At the forum, candidates highlighted their priorities. For Roe, they were pinpointing measurable goals, and giving each student the best opportunity; for Lawhon, safety and opportunity for every student. Perkins highlighted safety, transparency, and a range of opportunities, including the vocational track. Wells aspired to return the focus to basic education and to improve attendance, reading and graduation rates. Wilson supports streamlining administration and addressing truancy. For Miller, social and emotional education are paramount.
When questioned about SB 5599, in effect on July 23, requiring that young people not be reported to their parents when seeking protected health services, all the candidates recognized the potential conflicts and risks.
In the meantime, parent concerns on social issues are real. They are likely contributing to the 6 percent drop in the state’s public school enrollment since 2019-20, accompanied by increases for private schools and home schooling.
My takeaways: get all elementary school kids “hooked on phonics” for reading and the equivalent proven method for basic math. Creatively use the earmarked state and federal funds totaling $124 million for individual student tutoring.
School boards must tackle truancy, a complex reflection of COVID-19, family stresses, drug and mental health impacts. Wisely, Olympia schools recently voted to return School Resource Officers to campuses, for safety and reminders of accountability.
Another solution: expand the proven partnership with donor-supported Teach One to Lead One (clarkwa.t1l1.org), whose kindly mentors achieve miracles in enticing vulnerable kids to school. Ten area schools have T1L1 programs this school year, and private funding for more is needed.
The stakes are high, so vote thoughtfully in November’s school board elections.