Letter to the editor: Levy debate spotlights need for choice when it comes to education


I read with some interest the letter to the editor from Luke Distelhorst and the associated replies. Throughout the replies, I noticed a couple of common themes.

Those voters that were going to vote against the levy gave specific reasons for their opposition. By and large, they were dissatisfied with the performance of the school district over the past several years and especially through the pandemic. Another subset of voters opposed to the levy indicated they felt that there were other options that have come to fruition and are able to offer a better educational outcome than the school district.

By and large the theme of the responses to those voters that are supporting levy were that those voters opposing the levy are “voting against our children” or questioning why anyone who cares for the role of education in our community would vote against this? Others still felt that those that oppose the levy were going to be punishing the kids of our city for the political policies of the school board.

Just over a decade ago, Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes said that Netflix was not even on the radar screen in terms of competition. Quite clearly, he underestimated the significant shifts in consumer preferences for obtaining entertainment. In fact, in early 2000, Netflix founders offered to sell the company to Blockbuster for $50 million. Blockbuster turned them down.

I think we all know how that saga turned out. Netflix is clearly the market leader and Blockbuster is extinct. The purpose of this analogy is to illustrate that worked well in the past may not be the best solution for the present and future.

I would encourage those voters that are supporting the levy to look at the research and that what other models; private, religious and charter schools are doing.

It may be time to look at an approach to funding education that provides and empowers parents by giving them a voucher to allow them to select the most appropriate school for their child.

We have selection in every other aspect of our lives, we choose whether to have cable, satellite or streaming entertainment. We can buy hamburgers from McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s or Dick’s. We can choose to buy electric cars, gasoline powered cars or hybrid cars. Why does it appear that so many people are threatened by competition in the educational system?

The discussion should focus on the relative outcomes of the various educational options that are available to students in our community. If some of the nonpublic options have better outcomes then our collective community responsibility is to find out how to make those schools accessible to the maximum number of children.

Personally, I like the idea of choice whether it be for my entertainment, food or children’s education. A voucher system would level the playing field so that all families, regardless of income, could take advantage of the most suitable educational option for their child.

In conclusion, to the supporters of the levy, I encourage you to rally your fellow voters to support you. But at the same time, I ask that you do not characterize those that do not share your opinion as “voting against our children.” I don’t think that is a fair or accurate statement nor is it helpful to community dialogue regarding our schools.

John A. McDonald

  1. When you look at what this Edmonds school Levy is requesting, it is for pretty basic repairs and overcrowding needs for the education facilities of this district. The basic reality is that voting against that is absolutely voting against the children who attend schools in this district.

    Our schools are already overcrowded with 44 portable units being used to educate students, decades old heating units that need replacement, and old roofs that desperately need repair. Overcrowding certainly plays a factor in why many of the the Edmonds districts schools lag behind testing scores in nearby districts.

    I like the idea of vouchers, and absolutely support looking into other ways to improve our schools and make them more efficient. However, we need a basic level of adequate facilities before we think about expanding into other areas.

    The fact is that this levy is pretty desperately needed. When it comes down to it, no matter the justification the statement of a no vote is a declaration that the students in this district do not deserve to have the same chances and opportunities as nearby school districts do.

  2. What is it about the current system that makes you feel like parents do not have a choice about whether to pull their children from the many options the Edmonds School District offers and choose private options? The way you describe the proposed “voucher” makes it sound like something giving permission to parents, which they do not need or require to make this decision. Families absolutely have permission and the right to enroll their students in private schools currently, so what are you really asking for and what does it have to do with the Capital Levy debate?

  3. This school district provides education for ALL students. Whereas private schools are for the few. If the voucher system were an option, it would be an option through the school district. Let’s not take funding away from our schools, vote for the levy. It’s for basic repairs and needs within the existing schools we have.

  4. As I read these various articles on this topic, I keep wondering about the basics of funding. Something doesn’t make sense. We have school buildings throughout the district. School buildings, like any building, require on-going maintenance and capitol repairs. The state apparently doesn’t pay for these things. So, how have the administrators managing these schools been “planning” for these eventual needs? I have heard no one talk about how school management has been planning for long-term building maintenance and population growth. Suddenly, out of the blue, we have a financial crisis?

    Also, to add insult on injury from a taxpayer standpoint. Why am I paying for the cost of a *special election* with one ballot measure on it for an issue that is years in the making? This couldn’t wait until the next election cycle? Money down the drain…..

    1. Our state elected officials have just passed a bill to test for lead in the water. $5m to test for the 1m kids in the state. That’s $5 per kid of state funds. In ESD that is about $100,000 for our 20,000 kids. Let’s figure a way to get that money for ESD, give the kids the task of doing the testing and pay them to do the work. Bring the jobs to the kids. This would be one way that the “money does Not go down the drain!”

      1. Correction on the numbers. The bill gives $3m to do the work and $1m to State Dept of Health to coordinate the work. Seems like a lot of DOH money to coordinate for 295 districts. So the $ per kid is $3 not $5. That would work out to $60,000 for ESD and over $3000 to coordinate. For a school of 500 kids (typical k-6) that’s still $1500 to do the testing. The kids still could design a way to do the job on time and under budget!

  5. Well Said John. About 25 years ago we made the decision to take our daughter out of public school and put her in private school. Could we afford it? Hardly..but God is good and somehow the money just came. We called it our other mortgage payment. Did we go without? Yes many times, but it was the best money We ever spent. We had to hire a tutor for math and reading to bring her up to the level of the private school for 2 years. (I might add she had good grades in public school but in public she had very little homework in grade school.) at the private she had nightly homework. The private school had a 98% average of graduation rate and furthering there education in higher learning. (That did prove out to be true.) Most private schools were open last fall, public was not. Many times The teachers in private schools are paid less but they have a real love for the kids. Private schools are strict and they have rules that cannot be tolerated or they are expelled. No, kids deserve better I am for the choice of vouchers.

  6. William,
    Your comment demonstrates a misunderstanding of our district’s offerings (including homeschooling) as well as concepts of equity and outcomes (and the definitions of “traditional religion” and “terrifying” and “gifted” and “studies” and “insanity”) I do hope you can take time to look deeper into some of those topic areas and rethink these broad and incorrect claims.

  7. Yep, this isn’t really about education at all. It’s about some people desiring to control children. All of the children. Parents don’t matter to them. The right of people to pay once for a child’s education doesn’t matter to them. They control the message and you will all obey. If any of them so much as use the word “choice”, call out their hypocrisy. Oh yeah, they “allow” you to pay for a system if you use their curriculum and do the work yourself. Yes, I went to private school and will be pushing for freedom in education as long as I’m alive. Real freedom.

  8. Tax dollars should follow the child to their school of choice, public or private. Successful schools should be allowed to continue their success and bad schools should fail.

  9. Competition improves everything. If the Edmonds School District had to compete for funds with private and charter schools, the ESD would improve teaching, give merit pay to the best teachers, and get rid of the dead wood we all know exists. If we did groceries the way we do education, we would abolish PCC and QFC and Trader Joe’s and Safeway. The Soviet Peoples Food Store would get a ton of our money, then we’d go down there to line up in hopes of somehow getting decent food, with nowhere to turn if the food was lousy. And it would be lousy. Monopolies never give good service.

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