Yesterday, Dick Nelson of Crosscut, an online newspaper, posted an article about education reform groups supported by business in Washington state. The article attracted an excellent comment from Kate Martin, which you can read in full here (see fifth comment down, labeled “Editor’s Pick). She points out that children are failing to learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Here is an excerpt:

“In Seattle (and WA), 50% of the kids in high school cannot score above level 1 which is far below basic. That means that half of the kids cannot do basic arithmetic – add, subtract, multiply, and divide. They don’t really come to school with a big math deficit. We actually create it once they get there….”

Dick Nelson also criticizes business for not identifying a source of funding to provide schools with the $1 to $4 billion the education establishment is now demanding.

If giving schools more money actually improved the schools, by now every Washington student would know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide. In school year 2011-12, Washington state taxpayers provided the sum of $10,237 per student from all state, local and federal sources. This is the highest amount in the state’s history. Only six years ago, in 2006-7, taxpayers provided $8,836 per student. This is a 15.8% increase in a six year period that includes the 2008 Great Recession.

The Legislature is currently on a path to do nothing about Kate Martin’s complaint. Instead they looking for a way to increase taxes to spend more money on the public schools. Specifically, HB 2261 would expand pre-school programs, provide all-day kindergarten, reduce class sizes in K-3, require federally controlled curricula and tests, and describe the type and number of staff at each school in Washington. These reforms have not been shown to be successful in other states. They are simply an expansion of a mediocre and low-performing bureaucratic system.

We ought to listen to smart people like Kate Martin. Complaints by people just like her inspired Washington Policy Center’s education reform plan, which proposes to give school principals and teachers real autonomy from failing math curricula and central district mandates. Only when front-line educators are given the freedom to design their programs will every student in Washington learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.


[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog]