Sen. Fain looks for remedies in school funding

Sen. Joe Fain - Courtesy photo
Sen. Joe Fain
— image credit: Courtesy photo

By Staci Whitehouse
For the Kent Reporter

Horizon Elementary School's PTA welcomed state Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn) to its January board meeting to discuss education and education funding.

Fain serves on the Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, which considers policy and finance issues related to schools and learning from birth through 12th grade and preparation for later learning experience.

Aware that education funding is a concern for Horizon families, Fain explained to those in attendance that the state has failed to adequately fund education. Fain mentioned that state lawmakers have made a variety of proposals, including major policy changes, increasing education funding with existing revenues, as well as new forms of revenue, an increased gas tax to fund transportation projects, or a property-tax levy swap to name a few.

"We have a budget shortfall for funding education and the state Legislature is looking for consensus on how to remedy it," Fain said.

One parent expressed concern that increased funding for education would go toward administrative costs and not towards teachers and students. Horizon has seen several positions disappear in recent years, including an assistant principal, a full-time librarian and technology teacher in addition to the entire fifth grade band and orchestra program.

The underfunding of the music program concerns Horizon's music teacher Jacklyn Kellogg, who this year has a $125 annual budget for 500 students. She went on to describe how "music education helps prepare young people to think creatively, learn how to work collaboratively, and to become disciplined, critical thinkers and problem solvers. Research shows that children who receive a comprehensive, sequential music education do better in overall school achievement, social development, success in society, and earning potential.

"Times are very tight fiscally, and music education is under threat in many places. If you recognize the value music education has for your child, your continued support of this program will help ensure that music remains an essential component of your child's education. After all, music and the arts are considered a 'core' subject in the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It is up to parents who are part of our school system to champion a well-rounded education where their students are given the opportunities to explore their passions and many talents."

In an effort to elevate school performance, Horizon parents were interested to learn that Fain is in favor of an incentivized system, suggesting that schools with increased graduation levels and growth rates in achievement within a certain time frame would be rewarded with additional funding.  In addition, there is a push for the Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee to come up with a way to make the data teachers collect on students usable so the district can chart an individual's education aptitude k-12.

Horizon's principal, Paul Luczak, said: "In a time of polarization in our country and state, it was refreshing to hear Sen. Fain's out of the box and sensible solutions to improving education. He truly understands educators, parents and students and brings great passion and intelligence to the task of educating or 'building a brain' as he calls it. He is the kind of person who can open dialogue on either side of the political aisle."

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