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What our early learning town hall meetings accomplished

In the past two weeks hundreds of parents in Seattle, Tacoma, Bellingham and Kirkland met with Bette Hyde, Director of the Department of Early Learning, Nina Auerbach, President of Thrive by Five Washington, and Superintendent of Public Schools Randy Dorn to talk about the challenges they face as they care for and educate their young children. You may have heard about the early learning town halls as a member of LEV or  MomsRising or the other great groups who made these meetings happen (Foundation for Early Learning, local PTAs, Children’s Alliance, CCR&R, and Washington Head Start/ECEAP Association).

So, why did parents brave the rain and cold?

Their feedback will help shape early learning recommendations for the 2010 Legislative Session and a ten-year early learning plan to be delivered to Governor Gregoire next month. These parents wanted to make sure that Washington’s Early Learning Plan will help their children succeed in school and life.

Did our input make a difference?

Access and affordability. We heard you loud and clear – but will the Early Learning Plan reflect that? Our discussion made a big difference on many levels, but we’re far from finished. While the 2010 recommendations are not final, the Department of Early Learning released preliminary recommendations to Gov. Gregoire and much of the feedback has been incorporated in these thoughts. The full document is available on the Department of Early Learning’s website, and here is a short summary:

  1. Birth through 3 Continuum. Build and fund an aligned, integrated continuum of supports, services and programs for all children birth to age 3, and their families. Ensuring that infants and toddlers have good health, strong families, and positive early learning experiences will lay the foundation for success throughout their lives. Because this is also a critical period for meaningful intervention for children at‐risk, and with special needs, a first focus will be on early invention programs and services, such as: developmental screening; home visitation; programs consistent with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C; Family, Friend and Neighbors support; and Early Head Start.
  2. Voluntary Universal Prekindergarten for 4‐year olds implemented in mixed‐delivery system. Prekindergarten programs for 4‐year olds aim to promote the acquisition of skills, knowledge, and behaviors that are associated with success in elementary school. “Universal” means that the program is universally available (or nearly so) but that parents are free to enroll their children or not as they see fit.  Create voluntary universal preschool program for 4‐year‐olds as part of basic education; phase in to serve highest poverty communities first. Integrate and coordinate phase‐in of all‐day K with phase‐in of universal preschool for 4‐year‐olds.
  3. State‐Funded Full‐Day Kindergarten Enhancing Equity, Continuity and Quality Based on research, the Legislature prioritized full‐day kindergarten funding for schools with the highest percentage of students living in poverty (as measured by the number of students eligible for free and reduced‐price lunch). Full‐day kindergarten gives young children, particularly those living in poverty, the time to learn the foundational skills and knowledge that is so important to future school success.
  4. Early Literacy. Promote early literacy and reading success in school for children birth through 3rd grade in the context of whole child development.
  5. Early Learning Educator/Provider Supports. Continue to implement and expand a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) so that early learning and school‐age providers have the support and resources necessary to improve the quality of their programs and environments and so that families have the necessary consumer education to choose high quality programs for their children. Ensure that licensing is the foundation of QRIS, and that all licensed early learning programs participate. As QRIS is implemented, ensure that it is: tied to child care subsidy (e.g. tiered reimbursement); and integrated within the Professional Development Consortium’s recommendations for a comprehensive professional development system that focuses on achieving high‐quality, and that promotes a qualified and well compensated early learning workforce.
  6. Enhance/Strengthen the Early Learning System Infrastructure. Continue to develop, strengthen and resource infrastructure elements needed to support the early learning system so that it functions effectively and with quality.
  7. Strengthen Partnerships with Families and Communities. Promote and support parenting education and information. Engage parents, families, caregivers, and communities in shaping policies and systems.
  8. Health Insurance and Medical Home. All children have health insurance and a medical home.

We are far from finished.

If you weren’t able to attend a meeting or if you did and have concerns about the list of priorities, there is still time to weigh in! The Drafting Team will be completing their recommendations in the next week and delivering them to Gov. Gregoire on December 1st. Please continue to weigh in on the Department of Early Learning survey or email me at bonnie@educationvoters.org.

For more information on the 2010 Legislative Recommendations and the Early Learning Plan, you can visit the Department of Early Learning website.

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The House passes the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act!

Hooray!

Thanks to your hard work, the House of Representatives has passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act by a vote of 253-171!

Struggling to come up with the cash for college? House leadership, with the Obama administration’s support, wants to cut out the middle man from federal student loan programs and give students the chance to borrow directly from the federal government. Middlemen are ex$pensive – so the bill creates $92 BILLION in cost savings! Part of the savings would be spent on an Early Learning Challenge Fund to make sure all children have a quality education from the very start!

College student? Here’s how the SAFRA will help you:

For the past 35 years, the federal government has subsidized loans made by private banks to students through the Federal Family Education Loan program, guaranteeing loans up to 97 percent and allowing lenders to reap the profits. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act – touted as the largest investment in higher education ever – shuts down that program, replacing it with a direct loan program run by the Education Department. The income-based payment plan eases the strain for graduates paying off loans.

Smartypants early learner (who can already read)? Here is how the SAFRA will help you:

Ensure young children enter kindergarten ready to succeed by creating an Early Learning Challenge Fund to provide states with $8 billion in competitive grants over 8 years. This investment would improve outcomes for all children and especially at-risk children-resulting in higher graduation rates, higher rates of college attendance, and higher earnings at work.

Everyone else?

This bill creates $92 billion in cost savings that will be spent on programs we know will save money and promote economic growth.  That’s a big hooray for everyone.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement today after the House voted 253 to 171 this afternoon to pass the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act:

“Education is the best investment individuals can make in themselves, it is the best investment parents can make in their children, and it is the best investment a nation can make in their citizens. With that in mind, today the House passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, the single largest investment in making college more affordable in the history of our nation.

“This legislation means that more students will enter college; that they will graduate with less debt; that the federal loan initiatives that they and their families depend upon are strengthened for decades to come; and that taxpayers will save money. It is fiscally responsible, following the strict standards of pay-as-you-go spending.

“This legislation seizes the opportunity to strengthen our nation by making a historic commitment to our students and a landmark investment in our future.”

Visit Speaker.gov

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Why I love The New School at South Shore.

They’ve read the research and they’re using it to create change for real kids, right now. Early learning gains are the foundation for learning. Fade-out is not a factor at South Shore because grades K-3 are equally high-quality and pre-K – grade 3 teachers work together.

Lucky me, I’ve seen their model in action. I’ve met the kids. I’ve seen the results. You should stop by and check it out. In the meantime, check out this short video showing how their pre-K – grade 3 model works.

PRE-KINDERGARTEN — 3RD GRADE A New Beginning for American Education from Brian Quist on Vimeo.

Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Beating the odds

Vote Yes for Yakima KidsIt’s a tough economic climate—especially to achieve the supermajority vote needed to pass a school bond. And yet, that’s exactly what happened last week thanks to the tenacity and hard work of students, schools, and volunteers in Yakima.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, voters in the Yakima School District approved a $114 million school bond to build a new high school and modernize seven other schools.

The critical factor for this success story was the kids!

Two student coordinators from each high school worked together to organize their peers and community members to build support for the school bond. One of the culminating events was the BondFest rally, where students from each school marched from their campus to the park to hear speakers and performances. More than 1,000 students and community supporters attended the event.

In an election with nearly 12,000 votes cast, students and volunteers delivered a powerful message that reached more than 10,000 voters via door-to-door knocking, phone calls, and rallies.

These students truly gave their heart and soul. Their work will mean future high school classes will learn and walk the halls of modern and safer buildings.

Special thanks should go to Central Washington Progress and The Washington Bus for providing technical help and know-how around elections and organizing.

If you’re starting up a levy and/or bond campaign in November or next year—you’re not alone! Yakima is a success story that can work in any community in the state.

At LEV, I’m one of two field organizers who will travel anywhere in Washington State to help you setup and develop a solid plan to win a school levy or bond. We can also put you in touch with other resources that can provide voter analysis and assistance with K-12 finance and organizing.

Contact me us about getting involved in or running a levy or bond campaign at info@educationvoters.org.

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Photos!

Parents, kids, and education advocates joined lawmakers and Gov. Gregoire for the signing of ESHB 2261 into law.

Parents, kids, and education advocates joined lawmakers and Gov. Gregoire for the signing of ESHB 2261 into law.

It’s been a busy week!  Education advocates heard Kati Haycock talk about strategies to close the achievement gap on Monday and attended the basic education reform bill signing in Olympia Tuesday.

Check out the photos from these events:

Kati Haycock Town Hall – May 18, 2009

Basic Education Reform bill signing – May 19, 2009

Posted in: Advocacy and Activism

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Governor signs landmark education reform bill

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a landmark education reform bill, Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2261, today in Olympia.

A broad-based coalition of parents, business leaders, community members and education stakeholders, which includes the League of Education Voters, issued the following news release after the bill signing.

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News Release: May 19, 2009

Governor signs landmark education reform bill

Parents, school advocates applaud beginning of movement to redefine and fully fund “basic education”

OLYMPIA – More than 100 parents and education advocates joined Gov. Chris Gregoire as she signed a landmark education reform bill, Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2261, today in Olympia.

“Today is a historic day for Washington’s children in the midst of challenging times,” said Laura Bay, president of the Washington State PTA.  “Parents and school advocates are deeply concerned about the impact of state budget cuts to schools.  We’re grateful, however, that lawmakers took bold action to protect education funding from devastating cuts in the future by expanding ‘basic education’ to include the tools our children need to succeed in life.”

“The signing of this education reform bill is important to our economy,” said Terry Byington, executive director of TechAmerica Washington.  “The future of our state and nation depends on every child receiving a high-quality education that prepares them for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

“The signing of the education reform bill is, in large part, a testament to the hard work of parent and citizen advocates who worked to achieve positive changes for children and public schools,” said Jen Boutell, parent and Tacoma Stand for Children leader.

At the last minute, the governor vetoed the section on early learning.

“We’re deeply disappointed that the governor chose to veto the section that would have provided early learning for at-risk children,” said Chris Korsmo, executive director of the League of Education Voters.  “We take the governor at her word that she’ll prioritize early learning next session.  This is a top priority of ours and the children of our state.”

A broad-based coalition of parents, business leaders, community members and education stakeholders worked closely with legislators for months to pass ESHB 2261.  The reforms, which begin in 2011 and will be fully implemented by 2018, will:

  • Expand the school day so high school students can take more math, science and world language courses to graduate with 24 credits;
  • Redefine basic education to include all-day kindergarten, highly capable education, transportation and other academic programs and support services students need to succeed in school;
  • Make school funding more transparent for school leaders, lawmakers and parents through the use of a “prototypical schools” model; and
  • Direct the State Board of Education to create an accountability system and intervention measures targeted at challenged schools and districts.

“Our state is now committed to reforms that will prepare every child for college, work and life,” said Cheryl Jones of the Black Education Strategy Roundtable.  “But, the work has just begun.  It’s up to all of us—parents, educators and students—to work closely with our lawmakers to implement these reforms.  Our education system depends on it, and all of our children deserve nothing less.”

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"Our teachers, our voice"

Um, wow.

Bonnie and I just got back from a student rally at Franklin High School, and it was awesome and inspiring and empowering.

Clayton, a Franklin senior, speaks to the crowd

Clayton, a Franklin senior, speaks to the crowd

More than 100 students gathered to protest teacher layoffs during their lunch period. Organized by passionate seniors Sunny Nguyen and Clayton Ruthruff, the students chanted “our teachers, our voice” in support of teachers who recently received layoff notices. Students are frustrated with the layoff policies weighing years in the classroom over demonstrated performance.

Clayton, who came running at the bell with megaphone in hand, opened the rally with, “We want quality teachers, not teachers who have been here longer.” He encouraged students the channel their anger into positive change. Sunny followed, encouraging attendance at the next Seattle School Board meeting. They then pulled Bonnie up, who offered additional words of encouragement.

Sunny asks other students to sign petition cards.

Sunny asks other students to sign petition cards.

The rally ended with students filling out petition cards against the “last hired, first fired” layoff policy and voting for the top school issue. Students overwhelmingly identified “termination of our teachers” as the most pressing issue facing Franklin.

We weren’t the only over-18s in the crowd. A small group of parents and educators joined the students in supporting quality teachers.

No matter how many events like this I attend, I am always inspired — especially when students are acting as their own advocates. So often we speak on behalf of students. It’s nice to hear things straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

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An historic victory for children and schools

This is an historic day for one million public school kids in our state. The state Legislature passed the education reform bill, ESHB 2261. For the first time in 30 years, we’ve re-defined basic education to include the tools our educators need to prepare our kids for college, work and life.

The passage of ESHB 2261 commits the state to fully implementing and funding early learning for at-risk kids, all-day kindergarten, stronger graduation requirements, a longer school day, and other reforms to improve outcomes for children by 2018. It’s up to all of us-parents, educators, and students-to work together to hold our lawmakers accountable to fulfilling that commitment.

Congratulations! Applaud yourselves for achieving an historic milestone for children and schools. Thank you for your passion and persistence. It’s clear that your personal phone calls, messages and visits made a tremendous difference. Now we need to thank our lawmakers.

Please send a thank you note to the legislators who made this possible.

  • View the roll call vote on ESHB 2261.
  • Call the legislative hotline at 1.800.562.6000. Staff will help you leave a message for your legislators.
  • Thank your legislators for supporting ESHB 2261, and helping to build the world-class education system that our children deserve.

We know schools and educators are doing the best job possible in the midst of budget cuts. ESHB 2261 is an acknowledgement that our state is not living up to its paramount duty, and that our teachers deserve the support and resources they need to provide a high quality education for every child. The legislation provides a roadmap for the future to build a stronger and more amply funded education system that will be protected from devastating budget cuts. And, it positions our state to compete for $5 billion in federal funds dedicated to innovation in our public schools.

ESHB 2261 now goes to the governor’s desk, where it is expected to be signed into law. Stay tuned for more information about the bill signing ceremony.

Again, thank you for making a difference!

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Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe’s open letter to the education community

We’ve posted Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe’s open letter to the education community in full below.

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April 18, 2009

This has been one of the most difficult and bittersweet weeks in my time in our Legislature. We passed House Bill 2261, to redefine Basic Education. I envisioned the day we would all do this together, but to my deep disappointment that did not happen.

Still, it is time to move forward.

The bill the Senate passed last week shines a bright light on how the state funds our schools with an outdated definition of basic education and gives us the tools to know how we must change our funding to better reflect the growing expectations and challenges our schools face. What will be our class size? Does each school have enough teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors and speech therapists to help students excel? And how many administrators does each school need? These are the questions that this legislation will help us answer.

The bill isn’t perfect, but it is our road map to the world-class educational system envisioned by Washington Learns that every one of us deeply wants. We may not be able to solve all the problems facing our educational system today but we must begin. It is time to take this step.

I have heard that this is the wrong bill and the wrong message at the wrong time. I have heard that it is an insult to our hard-working teachers and educators that come to work every day and are committed to providing every child with the opportunity to learn. I want to be clear – teachers are the single most important part of our educational system. This bill is not a commentary in any way about a failure of our teachers. It is a recognition that our teachers deserve better and a recognition that our state’s definition of basic education has failed to keep pace with the evolving expectations of society and has failed our teachers.

So why do we need this bill now, of all times? Because our class size is 46th in the nation. Because our dropout rate is between 20 and 30 percent, and our teacher compensation is 21st in the nation. That is unacceptable. Our students and our educators deserve much more than an education system that was defined 30 years ago. I know that changing an educational system for almost 1 million students and over 2,000 schools takes time. It cannot happen in one legislative session. However, we must not let an inability to make immediate whole-scale change discourage us from making any progress.

We need to fund what we value and we must ensure that our commitment to education is clearly defined. Only by clearly establishing our Constitutional duties now can we hold the state accountable in the future. There are many demands on our limited state resources – health care, family leave, hospitals and nursing homes, to name only a few. As we come out of this recession, and as the economy grows, our educational system needs to be first in line for restoration of cuts and it must remain at the top of the priority list for future investments. In order to provide the system the capacity to accommodate those investments, planning and phase-in must start now. An expanded definition of basic education obligates our state to fully fund the educational system that our teachers, schools, students and communities need today. With this expanded definition in place the state can start the process of preparing the system for future growth.

We also have a unique opportunity right now to try and access additional federal stimulus dollars to help us with initial, one-time investments. This legislation makes us more competitive to receive part of the more than $4 billion that is available for states in the “Race to the Top” grant. These funds are available to states that are making exceptional progress towards educational reform goals such as rigorous college-and-career ready standards, creation of data systems that help foster continuous improvement and a process for providing intensive support for challenged schools. The legislation passed by the Senate includes provisions and a plan for addressing each of these goals in a meaningful way and will hopefully help the state of Washington access this additional federal money.

For all of these reasons I support the important and difficult step we took this week. This legislation is not the end goal, only the beginning. It reflects months of hard work and negotiation with all education stakeholders. The bill passed by the Senate incorporates language from both the Full Funding Coalition’s proposal and recommendations from the Basic Education Task Force. It strives to plot a way forward, with a realistic implementation strategy based on shared responsibility and expectations for the state, school districts and schools. We must continue to embrace a respectful and steady process forward and I pledge that I will be here every step of the way.

We will do this together. This is about the children.

Yours,

Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe
Chair, Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee

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Remarks from education advocates on the passage of ESHB 2261

Education advocates celebrate the passage of the basic education finance reform legislation, ESHB 2261, by a vote of 26 to 23.  Our broad-based coalition includes Washington State PTA, League of Education Voters, State Board of Education, Washington Stand for Children, Washington Roundtable, TechAmerica, Partnership for Learning, Black Education Strategy Roundtable, numerous school boards and superintendents from across the state, and countless others.

Outlined below are quotes from the various coalition members.

Mary Jean Ryan, Chair, State Board of Education

“The State Board of Education strongly commends the Senate for taking this historic action. This is exactly the demonstration of leadership that the children of Washington State deserve. We urge the House to concur with this revised bill. This action will propel us forward. We are now committed and accountable to ensuring all students leave high school, college, or work ready. After too long a wait, Washington’s educational system is once again moving in the right direction.”

Cheryl Jones, Black Education Strategy Roundtable

“This is a great start toward reforming our education system and moving our children into a learning environment that puts their futures as a priority in our state.  As we work together to implement HB 2261, we are encouraged that all children will have access to a quality education and that we will continually work toward closing the achievement gap for minority and low income children.”

Jon Gould, Children’s Alliance and Early Learning Action Alliance

“We applaud the Senate for their historic vote today modernizing the definition of basic education. We thank Senators for including early learning in basic education and recognizing that smart investments in early learning yield positive returns for families and communities across Washington State. In these tough times, this farsighted policy puts early childhood education on a stronger footing for future growth. It’s a great day for children in Washington.”

Chris Korsmo, Executive Director, League of Education Voters

“We’re one step closer to making history for one million public school kids in our state.  These reforms take advantage of the latest evidence-based research to improve academic achievement for children.  Early learning, stronger graduation requirements and a longer school day will better prepare our kids for school and for life.

Including early learning in basic education will mean more children will start school ready to succeed and prevent the achievement gap from occurring.  This is the best investment we can make to improve outcomes for children.”

Shannon Campion, Executive Director, Washington Stand for Children

“This is an historic vote for Washington’s children.  Legislators today demonstrated that even during an economic crisis, we can stay focused on, and make marked progress toward, our vision of a world-class education system for all Washington’s children.”

Jennifer Boutell, Parent, Tacoma Public Schools

“Tacoma desperately needs these reforms.  My hope is that by the time my girls reach high school, the public school system will be able to prepare them for the 21st century economy.”

Terry Byington, Executive Director, TechAmerica

“In future years we’ll look back on this watershed moment and be thankful the Legislature took this stand to support students.”

Laura Bay, President, Washington State PTA

“Today is a great day for the children of Washington.  The Senate’s passage of HB 2261 is an important next step to set the State of Washington on the road toward fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide ample funding for the education of all children.   We are on our way to fulfilling the goal of providing the education system we need to educate our children for success in today’s world.   Many legislators along with a strong coalition of education advocates, including volunteer PTA members from across the state have worked tirelessly in support of this effort.  We applaud the efforts and the courage of those who crafted this legislation and those who have voted for it. 

Having said that, we must all recognize that the fight is not yet won, because the bill now goes back to the House of Representatives for concurrence, and then to the Governor for her approval.  We encourage both the House and the Governor to take swift action because our kids can’t wait.”

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