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Press Release: WAGOP plans to Save Basic Education in WA State

WAGOP guidelines to Saving Basic Education

  • Focus on Kids
  • Engage Parents
  • Empower Teachers

Public education is most effectively managed by state governments, not federal. According to Article IX of the Washington State Constitution, it is the “paramount duty” of the state government to “make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” As the WA State Constitution and separate state law establish, basic K-12 education is most effectively delivered by local educators, hired and held accountable by locally-elected school boards.

During the 2020-2021 school year, some 40,000 students left Washington state public schools. Clearly, something isn’t working.

The State of Washington’s growing deference to federal education priorities and its parallel concentration of the implementation of K-12 education policy in the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) have failed to deliver high-quality basic education to WA children.

Standard proficiency testing of WA high school students show that half of the students can’t read or write at grade level—and nearly two-thirds can’t do simple mathematics at grade level. These numbers are unacceptable.

Washington Republicans are committed to delivering a high-quality, uniform basic education to all children residing within the state’s borders. To do this, the state government must change the way it funds and manages public education here.

The WAGOP plan for Saving Basic Education includes the following elements:

  • clarify state law to strengthen and protect the “broad discretionary power” of locally-elected school boards to develop curriculum, select textbooks, hiring teachers and do all other acts and things that a school district does
  • narrow the mission and reduce the budget of OSPI and move those resources to school districts—preferably, into classrooms
  • narrow the mission and reduce the budget of WA’s system of “Education Service Districts” and move money and people to school districts—preferably, into classrooms
  • reform or repeal the state’s “prototypical school” budget model to fund special education programs and other specialized-learning programs more effectively
  • maximize parental involvement, in part, by launching a school choice program
  • properly incentivize teachers to give students the best possible education
  • reduce the number and compensation of school administrators

Underlying all of these policy points is the core belief that families and local communities are best positioned to make decisions—based on evidence-based guidelines suggested by OSPI and other agencies—about delivering basic K-12 education to WA children. As the WA Constitution says, the state’s primary duty is to fund K-12 education programs. The local school board’s duty is to build and implement those programs.

For nearly a century, this division of responsibilities delivered outstanding K-12 education to WA kids. This state’s K-12 schools were consistently ranked among the best in the United States. The recent bureaucratization of basic education in WA has weakened the system, dropping WA schools to middle rankings nationally.

“We need to save high-quality basic education in our state,” WAGOP Chairman Jim Walsh says. “Washington Republicans will do that. With bills. With budgets. And with the bully pulpit.”