Archive for January, 2009

Schools Are Counting On Your Vote Next Tuesday

Our students are counting on us to vote YES to approve local school levies and bonds on Tuesday, February 3rd.

Click here to view a list of February 3rd school levy and bond elections.

If your school district is on the list, visit your school district’s home page for more information about the levy and/or bond.

Your YES vote on a school levy provides critical funding that supports student learning. The levy helps fund smaller class sizes, new textbooks, student transportation, technology, bilingual and special education services, and student activities.

A YES vote on a school bond will fund renovation or construction of new schools in your community. Bond elections still require a 60 percent supermajority to pass.

Please postmark and mail your ballot by Tuesday, February 3rd.

We know economic times are tough in our state. However, our economy will eventually recover. A levy failure can impact a child’s quality of education for years to come.

To get involved, share best practices, and learn more about school levy and bond elections, visit the League of Education Voters Levy Library.

Thank you for supporting our schools.

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Why I love education advocacy work

I’m still very new to posting to a blog.  I’m going to start with why I think I do this work, why I love education advocacy work. 

I grew up poor; my mom was a single mom of 4 kids who worked for the telephone company.  She valued education and encouraged us to succeed. In spite of this, I lost a brother to drugs and another brother for 20 years to alcohol (sober 15 years now). 

We lived in a working class neighborhood where most people worked at the Armour meat packing plant.  I went to high school knowing I would go to college.  I took college prep classes and I had pretty good grades, good enough to get into a state college. 

I vividly remember talking to my school counselor about going to college.  I remember she was cute, blond, perky and that I only met with her once in the course of four years.  The reason I remember her is because she discouraged me from going to a four year college.  I never understood why.  I can only guess it was because I was poor and my mom was a single parent, and my brothers were in trouble a lot.  She wouldn’t help me get the applications for college; she wouldn’t help me figure out how to apply to college.  I had no clue.  No-one, literally no-one I knew had gone to college.  Through sheer will I figured out how to get an application and I got in, went to college, worked at Microsoft, had children and became an advocate for education.

I do this work because it shouldn’t be so difficult for children, who want to learn, to get a good education.  I want higher graduation requirements because I know most students need the guidance and the push to get what they really need.    If we don’t have the structure, too many children are discouraged, like me, from trying.  And, if they didn’t have the parental support, or didn’t have the intense drive, they would just stop trying and never get the education they deserve.  

On Wednesday, I saw parents from all across the state come to Olympia to say “our kids need more.” They need a six hour class day in order to just keep pace with 21st century demands, they need quality teachers to make sure that they learn a years worth of material in every year, and they need higher graduation requirements to prepare our kids for a 21st century life.  HB 1410 and SB 5444 resonate with parents and the community.  The world has changed.  Our children need more time in the classroom and more higher level classes, and they need quality teachers to deliver them.

These bills deliver a 21st century education our communities want and our children need.

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Citizens work for education reform

Parents and activists across the state are working hard in their local communities to support education reform. One great example is taking place in Anacortes.

Local PTAs and concerened parents are meeting on a regular basis to educate themselves on current legislation in Olympia and then lending their voice to the cause of reform. Pot-luck dinners are turning into letter writing parties and phone banks.

The results offer inspiration to activists across the state. The overwhelming support for education reform, particularly  two bills, Senate Bill 5444 and House Bill 1410 resulted in some of the highest call and email volumes the legislators have seen this session. So much, that the entire 40th district delegation signed on as co-sponsors of this important legislation.

You can find more here-

In addition to the local letter writing and email campaigns, supporters are turing out in droves in Olympia to testify and lobby their legislators in support of these bills.

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Press Conference – A New and Improved Education System Draws a Big Crowd!!

I just left a press conference on the recommendations from the BEFTF (now known as HB 1410/SB 5444).  The press conference was led by Representatives Sullivan, Priest, Hunter, Quall, Anderson and Senators Jarrett, McAuliffe, and Pflug.  Most important was the great turn-out.  LEV alone had over 30 community activists and affected children in the crowd!

The event was a great success.  Legislators championing this innovative legislation spoke on the tremendous need for quality early learning for at-risk youngsters; a more modern teacher compensation program; an increase in investment; and a transparent budgeting system that allows meaningful dialogue between families, school boards, and legislators. 

Of course, the conversation quickly turned to financing.  Rep. Hunter and others were quick to point out that despite the current economic climate in our state, there is a unique opportunity this session to make key structural changes in the education system and create a clear plan for the future.  Once the economy begins to recover, the new system will be in place and ready to absorb additional funds.  Rep. Anderson made the compelling point that, yes, the realities of this budget crisis are stark.  However, not making the critical investments in education now will create a much bleaker reality in the future – a reality where the workforce can’t support the economic demand or support the state infrastructure. 

I just wanted to let you all know how things were going down here in Olympia.  I am off to the Senatae Early Learning & K-12 committee hearing on SB 5444 now.  There are so many people interested in this legislation that they just opened an overflow room to watch the proceedings. 

Stay Tuned.  More info to come!!

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My trip to History (better late than never)

I’ve never been part of history before. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen cool things and bad things, but saying I’ve witnessed History (capital H) would be a stretch.  As I prepared for my trip I imagined what it would be like and, I have to say, I was wrong. My idea of History didn’t compare with what I experienced.

Last week I took a very short trip to a very large event, the inauguration of President Barack Obama. I left on the red eye last Sunday and arrived in Baltimore on Monday morning at 9 am. I made my way to to the south end of the Capitol Building where so many of us would be fixated the following morning. As I turned the corner, it became closer to real. The barricades, porta potty lined walkways, and people everywhere – I mean everywhere. I stood in front of the Capitol. It was dressed up with American flags – flags that I have never been so proud to see. The choir was practicing – children were everywhere, their parents lift them up pointing and explaining what was about to happen to their world.

My trip built upon that moment. Every minute added another layer of power and depth. I spent the day walking the National Mall. Occasionally, I’d stop and talk to people, and they’d talk back. “Aren’t you excited?” “It’s really happening!” “This is my country.” Everyone was smiling. Everyone was helping one another whether by offering to snap a photo (I traveled alone), a piece of gum, a snack… anything. I slept only a few hours to board the metro just before 6 am and experience the start of a new day. The metro was PACKED, but no one pushed or argued or sniped. Instead people cheered, God Bless America broke out along with a short Happy Birthday to one girl who turned 21 (pictured at left).

It took me an hour  to find the end of my long line and I stood there for hours. I got to know the people I was standing by.  Black, white, young, old, rich, poor – none of that mattered on this special day. After I got through security, I literally sprinted to the Capitol and stood directly behind the reflecting pond. It was an incredible sight. The electricity and positive energy is something that I’ll never ever forget. It was a spiritual reminder that humans are all so similar, we want to be the best, we want to help, we want to understand each other. As I stood and listened to President Obama speak, I took a moment to turn around and take it in.  He was saying these words:

“Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage.”

It hit me. It was not Barack Obama who blew me away that day. It was us. All of us. We had come together and already accomplished something truly historical. Yes we did! But this accomplishment seemed almost minor compared to the energy, hope, and team work it took to accomplish it. Hope won – and here I was standing next to three African American women my age crying, hugging, and cheering together.inaug

I spent the rest of the day dancing on the iced-over reflecting pond, calling all of my family and friends, and having a long lunch with four people who I had never met before from all different walks of life. It was one of the best lunches I’ve had – mixed with elation and deep discussion on ‘what now?’.

On my flight home I struggled to answer this question – almost to the point of frustration. What more can I do? How can I create real change? I need to do more.  Yesterday I finally got a chance to read President Obama’s letter to his daughters. The most poignant line to me reads, ‘it is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.’ It was a great reminder to me that I’m doing some very cool work here at LEV helping ensure that all children are ready for life. Sometimes changing the world feels difficult (okay really difficult), but  last week reminded me that it is possible. That’s enough to keep me going. It takes team work and diligently chipping away at a common goal. More than that, it is what needs to be done.

I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential—schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them. I want them to have the chance to go to college—even if their parents aren’t rich. And I want them to get good jobs: jobs that pay well and give them benefits like health care, jobs that let them spend time with their own kids and retire with dignity.  – Barack Obama, ‘What I Want for You – and Every Child in America.’

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More details on the press conference on SB 5444 and HB 1410

Reps. Sullivan, Hunter, Quall, Priest and Anderson, and Senators Jarrett, Tom, Pflug and McAuliffe will hold a press conference in support of House Bill 1410 and Senate Bill 5444, which contain the recommedations of the Basic Education Finance Task Force.

Here are the details for the Monday, January 26 press conference in Olympia.

Cherberg Building (304 15th Ave., Olympia, WA 98502)
Senate Hearing Room 3

12:15 Introductions and overview of legislation
12:30 Q&A

Following the press conference, there will be a public hearing on SB 5444, followed by two more public hearings later in the week on SB 5444 and HB 1410.

Public hearing on Senate Bill 5444
Senate Early Learning & K-12 Committee
Cherberg Building, Hearing Room 1
1:30 PM, Monday, January 26

Public hearing on Senate Bill 5444
Senate Early Learning & K-12 Committee
Cherberg Building, Hearing Room 1
8 AM, Wednesday, January 28

Public hearing on House Bill 1410
House Education Appropriations Committee
John L O’Brien, Hearing Room A
6 PM, Wednesday, January 28

Click here for a printable map of the Capitol campus with parking information.

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Witnessing history

Ready for Life

Ready for Life

I’m at the inauguration in DC!

We’re excited for the change that has come to America.  But the work is just beginning…  especially for education reform in Washington State. 

It’s up to all of us to help achieve an education system that gets all our kids Ready for Life!

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News from the Feds…

House Economic Recovery Package Includes Significant Investments in Young Children

Courtesy of Zero to Three


Yesterday, the House of Representatives unveiled its economic recovery package, one of the first steps in efforts to spur the economy and protect the well-being of our country’s children and families.  The bill includes significant funds targeted for infants and toddlers, making a smart investment in our nation’s future.


The economic recovery package contains the following provisions that would impact infants, toddlers, and their families:

  • $2.1 billion for Head Start to provide comprehensive services to an additional 110,000 children; $1.1 billion of these funds have been designated for Early Head Start. Up to 10 percent of the Early Head Start funds is targeted for training and technical assistance and up to 3 percent is targeted for monitoring.
  • $2 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant to provide child care services to an additional 300,000 children.
  • $600 million in formula grants for Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to help states serve children with disabilities age 2 and younger.

Investing in programs for young children benefits the economy immediately by: 1) ensuring that parents are able to take advantage of job opportunities while their children are in care, and 2) by creating new jobs in the early care and education workforce.  But it also creates sustained growth for our economy by providing children with the services they need to grow up healthy and ready to succeed in school and the work force.


For more information on the House economic recovery package, click here to read a summary or click here to read the full bill text.

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Public Comment

Martha Rice, WSSDA – On the SBE draft letter to the Legislature on the Basic Education Finance Task Force, concerns over some of the language of the letter, namely that it seems the SBE is supportive of the entire BEFTF recommendation rather than the aspects of the report the SBE does support (which may not be all of the recommendations); also the BEFTF recommendations do not include transportation or capital recommendations


Business Items

Accountability Resolution – Approved

>>Phyllis Bunker Frank proposed to change “…all students deserve an quality excellent, equitable education…”<<

Bylaws Revisions – Approved

>>Some debate on these, but nothing inflammatory or alarming, largely grammatical.<<

Districts Meeting Basic Education Compliance – Approved

180 Day Waiver Requests – Approved

Letter to the Legislature on the Recommendations of the Basic Education Finance Task Force – Approved


Policy Considerations for Improving Graduation Rates – Sheila Fox, Annie Blackledge

Building Bridges Report on Dropouts

-60% of students in foster care do NOT graduate from high school

(Because time was tight and the SBE is very interested in dropout prevention, this topic is going to be revisited at the March meeting.)

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