*By Jeannie Magdua, CLW Legislative Action Team Lead – Education
The Washington State legislative session for 2024 will begin next week and we at CLW are keeping an eye on the bills that lawmakers have planned for us citizens. Personally, I’m always watching for bills that have to do with education. This year, a republican, Stephanie McClintock, has proposed a bill that would ask families that have opted to withdraw their children from public schools WHY they’re doing so via a voluntary exit survey. She notes in her bill (HB 2038) that enrollment in private schools and the number of homeschooling families have increased while enrollment in public schools has simultaneously decreased.
While it sounds very nice to want to understand the reason behind the decisions families make regarding the education of their children, the fact is that it is really none of their business. Families are not obligated to keep their children in government run schools. We can choose to educate our children in a way we believe is best without explaining our choices to bureaucrats in Olympia. The job of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is to provide an education to students. Families in the school system are already inundated with surveys, even surveys that ask children (yes, children) to answer very personal sexual questions. These surveys also ask questions about the students’ homes and families. OSPI already has data about us. Families who opt out of government schools don’t also need to be asked why they’re leaving.
As for the surveys being voluntary, we have learned that surveys conducted in the government schools are tied to funding. I worked in an alternative public school several years ago. One of the questions asked on the entrance form was about the student’s ethnicity. While the answer was voluntary for the parents, staff would have to fill in the blank if the parent did not. Why? Because the answer was tied to funding. Our lawmakers will always find a way to fund schools without surveys. In fact, they’ll find a way to fund schools without students! In 2021, our legislators passed a bill to continue funding at the previous year’s enrollment levels even though many students had been withdrawn from the schools. Basically, they voted to fund empty seats.
And what has that funding accomplished? If you look at the report card on OSPI’s website, you’ll see that only 50.7% of our state’s students met minimum English Language Arts standards. Only 39.1% of students met Math standards, and only 42.9% of students met Science standards. Why are families leaving? Maybe the question should be asked of OSPI, “Why should families stay?”
In short, I would oppose this bill. OSPI is aware of its own failure to educate the students they have. They should spend their time and resources to achieve at least achieve a passing grade, not getting more data on the families that leave.
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