Opinion

Let's be clear about who is responsible for educating children | Tate

Generally all human cultures, regardless of how primitive or advanced, have five basic institutions – political, economic, spiritual, social and educational institutions serving human needs.

As much as we value and talk about the myriad of diversity among us, at the core of human existence there is comparatively little variation.

Educating the young is only natural for communities and a "paramount duty" not only for the state.

In the area of education humankind is similar to many other mammals. Even whales and dogs pass on information that will help their offspring to survive and thrive well into the future, and the first educators are generally the pair driven by instinct to procreate – the act of procreation itself does not necessarily make them adequate as parents, however.

Advanced communities and societies require all the young to be provided with the cultural knowledge passed on through education regardless of what individual parents may or may not do. It is understood that passing on cultural knowledge is not only best for the individual and the community but best for the state, for the nation, and for the perpetuation of humankind. Hence, in the United States education is compulsory for every child, and the state of Washington further deems educating the young it's "paramount duty."

The courts have confirmed that state government isn't living up to its self-declared paramount duty, as evidenced by insufficient funding, class size and other shortcomings. This doesn't mean that Gov. Jay Inslee, State Superintendent Randy Dorn, other politicians, educators and communities aren't working to make the vision a reality.

Meanwhile, many local districts rely on levies to some extent to finance preparing children for success in life.

School levies

Regardless of what the state may or may not do, local communities are driven by their instincts and their intellect to see that their young well prepared for life.

As John Dewey puts it, "What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy ..."

Much of the work around levies is lead by local community leaders. Passing levies is also one of those times when we see management, unions, educators, business, politicians, community organizations, realtors, churches and many others unite for the common good.

The Kent School District, for example, is one among many districts with outstanding leadership working to prepare all children for success in life. About five years ago Bill Boyce and then Jim Berrios, serving as board presidents, respectively, led the effort to find a superintendent to address the needs of one of the most diverse districts in the state. That board also included Debbie Straus, Chris Davies and Sandy Collins.

It's no easy achievement for a community's paradigm to evolve to a point where they can elect a board that's unified on solutions to realities presented by the district's magnitude of diversity and equity issues. They brought in Edward Lee Vargas for the job. Subsequently board members Tim Clark, Karen DeBruler, Russ Hanscom and Agda Burchard joined Debbie Straus in retaining the right administrative leadership for the community's children.

This is not the time to elaborate upon Dr. Vargas' successful work in the district, but one example is the creation of iGrad. Considering the direct correlation between the level of education and success in life, the district rounded up hundreds of young people in the community who had dropped out or were no longer enrolled in education institutions. The district partnered with the community college and enrolled hundreds in the iGrad program to continue their education. The iGrad program potentially lifts hundreds out of the school to prison pipeline (where eventually we might have ended up paying the room and board for some to be incarnated after damaging the community). The iGrad numbers are growing.

There are many other activities implemented by the leadership, which prepare young people for success in life, much of which is why Dr. Vargas was recently identified as Superintendent of the Year. But, as Dr. Vargas maintains, it certainly helps that the board is generally unified on what needs to be done and is supportive, as well as having a supportive certificated and classified staff.

And, as we all say, thanks to a community that continues to support their children's education by casting their yes votes for levies.

Melvin Tate is a regular contributor to the Kent Reporter.

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