Friday, July 22, 2016

Washington state Superintendent of Public Instruction

With ballots being due by the end of next week, a few notes on the qualifications of some of the candidates, to help you make your choice.  At the end I'll tell you the kinds of things that I am looking for with a bit more detail.

Chris Reykdal used the words "designed by people of privilege" when referring to our education system.  In my mind this automatically disqualifies him from anything, up to and including handing me my fries at McDonalds.

Prouty and Fleming both oppose charter schools.  Disqualifying.  A more open and free market in education may be the only way that we can actually improve education by allowing parents to have the ability to move their children to better schools.  Add to this the fact that the people of Washington voted to have them, these candidates are out of touch with what people want.

Jones is endorsed by The Stranger.  Nuff said.

Runte has a PhD in Environmental History which should exclude him from consideration, but his positions seem sound.

Blair.  I like his ideas.  I doubt he can get elected.  He will be opposed by the major players.  I suspect that his proposals are too radical to be implemented by the Legislature or supported by the majority of people in the state.

Higgins sounds good but his website is short on specific policy proposals.  It's also a bit concerning to me that he has jumped around a lot and has very little real educational experience (I don't count being a substitute teacher as real experience.  You don't have to deal with lesson planning, establishing classroom norms, grading, evaluations, bureaucracy, etc)

Maksirisombat is a straight up leftist who is opposed to parents having choices in education.  He doesn't have a web page but I was able to find his King County Democrats questionnaire.

Spring hits the buzzwords on his website.  What exactly does "fully fund" mean?  The court said it but they've never defined it.  Free college, lower property taxes, reduce class sizes, increase the graduation rate?  Buzzwords with little meaning and many problems.  What we really need is some new ideas, not rehashing of the things that haven't worked.

Takeaways: Blair and Runte seem to be the best possible choices given the limited amount of information available, Runte is probably more electable and has ideas that will more readily translate into actual programs and accomplishments within the system that we appear to be stuck with.

So what do I think of all the various proposals?

Charter schools: If parents have choice education will get better.  Parents are most qualified to decide what best suits their children.  I support a complete voucher system where each parent gets a voucher and chooses a school.  Charter schools is at least a step in the direction of more choice.

Fully funding education: Given that no one is willing to actually define this, if I were in the Legislature I'd do what they are doing, which is tell the State Supremes to push off.  All we ever hear about is that our schools don't get enough money, but there is plenty of research out there that suggests that funding and achievement don't necessarily go hand in hand when it comes to education.

College for all: Bullshit.  I can make you a list of a hundred students right now that have no business going to college.  They aren't suited for it academically, they aren't interested in it careerwise.  What we really need is to scale back the push for college for everyone and make more opportunities available for trade school and apprenticeship programs.  There's nothing wrong with being a plumber or a mechanic.  I am a highly qualified Harley mechanic in addition to being a teacher and someone who has that aptitude should pursue it and be provided with the opportunity in our education system.

Increase the graduation rate:  Sounds good but what does this mean?  I could increase the graduation rate tomorrow by eliminating the hard classes and lowering the standards.  This is the story of our state testing.  The WASL was really hard, the HSPE was less difficult, the EOC was pretty easy.  Each time we changed tests the passing rates went up.  Were we teaching them better?  Nope.  How about instead we have an alternative track for students who aren't academically inclined?  Get rid of advanced algebra and replace it with trade math for students who want to go in that direction.  Get rid of advanced literature classes and replace them with tech classes for those students.  Teach the students who aren't academic civics, reading, writing, basic math and give them a taste of the trades so that they can make an educated decision (no pun intended).

What else?  I don't know.  There is more but I think that covers the basics.  Hope it helped.

PS I'm not running so don't ask.

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