This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
How bad do the state’s looming budget cuts look? So bad that many Washington school superintendents – people who understand the connection between classroom time and learning – are urging a shorter school year.
A terrible idea on the face of it. But it may be less terrible than what it might avert: A drastic cut to the levy equalization money that helps children in property-poor school districts get an education comparable to what their peers get in wealthier districts.
To help close a $2 billion revenue shortfall, the governor has proposed to cut levy equalization by half. This would strip millions from Tacoma, Puyallup, University Place and other districts with lean tax bases. Well-off districts – think Seattle, Mercer Island and Edmonds – wouldn’t be touched.
A coalition of 29 Puget Sound superintendents say that a shorter school year for all districts – 175 instead of 180 days – would spread the cuts more fairly. The idea is to squeeze schools equally across the state rather than heap the pain on the districts that can least afford it.
If lawmakers are forced to choose between equalization and a shorter school year, equalization should not be sacrificed. Time spent in the classroom does matter.
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