Voters considering school bonds across the state had a perfect record last month. There were 12 bond measures across Washington, and every one failed, some more gloriously than others.
Of course, by "perfect," we don't mean good. In this case, the unbroken string means shortchanging kids.
Large and small districts asking for various amounts of money all got the same response. No, no and no!
We thought Pasco got a chilly reception at the polls, with only 47 percent in favor. Then we saw that the Goldendale School District only had a 25 percent approval vote on election night. (There's probably some witty comment one could insert here, but, "yikes" is the only thing that comes to mind that is fit to print.)
Yes, we get it.
Washington voters -- even those outside of Benton and Franklin counties -- do not want to increase their tax load to pay for schools right now, regardless of the need.
What we don't get is what is an acceptable alternative?
The Legislature is in a special session that is certain to result in more funding cuts for basic education. How much? We're not sure. But it could be in the neighborhood of 20 percent.
Even without additional cuts, a Superior Court judge has ruled the state has failed to meet its paramount duty under the state Constitution to provide "ample" funding for basic education for every child in the state.
"This court is convinced that basic education is not being funded by a stable and dependable source of funds provided by the state," wrote King County Superior Court Judge John Erlick.
The state plans to appeal the ruling, but it's tough to see how additional cuts will help its case. Even before any anticipated budget cuts, the court ruled Washington fails to fulfill its obligation to students.
Combine a court-mandated increase in school funding with voter resistance to any tax increase, and it is clear something has to change.
Poor schools and shoddy education will not serve our community. We must produce employable, capable workers and leaders.
In 20 years, the Class of 2011 will be our senior scientists, CEOs and legislators. We have an obligation to help them get ready for the challenges they surely will face.
Part of the solution is to reset our priorities, putting education higher on the list. But we also will need creative approaches.
If the schools have to rethink the way they operate, so be it. If business and education have to yoke together, do it.
Pasco already has feelers out for year-round school or double shifts at elementary and middle schools. Several districts around the state offer online classes.
Washington STEM, a group that formed from the Washington Roundtable, is coordinating efforts to meld business and education.
Meeting our children's needs will require change, possibly a lot of change.
"Free" education is a costly venture. We have to be smart about it. But the alternative is to deliver a subpar education, and that will bankrupt America.