Last week I wrote about the ongoing failure of the Washington State Legislature to fully fund schools. They’re in contempt of court and sanctions may be taken at the end of this legislative session if adequate progress hasn’t been made. And from those charts it looks to me like adequate progress would mean an extra $1500 per year right now.
Instead of fully funding schools, though, the legislature decided to implement new standards and require every school to administer brand-new computer-based tests for them. I have to ask: how much is this all costing, and what could we have done with the money instead?
In this era of privatization and underfunding, the public needs to be especially careful with the money we have.
It turns out the answers are not easy to find. Here is my rough stab at the broad categories of expenses at the state, district, and school level.
- For the state, the cost to buy the standardized test.
- For the district, the cost of professional development for the teachers, and the cost of substitutes to take over classrooms while teachers are doing professional development. District-wide technical support for the computer labs. Cost of new instructional materials. Cost of software to help prepare students for the tests. Internet access and headphones.
- For the schools, the cost to upgrade the computer technology so the tests can be administered. The cost of extra computers if two or more classrooms must give the tests at the same time. The school-based setup of the computer labs. The cost of extra proctors to give the tests. The cost of disability accommodations for students.
Do you suppose the legislature had a complete picture of these costs when they decided to require all schools in the state to take the tests? I bet not. I bet they were given cost estimates by private sector organizations with a vested interest in selling the tests.
That responsibility, then, falls to us. The public. The parents.
And ESPECIALLY to the people (you know who you are) who are always saying, “Why should I put more tax dollars into education when it’s being misspent anyway?” Be the solution, folks.