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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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HUGE turnout in support of education funding and reform

It has been an exciting day for change in Olympia.

Starting this morning at 8am with a Senate Education Committee hearing on the SB 5444. The hearing room was packed with people from all over the State. Not lobbyists, but parents, PTA members and concerned citizens. They spoke forcefully in support of the changes in SB5444. It was easily 10 to 1 ratio of supporters versus those opposing the cause of change.

Tonight we have the companion bill in the House, HB 1410. There are over 137 people registered to speak, with 124 in support and 13 with concerns. There is a palatable sense of excitement in the room.

While having this great turnout is exciting, the work has only begun. These bills will need our support throughout the legislative session.

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HB 1410/SB 5444 Testimony Rounds 2 and 3

I am sorry I wasn’t able to blog on the Senate Early Learning and K-12 committee hearing this morning.  It was standing room only and I had no power outlet, so this entry is a bit a late.

We had a great turn out!  Some highlights of testimony:

  • A terrific panel of early learning advocates applauded the incluion of Early Learning in the revised definition of basic education.  We heard from a Head Start provider, a parent and the assistant superintertendent of Yakima School District.  All agreed that targeted early learning for our most at-risk children is the single greatest investment we can make!
  • Parent turnout was impressive.  The PTA, Stand and LEV joined forces and pulled parents from across the state to support the Task Force’s recommendations.
  • A panel of citizens voiced some concerns regarding cultural compentency in our schools.  They strongly support the bill, but want to make sure that their recent findings after studying the achievement gap among minority groups will be incorporated into the final bill.

Of course, there was opposition.

  • The Full Funding Coalition spoke against the bill.
  • Opposition from the Colville Tribe was voiced as well.

The House Education Apropriations committee is currently taking public testimony.   I will say that the crowd is just as large as this morning….probably a little bigger.  It is standing room only! 

I don’t expect there to be any major differences in testimony tonight.  I will post any surprises or highlights, so check back!

It has been a LONG day.  We got here bright and early this morning to get people organized and signed up to testify, and we are still going strong!  The passion and enthusiasm of parents, children and advocates pushes us forward (that, and A LOT of coffee!).

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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-http://www.educationvoters.org/basiceducationfunding

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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What's up with the WASL

The word is out on Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn’s plans to revamp the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). But Dorn’s not the only one with WASL reform on his mind — legislators in Olympia introduced a handful of bills focused on reform, big and small. Here’s a quick breakdown of them all.

Superintendent Dorn’s plan:

  • Rebrands the assessment system; the system would be called the Washington Comprehensive Assessment Program (WCAP), the tests for 3-8 graders would be Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) and the tests of 10th graders would be High School Proficiency Exams (HSPE)
  • Continues to use the reading and writing assessments as graduation requirements; postpones math and science assessments and graduation requirements
  • Uses shorter, computer-based tests for math, reading and science (explore for writing), beginning in 2010
  • Offers MSPs in fall and spring to measure student growth, and be given in one sitting
  • Moves “accountability test” used for NCLB to later in the spring

House Bill 1646, Making adjustments pertaining to the high school Washington assessment of student learning in mathematics and science, sponsored by Reps. Sullivan, Priest, Kenney, Morrell, and Ormsby

  • Suspends the graduation requirement for the Class of 2013 and beyond to pass the math and science assessments
  • Directs the State Board of Education (SBE) to determine when the math and science assessments are ready to be used as graduation requirements
  • Empowers the SBE to reexamine the science assessment and graduation requirement timeline

Senate Bill 5414, Implementing recommendations of the WASL legislative work group, sponsored by Sens. McAuliffe, King, Oemig, and McDermott

  • Sets goal of creating a system of assessment that provides more immediate feedback, measures student growth throughout the year, and strives to be computer based
  • Delegates work to SBE and OSPI — annual reports to the Legislature on the assessment system; review of EALRs in all subjects to better align with college/workforce requirements; and exploration of end-of-course assessments  (EOCs) in science (instead of science WASL, and removes science WASL graduation requirement for Class of 2013)
  • Directs OSPI to look at shortening WASL exams
  • Beginning in 2010-11, students will take math EOCs

House Bill 1341/Senate Bill 5260, Motivating students through incentives to pursue post-secondary education by eliminating statewide assessments as a high school graduation requirement, sponsored by Reps. Santos, Haler, Hasegawa, Sells, Seaquist, Goodman, Appleton, Hunt, Chase, Kenney, Simpson, Campbell, Nelson, McCoy, Van De Wege, and Sens. McAuliffe, Fraser, Pridemore, Hargrove, Sheldon, Kauffman, Hobbs, Hatfield, Fairley, Roach

  • Removes passing the WASL as a graduation requirement; students continue to take the exam
  • Directs OSPI to shorten the 10th grade WASL exams, beginning in 2010
  • Assigns OSPI, the Higher Education Coordinating Board and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges to review student incentive programs used in other states; savings from removal of the WASL as a graduation requirement could be redirected toward recommended incentives

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We’ll make sure your voice is heard

When students, parents and educators come to Olympia-legislators notice and listen.

That’s exactly what happened yesterday at the first public hearing on Senate Bill 5444, the legislation to implement the recommendations of the Basic Education Finance Task Force. There were so many parents and children that staff had to open up an overflow room.

Here’s a brief excerpt of testimony in favor of SB 5444:

  • Byron from Redmond: “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform our schools.”
  • Brooke from Kent: “My biggest concern is to ensure our children’s future is brighter and better.”
  • Connie from Issaquah: “We’ve waited a long time for these recommendations.”

Click here for a summary of the public hearing.

Our kids can’t wait!

Indeed, this is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to change our schools so every child graduates ready for life.

Let’s continue to show our lawmakers that we expect change this year.

Senate Bill 5444 and its companion, House Bill 1410, provide the framework for the next decade of investments in education. We need to continue our grassroots effort to ensure one of these bills reaches the Governor’s desk.

We have two more opportunities tomorrow to testify and show support:

Senate Bill 5444
Senate Early Learning & K-12 Committee
Cherberg Building, Hearing Room 1
Wednesday, January 28, 8:00 – 10:00 AM

House Bill 1410
House Education Appropriations Committee
John L O’Brien, Hearing Room A
Wednesday, January 28, 6:00 – 8:00 PM

Contact us at info@educationvoters.org and let us know if you can attend and/or testify.

If you’re not able to attend, we’d like to make sure YOUR VOICE is heard. Send us your testimony at info@educationvoters.org. We’ll hand-deliver your message to legislators. Please include your name, city, school district, and reason for supporting SB 5444 and HB 1410.

Click here for talking points on these education reform bills.

It’s up to all of us to move education reform forward this year. Your personal stories involving your school and what matters to children will make the most difference.

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Rep. Hunter on the Dave Ross Show

Posted at 10 AM

Rep. Ross Hunter will be on the Dave Ross Show, we’re told, in about 20 minutes.  The topic this morning will be Washington’s public schools and the Basic Education Finance Task Force’s proposal to reform schools so every child graduates high school ready for life.

Tune in to 97.3 FM (KIRO) or listen online at http://www.mynorthwest.com/.

Make sure to call the KIRO listener line (877) 710-KIRO (5476) to support education reform!

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Senate Committee Takes Public Testimony on SB 5444

After the great group of LEV supporters at the press conference earlier, I was no longer worried about our showing before the Senate Early Learning & K-12 committee.

The hearing just ended and it was packed!  There were so many people (parents and children alike!) that staff had to open up an overflow room.  The committee heard testimony on several bills today so we had to wait a while, but it was well worth the wait.  We had close to a dozen parent advocates testify in support of SB 5444.  Everyone who spoke, did so with great passion and determination. 

It was clear today that students, parents and advocates will not accept anything less than bold action this session.  SB 5444 and HB 1410 provide a framework for a quality 21st centruy education system. The time for change is now!

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Moving education reform forward

Thanks for all of your support today.  Your testimony as parents and education advocates in support of Senate Bill 5444 made a difference.

The second hearing entirely devoted to SB 5444 is this Wednesday at 8 AM in Senate Hearing Room 1, followed by a hearing on House Bill 1410 at 6 PM in House Hearing Room A.

If you can attend one or both hearings, contact us at info@educationvoters.org.

Here’s a brief summary of public testimony at today’s Senate Early Learning & K-12 Committee hearing.

In support of SB 5444:

  • Mary Jean Ryan, chair of the State Board of Education
    • Most important contribution of the Task Force is the recommendation to re-define Basic Education to ensure all children are ready for life.
    • Please resist efforts to piecemeal the Task Force’s package of recommendations.
  • Laura Wells, state director of Fight Crime Invest in Kids Washington
    • Proponent of the Task Force’s recommendation to make early learning for at-risk children a part of Basic Education.
    • Dan Kimball, Thurston County Sheriff, reinforced the importance of investing in high quality early learning programs to reduce crime and help children succeed in school and life.
  • Ruth Lipscomb, Board Member, League of Education Voters Foundation, Bellevue schools parent
    • Implementation of 6 period school day critical for schools.
    • Bellevue’s 7 period school day enables students to take the courses they need to get into job training programs, college and university.
  • Byron Shutz, member of Washington State PTA, two children in Lake Washington School District
    • This is a once in a generation opportunity to reform our schools.
    • We must be bold enough to do better for our kids and communities across our state.
  • Brooke Valentine, parent, Kent schools
    • Reinforced the importance of paying teachers based on productivity in the classroom.
    • Biggest concern is to ensure our children’s future is brighter and better.
  • Mary Bannister, teacher and librarian in Seattle Public Schools
    • In favor of bill because it will help reduce the achievement gap.
    • Enhanced funding for librarians and library resources will help all students have access to technology and a world class education.
  • Connie Gerlitz, parent
    • Testified year after year to ensure our schools receive the funding they need.
    • So grateful that we have a proposal to fix the problems we in our education system.
    • Passionate plea to move forward and pass education reform this year.
  • Kursten Holabird, SEIU Local 925
    • Support for including early learning in basic education.
  • Eric B., parent of two elementary children in Seattle
    • Daughters are using portable classrooms their grandfather used.
    • We need to give our schools resources necessary to provide a modern learning environment.
  • John Stokes, parent, Bellevue Schools
    • This bill is exciting because it has vision and hope to offer something for the future for our kids.
  • Connie Fletcher, Issaquah school board
    • We’ve waited a long time for these recommendations.
    • Basic Education is re-defined to help our students learn the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in today’s economy.
    • Urge legislators to reconsider the implementation schedule.  Today’s 5th graders will be the first graduating class to benefit from the recommendations.
  • Steve Miller, Board Member, League of Education Voters
    • Time to move beyond a complex, obscure funding structure.
    • This bill is a good foundation for a more transparent, equitable, and stable funding structure.

In opposition to SB 5444:

  • Mary Lindquist, president, Washington Education Association
    • The bill is divisive, dramatically alters the K-12 system while the fiscal note says it comes at no cost to the state.
    • Offers no means to pay for the promise.
    • Urges legislators to look at the Full Funding Coalition proposal in order to provide ample funding for education.
  • David Spring, parent in North Bend
    • The bill does not provide a single additional dollar for schools.

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