Separate is not equal

Separate is not equal

By JD Rossetti

Published in The Daily News on January 13, 2016

Our kids and grandkids deserve a fair shot at winning the best jobs in the world. That means giving our kids a fair chance at a world-class education.

Today, the odds are stacked against our kids from the start, because the system is rigged.

Students in wealthy zip codes get a better education in their public schools. The state Supreme Court has ruled our system of funding public schools is unfair and unconstitutional.

Just as it was wrong for schools in the South to deny innocent black boys and girls the same education that white children got, it’s wrong for little boys and girls from Aberdeen, Longview and Raymond to get an inferior education simply because of where they live.

When it comes to college, working families in small towns can’t afford the skyrocketing cost of tuition, room and board.

That’s holding our kids and our small towns back, because a high school diploma isn’t good enough anymore.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Let’s give every child a chance

A free public education for every child is a cornerstone of our great American experiment in democracy.

Before that, only the wealthy could afford to pay to educate their children. Regular kids were lucky to get a few years of schooling before going to work on the family farm or local factory.

Decades of changes have made our public schools very different and unfair.

A group of Democratic and Republican senators tried to shine a light on this problem and help fix one of the biggest problems.

School districts that happen to have high property values, especially commercial properties, can afford to pass local levies to subsidize their schools.

This is natural. Every mom and dad wants the best for their kids.

Over the years, this unequal system has let to winners and losers, with some of the poorest areas paying higher property taxes than rich school districts.

Seattle and Bellevue actually pay less than 30 percent of the median property tax rate, which is a fancy way of saying homeowners like you and me get taxed more under this system.

The system is backwards and wrong. Fixing it will take creativity and courage, with Democrats and Republicans working together. But nothing worth doing is easy, and our kids are worth it.

High skills for high wages

College isn’t just about getting four-year degrees. We actually have a huge shortage in the skilled trades, with our state having to import skilled brick masons, electricians and welders from other states.

Those aren’t Joe Jobs where you wear a hairnet and get paid minimum wage. Those are great careers with great paychecks.

Our local students deserve a shot at those jobs, and having more local workers in the skilled trades would create jobs.

The 19th District is home to shipyards, mills, timber jobs, agriculture and industry. We will always need skilled trades to build fishing boats and maintain and repair the diesel engines working in our forests and fields. Today and tomorrow, we’ll need skilled carpenters and construction workers to build the bridges, roads and schools.

More opportunities in the skilled trades would help local kids stay in their community after they graduate instead of heading to Seattle or other states for jobs. Making it happen will require bigger investments in our local colleges and partnerships with local unions and businesses.

The great thing about our small towns and communities, though, is we know each other. Grew up together. Forming those partnerships is easier than in big cities where you don’t know your neighbors.

I hope we can come together, on public school reforms and higher education opportunities, to give our kids a better life than we had.

I hope we can give every child, rich or poor, the same great education in our public schools and colleges.

Because they’re counting on us.

And as the father of three sons, I think all of our kids deserve a fair chance.

Rep. JD Rossetti, D-Longview, lives in Longview with his wife and three sons. He is a small business owner who serves on the Longview School Board.