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Archive for May, 2009

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.

Posted in: LEV News

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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.”

Posted in: Press Releases & Statements

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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.

Posted in: Advocacy and Activism

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