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MI shouldn’t ‘settle’ on schools issues
Sen. Brian Weinstein
It’s no secret that one of Mercer Island’s biggest draws is its excellent public school system. Our 10th-graders had the best scores in the state on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), which students must pass to graduate beginning with the class of 2008.
Our students, our teachers and our community have created a system that consistently demands, and delivers, world-class results for our children. Of the nearly 70,000 students statewide who took the 10th-grade exam, Mercer Island students are at the very top: 97 percent passed the reading section, 96 percent passed writing and 85 percent passed math.
Yet I worry that our students’ outstanding track record may remove our community from a vital conversation happening right now about the future of public education in Washington. It would be very easy for Mercer Island residents to adopt an “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” attitude about public education.
With the recent release of its final recommendations, the Washington Learns commission — Gov. Christine Gregoire’s blue ribbon panel of educators, lawmakers, business and minority leaders, and others — has done an admirable job of presenting a menu of options for creating a public education system for the 21st century. The 2007 Legislature has a hefty challenge in prioritizing the Washington Learns recommendations and carrying out the ones that will yield the best results for our state.
Here’s why it’s important for us all to pay attention to the Washington Learns report, which calls for sweeping changes in the way our public schools teach — and how we pay for it:
We need to make smarter investments if we expect better results. The final recommendations lay the groundwork by calling for a significant down payment in 2007 to improve basic education funding. They also encourage the longer-term effort of designing a new basic education funding formula.
Acting upon a recommendation in Washington Learn’s 2005 interim report, the Legislature this year created a new state Department of Early Learning. The final report also calls for voluntary full-day kindergarten, beginning in impoverished schools around the state.
The quality of Washington’s public schools affects every citizen, even those of us who already have excellent schools in our own community. Let your voice be heard: Read the commission’s report at www.washingtonlearns.wa.gov and tell your legislators where your priorities lie. Public schools belong to the public.