Hello Bus People! Welcome to R-52uesday, the Bus’ new weekly column on our valiant hero, Referendum 52.
Last week in my intro to R52, I mentioned that if this ish passed, kids in Washington are going to become smarter. When I first read that claim elsewhere I took it with a big ol’ boulder of salt (kosher variety). I assumed it was the kind of unwarranted promise we often get out of politicians, like when Dubya told us we could lower taxes and still give our grandparents lots of free drugs. Or better yet, in this past election season when a recently popularized Mike McGinn was telling us that a tunnel solution would be like frolicking in a field of daisies. To be true to my discerning Bus generation, I looked into the claim.
It turns out its not just politicos telling us that R52 is a force for good. The claim that repairs for energy efficiency lead to increased student performance is supported by more studies than cups of coffee I’ve had today (I wish that comparison wasn’t worth so much). Trusting in that thing we call “the scientific method”, lets assume for a moment that Washington students will benefit just like kids from places as wide and far Chicago, DC, Florida, and Canada where similar measures have been implemented. Perhaps the most interesting study I found was a 2002 paper by Mark Schneider titled “Do School Facilities Affect Academic Outcomes?”, and that paper alone has a whole stack of references to back it up (this explains all the coffee). The answer was a resounding YES. Check out a bit of what the study concludes:
School facilities affect learning. Spatial configurations, noise, heat, cold, light, and air quality obviously bear on students’ and teachers’ ability to perform…But we already know what is needed: clean air, good light, and a quiet, comfortable, and safe learning environment…It simply requires adequate funding and competent design, construction, and maintenance.
One reason R52 is so prime for our support is that it should be absolutely the least contentious route to improving the quality of education in Washington. This is not about what we teach; we need not decide whether math or music is more important. We don’t need to create convoluted and often misdirected incentive schemes for our teachers. We don’t need to obsess over what style of standardized test is going to kick kids into gear. The solution R52 offers is beautifully simple: let the kids breathe. When classrooms are full of clean and oxygen-rich air, young brains will eat it up and stay awake and alert.
Classrooms with poor air circulation (what we have now) allow a buildup of the CO2 that we exhale, which can straight knock kids out (maybe it wasn’t the sound of your teacher’s voice). Washington is in desperate need for such a breath of fresh air; high school drop out rates hover around 20%, which I think we can all agree is lousy. More to the point, over 45% of Washington State’s school spaces were built or last remodeled prior to 1969 so we REALLY need this freshness. When we pass Referendum 52 it will quietly work its magic and leave us with classrooms worth learning in.
So how do we get this thing passed?!?
- CALL SOME PEEPS and tell the whole city that R52 is Washington’s hero waiting to strike. The campaign to Approve R52 holds phonebanks every TUESDAY from 5:30pm to 8:30pm at the Washington Environmental Council office (1402 3rd Ave, #1400). Sign up here.
- Watch this VIDEO of our WA Bus homie, Isaiah, speaking about the need for healthy schools in Washington.
- Tune in to R52sday every week until the election.