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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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John Kinney: Basic education funding is elementary

John Kinney

A fable: A father has 10 children. He enjoys his children but feeding them is expensive. He wants to spend the money on other things. The father tells his children that he will only feed them two meals a day. They have to go begging for the other meal. Some of the bigger children have lots of friends. Each friend only has to give a small amount to equal a meal. The smaller children only have a few friends, and they are poor. Those friends have to donate a lot more. It is difficult for all the children, especially the smaller ones.

One day several of the larger children get fed up. Actually they are unfed up. They go to their grandpa and tell him that Dad isn’t feeding them properly. Grandpa tells his son that it is his obligation to feed his children. His son says he will start thinking about it. He thinks about it for years. Finally Grandpa tells his son that he is contemptuous. For every day he is not feeding his children, he will get $10 less in inheritance. Since the money isn’t actually coming out of his pocket, the son decides he will think about it some more.

“Feed your children,” says Grandpa. The son says, “I can’t. I do not have enough money. I am spending it on other important things, but if you give me enough time, maybe I can find ways to spend less on the important things and cobble together enough to feed my children. I also need to do a study to figure out exactly how much each child gets from begging and determine the cost of a meal. I need more time.”

Grandpa yells, “This is not that complicated, son. You need to generate more income. You know your friends that are renting apartments from you, the ones that get the special cut rate? Make them pay what they should be paying.”

Protesting, the son responds, “I can’t do that. They are my special friends. We go golfing, have dinner together, and they help me with some of my expenses.” The children are tired of begging.

The children in the story are the school districts in Washington. The father is the state Legislature. The large children are the school districts that sued the state. The small children are the rural school districts. The Supreme Court is Grandpa. The Legislature doesn’t like Grandpa. He is mean. What to do?

1. Since money talks and reason walks, all the schoolchildren need to break open their piggy banks and send the money to their representative with a nice note asking them to please fix the problem. It is like a bribe, but if you call it a campaign donation, it is legal. It probably won’t work. It would have to be a lot of money, and who wants to go golfing or have a nice dinner with a preschooler?

2. If the problem is not fixed by spring of 2017, then each school board should send a note to their representative stating that the first day of school will be two weeks after the Supreme Court has determined the Legislature has implemented a plan to adequately fund education and are no longer in contempt of court.

This is not a walkout. This is not a strike. It is an incentive that might work. This has been stewing since the ’70s. The study is a stall tactic. Solutions to raise the needed revenue have been proposed. Legislators who say the problem can be fixed without new sources of revenue live in a fantasy world. Deep down they think the children are overfed.


John Kinney is a math and science teacher in the Selkirk School District.