Opinion

Mandating state contraceptive education (done), removing the supermajority to build, operate schools (not doneyet)

Kris Passey -
Kris Passey
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We now will have a law saying that if a Washington school teaches sex ed it has to teach about contraceptives as well as abstinence. And we have had serious moves to eliminate the necessity of a supermajority vote to pass school bonds and levies that as yet is not law (ESJR 8207/EHJR 4204).
The abstinence only issue is coming under renewed scrutiny as the Bush administration is pushing for abstinence only funding.
Our view is that the responsibility for sex education should have never been shifted from parents, family doctors and where appropriate, religious environments.
Parents still do have the primary obligation in this area no matter how much they want to shift it somewhere else. If they have a deep religious conviction about how sex education should be couched, they must take the responsibility for sharing that worldview with their own children. That does not mean they can or should determine how it is taught to someone elses children.
Health issues related to sex also must be the final responsibility of parents. It is unfortunate that so many parents have defaulted on these important responsibilities.
That said, once sex education enters the public sphere, other rules must apply. Once the law says a primary purpose of sex education is to teach about preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases the public sphere must do so. Abstinence works for those who practice it. It does not accomplish the goal for those who dont and other methods of contraception and protection must be employed. In the public sphere it would be criminally negligent to not present complete information. Those parents who object to this approach may still have their children opt out of public sex education.
The debate about removing the necessity of a supermajority vote to fund the building and operation of our local schools has taken on new momentum although it currently appears stalled or dead.
Proponents of a regular majority vote maintain it is unfair in these times to continue a state constitution provision that imposes a supermajority approval any time property taxes are raised. They argue that this grew out of a time when the population of the state included farmers with huge tracts of taxable property in opposition to a relatively few city dwellers with much smaller land holdings. The supermajority vote was designed to equalize that disparity.
Those who want to remove the supermajority margin argue that there are many thousands more city dwellers now whose children also represent most of the school populations needing the new schools. They also argue that schools and education are the key component of the current and certainly the future economic wellbeing for the state. A vibrant economy, they say, helps everyone, even those who do not currently have children being educated here or are past the time where they will have. Economic vitality leads to a better life for everyone touched by it.
Those who want to keep the supermajority claim they are safeguarding property owners from higher taxes from all entities who use it for funding, not just schools. Change the state constitution, they argue, and you open the door to a simple majority vote for all forms of property taxation.
Our opinion is that the supermajority has outlived its purpose with regard to the funding of education. However, we also believe that Washingtons method of local bonds and levies for the funding of education is also inappropriate for the over-reaching needs of education. This method of local funding makes the quality of education subject to local conditions that are not connected to the need for excellence in education.
Until that changes, moving from a required supermajority to a majority vote will only be patching a system in need of entire overhaul.

To contact a member of The Marysville Globe/Arlington Times editorial board Kris Passey, Scott Frank e-mail forum@premier1.net.

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