Twenty years ago, the crisis in Washington state’s public schools was how to pay for them. Today’s crisis is even more urgent than that.
It’s how to set higher learning standards and hold students, parents and teachers accountable for reaching them. It’s how to do it while affording all students, regardless of differences, an equal opportunity to learn. And it’s how to relate the whole process to the world where today’s youngsters will contribute as workers and citizens.
Those goals form the framework of a critical school reform movement that has been under way in this state since 1991.
One of the present candidates for the Spokane District 81 school board supports this effort. One doesn’t.
Don Barlow is a counselor and former teacher and administrator in Spokane’s public schools. He knows the importance of equity in the school climate. He understands that a school-to-work program teaches youngsters not just abstract theory but also the real-world applications that make education beneficial to them and the community.
The school reform structure Barlow supports is the product of thousands of concerned parents, educators, legislators and other citizens. However, Barlow’s opponent, Joanne McCann, objects to these reforms. Her opposition inspired her to lobby against them in Olympia and to enter this race.
Credit McCann, also a former educator, for getting involved. That’s what makes the democratic process work.
But the soundness of the school reform package withstood her ideological challenge in Olympia. Now it’s up to thoughtful local school board members to figure out how best to implement it.
There is still plenty of room for diverse opinions, but in the best interests of the community, those policy decisions should be shaped by people who believe in the concept behind them.
And by people who have demonstrated a commitment to the broader community and its interests, rather than to a narrow philosophy.
Barlow’s civic involvement includes work on the Chase Youth Commission and for United Way, the Red Cross and the Martin Luther King Center.
Moreover, his background in public schools, as opposed to McCann’s predominantly private school experience, gives him familiarity with the broader range of issues that confront a public school board.
Barlow’s strong commitment to community and his understanding of the needs facing today’s, and tomorrow’s, schools qualify him for the support of voters who seek an improved education system.
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