By Calvin J. Watts, Kent Public School Superintendent
For a student, school trips are the most exciting days of the year. Even as adults, we remember the anticipation of showing up at school with a packed lunch and a permission slip, looking forward to a trip to the aquarium or the museum.
If you were one of the students who watched your friends leave for a trip you couldn't go on because your parents couldn't afford the fee, however, field trip days were just a reminder that you didn't have access to the same opportunities as other students. As a father, seeing a child experience that breaks my heart. As the Kent School District superintendent, it concerns me that any child would miss out on a learning opportunity others had access to because they couldn't afford it.
That's why I support Proposition 1, Access for All — a measure on the Aug. 1 ballot that, if approved, would boost public funding for in-class science, arts and heritage learning experiences for students in King County. It would also provide students with free field trips to on-site exhibits and events at our region's world-class museums, science institutions and cultural centers, prioritizing funding for our lowest-income schools and communities of color. Funding would also go to increasing geographic and socioeconomic equity across the county.
Proposition 1 is a well-crafted approach designed to work in cooperation with our schools. One of my primary responsibilities as superintendent is supporting our district's teachers and ensuring they have the resources they need to help our students be successful. That is why I'm excited that Proposition 1 extends beyond field trips. It includes significant funding for in-class science, arts and heritage experiences developed to fit with our district's curriculum, so we can use all of our resources to provide greater learning and a richer experience for students.
Science, arts and heritage education matters, and it is a valuable public investment. By raising the sales tax by 0.1 percent — just one penny for every $10 spent — we could make a real return on investment for low-income families that simply don't have the means to provide diverse hands-on learning experiences for their students. And we know these experiences are important — years of research have proved that when students are introduced to diverse science, arts and heritage experiences, it fosters brain development and improves educational outcomes.
Yes, our region faces challenges, not the least of which is homelessness. But as a superintendent in a school district where nearly half our students need free or reduced-price meals, I can tell you that tackling challenges like equity, poverty and homelessness begins in the classroom.
Many of the talented scientists, artists, performers and engineers in King County today — the ones who fuel innovation and make our community vibrant — were first inspired during field trips or in-school activities. Proposition 1 is our chance to make sure that future generations have that same experience.
It's also important to recognize that Proposition 1 is about more than introducing students to science, heritage and the arts — it's about giving all students a chance to succeed. For students whose families can't afford to provide experiences like this on their own, exposure to science, heritage and the arts is more than a fun outing. It's about leveling the playing field.
For a young woman in my district, a day at the Museum of Flight could inspire her to one day work at Boeing. An in-class curriculum day with the Seattle Aquarium or the Woodland Park Zoo might inspire a young man who hadn't planned on college to pursue a scholarship to study conservation.
For those students, Proposition 1 means an opportunity for a successful future they may not have otherwise been afforded. I'm proud to join other educational leaders in urging voters to support Proposition 1, which would provide equitable opportunities to enrich the lives of thousands of students in our community.