Saturday, September 20, 2008

Spending to affect achievement in Federal Way .. by C.R. Hoff

Here is a draft of Charles R. Hoff's coming testimony for the Federal Way School board meeting of September 23, 2008
1. Last board meeting there was some recognition of the three National Merit Semi-finalists. While I do not want to diminish the recognition of these three scholars I would like to point out that nationally this honor is accorded to about 1-2% of each high school’s senior class. For this district this would be a number somewhere above 16 and there are only 3? And we have one high school that I believe has never had a single semi-finalist!

Why could this be? Could it be that the level of instruction in our secondary schools isn’t high enough to adequately prepare our best students? Probably so!

2. Looking at the agendas of the school board meetings since December of last year I cannot find any discussions that even address the quality of instruction in this district. The state law makes this the responsibility of school boards and it would seem that there is little interest in taking on this responsibility.

To night’s agenda is a clear example of this.

3. At your last meeting I showed you the decline in mathematics achievement of our 10th graders by two separate measurements and suggested that some minorities have already reached close to the bottom. Was there any action item, or other measures initiated? Not that I can see.

This evening I would like you to look at this slide from a paper on Washington’s higher education system that shows the dramatic attrition that is taking place in our schools. Only 14.3% of our 9th graders are finishing college! Note that 30% are gone by high school graduation time. The Nation has about 23% of its adults holding a college degree and this state is producing 14%! Why isn’t this a matter of concern for our school board?

4. On tonight’s agenda is a discussion on supporting a lawsuit sponsored by the League of Educational Voters, the WEA, several other school boards, and the PTA.

At your last meeting you ask for public comment on this matter and yet you have not indicated that there will be any time for this when this subject is before you. I believe that the Soviet Politburo would probably use a similar tactic!

Let me refresh your memories about the sentiment of the voters of Washington. There have been two referendums 102 and 884 on this subject in recent times and in both cases they have lost by substantial margins. Could it be that the voters of Washington do not believe that the resources that are currently allocated to education are being spent on achievement? It certainly would be true for at least one observer. In fact there are very significant dollars being spent on activities that have no basis for such according to the educational funding provisions of this state.

Were I to be in the Legislature I would also question the allocation that local school boards are making of the taxpayers funds when achievement is in such rapid decline.

This Board sponsored a lawsuit to demand that all school districts be funded according to the same rules and when the courts ruled in the district’s favor the state promptly appealed this as the cost of the remedy was estimated to be $ 850 million dollars or about 4% of the entire state’s budget.

The lawsuit that you are considering expending up to $ 30,000 to support has no cost estimates for the taxpayers of this state instead would appear to be a “blank check” with no specifics on how this money would be spent or on what outcomes would be expected.

The levels of expenditures on education in this state have risen dramatically and yet the level of achievement has either remained level, as the optimists would suggest, or declined.

Why are you considering adding our dollars to this lawsuit that has little chance of affecting the achievement of our children in the near future.

At this time the state is forecasting a $ 3.5Billion dollar deficit with its existing expenditures. Why would either the Legislature or the Courts want to consider adding unknown amounts for an organization that cannot either define what it wants to spend the money on, follow the current rules for expenditures, or make any warranties on outcomes?

Isn’t it time that this school board clean up its own house by spending its current dollars on measures that will affect achievement instead of spending it on “wishes” from the tooth fairy?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a ridiculous lawsuit since it will be thrown out.

Even more ridiculous, since OSPI is probably funding it - this is similiar to the Washington Alliance's lawsuit.

The litigants make out like bandits, and everybody else is left mystified.