Forum: As goes Boeing, so goes state funding for schools

Boeing tried to update the 737 on the cheap. The state has done the same in funding schools.

By Ron Friesen / Herald Forum

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Yamaha was a top dog in the motorcycle market. But they made a strategic error similar to what Boeing has made in recent years.

Yamaha used an existing, proven engine design but added more and more complexity to it to meet market demands. As engine costs went up and reliability went down, they finally realized their mistake. They designed a new engine from the ground up.

Boeing, instead of designing from the ground up, chose the cheap route and added more and more complexity to its 1960s-designed 737. They are paying the price for that “cheap ruote” now, and ultimately need to design a new airplane. The profits made from that route are costing them dearly now.

Our public schools are in a similar situation. Washington state has continued to add more and more complexity to its nearly 100-year-old education system. The decisions were made to keep education cheap instead of best. The complexity of increasingly burdensome, unfunded subject and testing mandates, combined with a byzantine financial system is leading school districts to crash landings.

The first of the larger districts near crashing is Marysville. Recent Herald articles point out deficiencies in Marysville’s response to its funding problems. But what was omitted was the cascade of events leading up to this, which is the responsibility of our schools’ community who failed to pass levies, and our state’s failure to fund education, which might as well be failed systems on Boeing airplanes or engines on Yamaha motorcycles.

The harsh report from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction pointed out errors, and I do not defend those errors. However some perspective was left out. Marysville citizens worked hard to finally pass a levy in February, 2023. It was a “something is better than nothing” levy, and was not based on the actual needs of our students. Those funds have just been coming in for about a month and are not adequate to meet all the needs. Thus, budget gyrations have been required to keep as much in place as possible.

Following our levy’s passage, our finance director resigned. Our new director was not hired until July, nearly six months later. We had trouble finding someone willing to tackle the the challenges. So our present finance director came from California, had to learn how our convoluted system worked, had to meet payroll no matter what, and figure out how to get us out of the “binding conditions” that arrived earliy in her employment. Everyone is working hard to clear things up. But The Herald’s reporting is sure to be ripe fodder for those who like to bellow about “incompetence” or “deceit” on social media.

Along with that bellowing, I hope the naysayers will look to the real problem in Olympia. State reimbursement for education costs is going down and taking the convoluted system with it. Nowhere in the OSPI report is there any mention of the need for accountability in Olympia, as the office is a state agency. And nowhere in The Herald’s article is it mentioned that Marysville is not the only large district facing a funding crisis. At last count, there are 20 districts facing financial problem that will require state intervention. And none of those are the result of failed levies. It is the result of the failed state funding model.

Yamaha learned its lesson the hard way. Boeing is learning its lesson the hard way. It looks like Olympia is not smart enough to learn from the mistakes of others. And this is at a time when a good education is more critical than ever to access the shrinking middle class. But guess who is accountable for Olympia? Take a look in the mirror. Surprise! We all are.

Ron Friesen is a longtime Marysville resident, a retired music teacher and community and church musician and is committed to community improvement.

Herald Forum

The Herald Forum invites community members to submit essays on topics of importance and interest to them. Essays typically are between 400 and 600 words in length, although exceptions for longer pieces can be made. To submit essays or for more information about the Herald Forum, write Herald Opinion editor Jon Bauer at jon.bauer@heraldnet.com or call him at 425-339-3466.

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