Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center states the legislation may be great for the teacher’s union, but it will deprive many of Washington’s school children of the quality public education they’ve been promised
Washington Policy Center
Washington lawmakers are working to pass SB 5054, a bill to cut class instruction time by four hours a week in public schools. Students in private schools would not be affected.
The bill is being pushed by Senator Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island) and five other Democrats at the request of the WEA teacher’s union. If it passes, learning time would be cut for about 1.06 million children. The bill has passed the state senate on a partisan vote. All the Republicans voted to preserve the current level of classroom instruction.
Currently the law says students are entitled to receive 30 hours of class time with a certified teacher. Backers of SB 5054 seek to cut that to 26 hours a week, a 13% reduction. Union contracts provide that teachers would receive the same pay and benefits for spending less time with students, which explains why the WEA union asked for the bill.
The proposed cuts come at a time state tests show public schools have failed to educate 62 percent of students adequately in math, and failed to teach 49 percent adequately in English. Research at Stanford University and Harvard University find that school lockdowns placed an entire generation of children at risk of lost learning and a reduction in lifetime earnings.
Not surprisingly, SB 5054 is unpopular with parents. At a public hearing only 10 people, including union executives, signed up in support – while 1,255 members of the public signed up in opposition.
Public schools have no shortage of resources. Washington spends $19 billion a year for the public system. Public schools receive an average of $19,000 per student, more than tuition at most private schools. The average teacher salary is $95,000, plus $35,000 in benefits, far above what their private sector peers make.
The growing disparity is one reason universal school choice is becoming so popular. Lawmakers in six states have passed laws allowing parents to choose any private or public school for their child, with funding following the child to the school of his parents’ choice. Other states are considering the same approach. Funding portability and putting the child’s needs first appears to be the future of education.
By contrast, if SB 5054 passes, children will have less, not more, time with teachers. The WEA union can then brag about securing a shorter workday at the same pay. That may be great for the union, but it will deprive many of Washington’s school children of the quality public education they’ve been promised.
Liv Finne is the director of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center.
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