Editor's note: We asked readers on a March 26, 2013, column headlined "Washington needs a complete, cohesive approach to education" to share their ideas about how to improve the state's education system and the priorities they would set to fund the system.
Mike Eason of Lynden, who has 10 grandchildren in local schools, shared his views.
If you'd like to participate, please send your no-more-than 400-word comment to Julie.Shirley@bellinghamherald.com.
The suggestion government involvement in education is financial only, misses the critical role government must play in promoting an educational environment responsive to industry needs for workers educated in emerging technologies.
We need leadership that reviews education yearly to determine what educators should be teaching, and pursue better ways to teach in schools and universities. Improve methods of instruction to tailor learning to student propensities and abilities. Students need to be taught multi-tasking and be multi-talented. Students must be prepared by educators to be able to work in a globalized economy to be multi-lingual and able to face all cultures in a new world.
Focus universities on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Partner with industry to develop programs that promote technical training in high school for non-university-bound students. Technical colleges will focus on trades training and business expertise for running small business.
Assess secondary school students for college readiness in their junior year and offer remedial classes for those in need in their senior year. Prioritize class enrollment for students on track to their degree.
Eliminate outdated classes and provide the type of classes essential for graduation.
The single most decisive factor in student achievement is excellent teaching. We need a system that identifies great teachers and rewards teachers to get better. A McKinsey study concluded "The quality of an educational system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers." Simply, teachers are not the problem, they are the solution. Get teachers unions on site to evaluate teachers on student growth and pay the top teachers more than the bottom teachers. Base tenure upon performance and let poor teachers go.
Revise tax codes so taxes for schools flow through the state. New revenue must go to higher education coupled with gradual and moderate fee increases. Provide dollars to university systems to keep higher education within reach of families. Financial aid must support low-income students, while middle- and higher-income students receive sliding scale assistance. Rich people will take care of their children; policy needs to help the smart poor. Pay for this with a tax code geared to improve business climate, budget stability, and programs critical to long-term economic growth
Education modernization faces formidable political obstacles; entrenched groups have political power to block new ideas. Securing funds for schools is difficult and requires politicians to convince the public of the need for funding better education and schools.