A Modest Proposal: How to Cut Education Funding

As cited in a recent Seattle P-I article, Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, chairwoman of the state Senate education committee, warned

that budget cuts are coming and some proposals would make it harder for students to meet state graduation requirements.

McAuliffe, a Democrat from Bothell, goes on to say that

it wouldn't be fair to ask students to work hard to overcome obstacles and graduate from high school, then take away support from the state to help reach that goal.

As Seattle P-I reporter Donna Gordon Blankinship explains, school officials

who testified at the hearing before the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee said if the money from Initiative 728 is taken away, they would lose counselors who focus on graduation, teachers who help students meet alternative graduation requirements and special WASL math classes and summer preparation sessions.

I share Sen. McAuliffe's concern, but with the recent U.S. Senate agreement to cut from the stimulus bill $40 billion in state aid, including aid for academic support, the need to cut state funding for education may have only increased. Gov. Gregoire's proposed budget was based on the assumption that the state would be receiving education funds from the stimulus package, but thanks to a bipartisan compromise, the federal government may let the states fend for themselves when it comes to supporting their most academically challenged students.

The state budget deficits are real, and we can only expect them to get worse as unemployment rises through 2010, and, if Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman is correct, into 2011. The cuts will be widespread, they will affect state services on almost every level, and many people will protest the pain and injustice of it all. Many people, that is, but not all people.

So here is my modest proposal:

The first things to be cut from the state education budget should be resources for children whose parents or guardians are least likely to protest. For example, the proposals to cut I-728 money that would support struggling students mostly affect the most vulnerable among us. These students often come from poor families whose parents or guardians, already overburdened by economic hardship, are unlikely to mount a big public protest over cuts to academic support for their children. Many other students are recent immigrants whose parents or guardians tend to keep a low profile.

Never mind that many of these students work after school to help support their families. Never mind that many of these students, when you combine job hours and school hours, work longer days than most adults. Never mind that many of these students do everything we ask them to do and overcome overwhelming odds to graduate from high school. Never mind that many of these students have survived war, refugee camps and unmentionable tragedies. Never mind that many of these students have believed what we've told them about education being the means to a better life for themselves and their families. Never mind that the support they've received from their teachers has enabled many of these students to become the first generation of literate, college-educated people in their families.

What is important in this new era bipartisanship is that we find a way to balance the state budget that both Democrats and Republicans can agree to. And there is one thing that I believe members of both parties can agree to: the more they focus on cutting services to people who won't protest, the less flak they'll get from their constituents.

The cynical among us may counter that our legislators and governor should seriously consider raising revenue by restructuring our tax system so that the rich pay more and the poor pay less. Forfend the thought! Can you imagine the hue and cry at a proposal like that? Former state Treasurer Dan Grimm had the right idea when he proposed extending the sales tax to health care transactions. However, in keeping with the principle that changes in fiscal policy should most affect those who will protest the least, I suggest the sales tax be extended only to those who don't have proof of health insurance. That way, we can discourage the uninsured who drive up health care costs for the rest of us and offset revenue losses that could cut into education programs affecting the middle class.

Above all, we should keep in mind that people who find it difficult to write in English tend not to write letters and email to their elected representatives. Many of them can't even vote. So while my proposal to cut services to some of the most vulnerable among us may seem overly ambitious, I already see signs that the governor and legislators from both parties are quietly coming around to it. We may hear from a few hapless teachers who stand to lose their jobs, but at least we'll be spared the outcry of the many more students and parents who have lost their teachers. The most affected will have the least to say.

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... because they're already hurting so much that they can't find the courage or energy to be heard.


Similar to cutting General Assistance, Unemployable -- funds for those who have no other means of support.  Someone who's homeless, hungry, and helpless has hardly any mojo at all to complain.  But what's the solution to the fact that they may end up getting in our way on the street, under highway overpasses or in tent cities and so on?  

Oh, right, that's the new jail in Seattle.  Much more expensive than education or regular housing or medical care.  But politically more expedient.

by noemie maxwell on Sat Feb 07, 2009 at 07:27:28 PM PST

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  • Exactly. by OrneryDemocrat, 02/08/2009 10:50:06 AM PST (none / 0)
  • Attitude by victoriawenjie, 09/17/2014 06:50:17 PM PST (none / 0)
How cost effective is it to destroy human lives, grow a generation of people with no options, virtually encouraging them to action that will provide publicly financed housing, i.e., jail.

Oh yeah -- guess in AmeriKa we now need to pay to live.

BTW - many many people testifying at the school closure hearings in Seattle were those who are struggling.  They ARE fired up now, so I'm not sure the strategy is going to work....

by ktkeller on Sun Feb 08, 2009 at 01:18:21 PM PST

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in Seattle. These are the teachers, funded by I-728, who help our must academically vulnerable students.

And will the parents of these students be organizing a big protest? Will they be storming the next Board meeting? No, of course not. That is why the academic support for their children is not  "budgeted."

by OrneryDemocrat on Fri Feb 13, 2009 at 05:02:40 AM PST

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This group has drawn in teachers, kids and parents from all over the city, pulling in a lot of socio-economically diverse folks from the Central Area.

Educators, Students and Parents (ESP) Vision Seattle





These folks are moving SO fast and have been SO focused that I got rated down on comments asking could we organize with the School Board to slow it down because we should be working with the state and feds to get more money.

Now that the closures have been decided and it gets into a lawsuit, many of these natural allies should perk up.  Can you alert them?  Or give me a not so cynical article?  Thanks!

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