Tacoma Public School budgets; negotiating costs and inclusivity

The Tacoma Public Schools are making history by changing  the names of some schools. But could that money be better used in other places within the schools?

A community divide has formed over the efforts to rename Woodrow Wilson High School to Dr. Dolores Silas High School. This change was decided on Feb. 11, 2021 and will take effect on July 1, 2021.

In the article “It’s official: Tacoma’s Woodrow Wilson High School will get a new name” from the News Tribune, Allison Needles shares that this change was done with the intention of “pointing out the racist history of the man the school was named after.” And while this is a valid reason for renaming the school, what about where the money could be going to instead of rebranding?

Needles goes on to explain that “the cost of the name change would be at least $400,000, for changes like building exterior, interior and uniforms.” This is money that could be going towards fixing schools that are in need or bringing activities and classes to the students of Tacoma rather than spending thousands on a symbolic change.

Out of the schools in the Tacoma School District, eight of them are named after a president. Since it’s likely they all have some bad background due to the era of the times, why not rename them all? If the district did this, over time it would cost upwards of $3,200,000 if the price stayed at the $400,000 mark. This money could be used in other ways to better the student experience by remodeling the schools that really need it and providing classes that will help students grow as not only students, but also as individuals.

Budget cuts have deeply impacted art programs across the district, resulting in students not being able to have access to these experiences that these classes offer. Students are not receiving the opportunities to express themselves as who they are because schools are more interested in science and math based classes due to the emphasis on testing. When in reality, art classes are a place for students to escape and take a break from classes to do something calming while also being able to express themselves. 

It is important to recognize that art classes help with brain development as well. In her article, “Art Enhances Brain Function and Well-Being,” Renee Phillips states that “Research has proven the arts develop neural systems that produce a broad spectrum of benefits ranging from fine motor skills to creativity and improved emotional balance. Quite simply, the arts are invaluable to our proper functioning individually and as a society.” By cutting these classes, schools are taking away valuable learning opportunities and developmental skills. 

Whether it be basic foundational art and music classes or higher art classes, any level gives students the chance to grow and make improvements, which is what school is all about. Once the students have taken the basic classes and show they have mastered them, they then move to higher levels so they continue to be challenged to improve.  

Giving students space and time to be able to do something that they enjoy, and show who they really are, helps them get through a school day. These classes help students see that they are growing and improving by comparing past projects to current ones, which gives them that push to continue.

Art is not the only thing that we have seen take a hit over the years. Home economics and woodworking classes used to be standard in high school, now we hardly find them. It would also be important to ensure that these classes were no longer used to enforce gender stereotypes like they often were in the past. Anyone should be able to take these classes and gender should not dictate the skills that a student has the opportunity to learn.

Since many families may not have access to tools like these, students getting the exposure to them at school could help them find a passion, and maybe even learn what they want to do in life. No matter what they get out of the class, it is sure to help them learn to navigate the world a bit more successfully.

Changing the names of schools from individuals who actively sought to harm minorities and their communities is important, but instead of completely erasing it why not make it a learning moment? Keep the main name of the school like Wilson and find someone in the community who also has the name Wilson and rebrand it after them. 

Instead of completely rebranding a school whose uniforms only have the name Wilson on them, then they would only have to take away the first name of Woodrow that is shown along the building. This it would cost less money to take away one name compared to having to put a completely different name throughout the school. 

If the district did something like this, they would not have to spend $400,000 on rebranding and could instead use it to improve student education. Remodeling a school so that students are in a safe building and not one that is slowly falling apart, funding classes like the arts or reintroducing classes like home economics, students will have the opportunity to take classes like woodworking or sewing. The whole part of the school experience is letting students learn about different subjects and have opportunities that they might not be able to have at home.