Opinion

Everything Bremerton: Education leadership when it matters most

When it comes to legislating and funding public education, the state of Washington is failing our children in the worst possible ways imaginable.

Our elected leadership in Olympia knows exactly what their “paramount duty” to K-12 education is.  They collectively choose not to acknowledge, address or invest the time and effort needed to legislate away current unfunded mandates and legal restrictions. Mandates and restrictions that strangle and hold nearly every district in this state in a repetitive circle of ongoing hoop-jumping circus acts and contortionist routines that outright prevent effective education management and decision-making which would best serve that community’s children.

Our elected leadership in Olympia also chooses not to fund the “paramount duty” of public education to the full extent. Basically, long term political careers are not built on doing what is right, but instead are built and furthered on doing what “pays” by way of special interest. Special interest program funding that continues to protect schools of fish as an ongoing priority because cuts are made to funding for schools of children instead.

While our elected and appointed leadership in Olympia choose not to fulfill or honor the duties and responsibilities to their very position of power, many elected and appointed local education leaders in Kitsap are rising to the occasion and more than fulfilling theirs.

On April 21, the South Kitsap School Board came out with a unified, prepared and published explanation to their constituency that detailed their decision-making process in the wake of announced budget cuts and staff reductions. By having a statement ready almost immediately and putting themselves in a proactive role instead of a purely reactionary one, they are proving to be the leaders the South Kitsap education community needs to get through these challenging times.

On April 28, the Bainbridge Island School Board laid the blame, and set down an open challenge for improvement as constituents themselves, right at the feet of their own elected state Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, in a published editorial. Unified in their position, they outlined in a very precise and detailed way existing budget problems with the proposed Senate budget and what their collective expectations for program funding fulfillment, changes and improvement were. Every school board should pay close attention to this example.

At the North Kitsap School Board meeting April 28, board members exercised their publicly elected checks and balances power by unanimously rejecting the administration’s proposal to cut 38 teachers, librarians and counselors in the upcoming school year. No “easy out,” budget-solving solution allowed this year to the district administration. Top administrators and department heads are being sent back to the drawing board where they need to work out a proposal that contains the hard, precise, scalpel-cutting and reducing decisions it is their paid professional job to do in the first place. The members of the North Kitsap School Board have proven themselves to be example-setting leaders when it comes to putting the district’s students and their taxpaying constituency first and the district’s operational administration second.

A big thank you to these elected and appointed leaders for being the public represented stewards of education our children need you to be in this time and place.

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