Friday, February 26, 2010

Who loses....

On Thursday night, I visited this incredible science fair at Parkview Elementary school.  The Bellingham Public School system is known for its dedicated teachers and high quality of education and high parental involvement.  All of this was clearly evident at the Parkview elementary science fair.  There must have been 150 exhibits, all neatly positioned side to side, back to back in a room packed with obviously involved parents who I bet had contributed significantly to their children's projects.  It is amazing for a refugee from Oakland, Ca to see public schools systems with such involved parents, happy involved children EXCELLING IN SCIENCE.

For 34 years my father taught high school in east Oakland while he sent his three sons and one daughter to Catholic schools there.  In our school districts, most parents might have said we had little choice if we wanted  a a relevant education.  At one point the public high school a mile or so down the road from the private high school I attended had a 5 grade 8 month reading level amongst their high school seniors.  My embattled father (always a hero in my eyes for his work as a history teacher and coach) once handed me a study about the junior high feeder school to that high school. The study revealed that 50% of the students lived with NEITHER their biological mother or father.  "That fact," explained my father "is why the high school they matriculate too has a 5 grade 8 month reading level amongst their seniors." "THAT is what I deal with all day long."

It pains me to live in a state where there are no corporate income taxes. In this area (Whatcom and Skagit County) , there are four oil refineries, numerous oil support companies, lots of investment banking money, lots of banks. And yet so few good jobs.  It is a miracle that Bellingham's school system, so dependent as it is on property values and property taxes, has managed to deliver such committed parents and committed teachers.  Will this school system and their families survive the great recession (another $2 million is now proposed to be cut from their budget)?  They certainly would stand a better chance if the high dollar volume carbon industry and their support companies here paid corporate income taxes.  Or if Skagit and Whatcom County worked harder at building high tech positions outside of the carbon industry.  But neither has happened so it is probable that the quality of  public schools will collapse with the continued fall in property,excise, sales, B&O taxes in the Bellingham MSA.

When a community has the wealth of its families destroyed, when it is subject to economic terror, its children suffer. Don't talk me about how lucky we are to have oil wealth in our county. Talk to me about how you are going to save our children from the economic destruction their parents are being subjected to, as evidenced by the most recent BLS LAU chart for the Bellingham, MSA below:

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