; morale dips and learning suffers. This is just one more example of the tremendous harm befalling classrooms because of lawmakers’ inaction.

I would like to clarify. This is not about school funding. This is about a quality education for every child and doing what’s best for our collective future. This is not about more money. This is about the right kind of money creating an effective, equitable and accountable system of public education.

First and foremost, schools should be funded based on student need. Right now, there are many complicated factors that determine a school’s state funding, but the most significant is teacher seniority level. It’s a system in which the most-in-need schools are often the most resource-starved. Let me say that again: The children who need the most get the least. It’s ironic and makes little sense. If education is truly about the students, let’s re-center resources around their needs. A child’s zip code should not predetermine their quality of school — and life — but unfortunately it does.

A funding model designed to boost student achievement should include additional resources for homeless students, students in poverty and foster students. We need to provide for the whole child in education, which includes culturally responsive pedagogy, trauma-informed instruction and social-emotional learning, because many children simply cannot be present in a classroom before their basic needs are met.

We also must acknowledge that educators do the most important work in society. It is the noblest profession. Let’s provide additional enhancements to attract, train, mentor and retain teachers in hard-to-staff schools and districts, like Tukwila — especially if they come with specialized endorsements in ELL (English-language learner) and special education. We need to support talented educators.

In my vision for the Tukwila School District, every child, beginning at birth, has a wide-open pipeline — filled with caring and effective teachers — to multiple career and college pathways of their choosing. Every child, first and foremost, has access to rigorous, relevant, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math)-based curriculum. Every child who needs additional academic support — whether they are struggling or excelling — gets it. Every child who needs additional non-academic support gets it. The school day is transformed into a student-led exploration of real-world problems, with lessons and learning available anytime, anywhere, through online resources. We as educators are accountable not just for students’ proficiency on standard assessments, but for nurturing students’ talents and passions to set them up for a fulfilling and successful life. Ultimately, students will graduate from the Tukwila School District with choice — the choice to go on to a post-secondary education or an opportunity to contribute to the workforce in business or industry.

Rigor. Relevancy. Flexibility. Excitement. Excellence. These are the things we want to focus on for our children. It’s time for a common-sense, student-focused funding model that supports our vision.

And still, we wait. Teachers wait. Parents wait. Students wait.

Tukwila School Superintendent Nancy Coogan can be reached at 206-901-8006 or at ncoogan@tukwila.wednet.edu.


More in Opinion

Washington State Capitol Building. File photo
Editorial: Taxpayers deserve down payment on tax reforms

By The Herald Editorial Board Reform of the state’s tax system wasn’t… Continue reading

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon and Page Carson Foster. Photo credit Washington State Legislative Support Services
Carson Foster serves as page in Washington State House

The following was submitted to the Reporter: Carson Foster, a student at… Continue reading

State Dems may abandons caucus chaos in time for 2020

Washington also is considering becoming more significant by moving its primary to early March.

Are sheriffs above the law?

Washington voters have spoken on I-1639. Sheriffs need to set the stage to follow their oath of office - and enforce the law.

Parking issues should be addressed now rather than later

So let’s have a little update on Tukwila Village. Construction on the… Continue reading

Two commissioner positions available this year

For The Reporter The Tukwila Pool Metropolitan Park District (TPMPD) is a… Continue reading

Especially in an election year, our elected should do better

At first glance, the reinstitution of the Hazelnut, Issue 1 — looks,… Continue reading

When tomorrow becomes today: King County cities must tackle affordable housing

Microsoft has started the regional dialogue, but will cities rise to the challenge?

Representation matters

By Flip Herndon Tukwila Superintendent During the month of February we may… Continue reading

Why public libraries matter more than ever in the Information Age

Occasionally, someone unfamiliar with King County Library System will say to me… Continue reading

Tukwila Pool welcomes new water aerobics classes

By Laci Jamison The Tukwila Pool is excited to announce that we… Continue reading

With city budgets, come tough choices

In a previous column, I briefly touched on how our new public… Continue reading