Archive for January, 2010

PreK Now. It's Basic!

Today LEV Foundation board member Janet Levinger testified in support of HB 2731 – including preschool for at-risk 3- and 4-year olds in basic education. I have pasted it below. Janet was joined by 20 parents, providers, sheriffs (yes, there were two!) and child advocates who also testified in support of including preschool in basic education. At least 15 people also signed in to support 2731 without testifying.

Thank you Janet for standing up for Washington’s youngest learners.

Good afternoon. For the record, my name is Janet Levinger. I am here today as a community volunteer and child advocate. I currently serve on the boards of United Way of King County, Social Venture Partners, the League of Education Voters, Child Care Resources, and the Bellevue Schools Foundation. I am also on the advancement and communications committees of Thrive by Five Washington.

I am here today to speak in support of HB 2731 and applaud your vision to include PreK in basic education. I also like the mention of infant toddler programs in HB 2867.

Ever since I joined to Child Care Resources board – 13 years ago this month – my husband and I have focused our philanthropy and volunteer time on improving outcomes for all children by ensuring they have a strong state in life. Here’s why:

Imagine yourself as a 5-year-old. It’s your first day at school. You have a new lunch box and a new backpack and you’re all excited. But when you get to school, you have a hard time. You have trouble sitting still to listen to a story. You fight with other kids over a toy. You get in trouble with the teacher because you can’t wait until the end of circle time to play with the blocks. Other kids laugh at you when you don’t know how to write your name and have trouble holding onto a pencil. By the end of the week, the teacher now that you are one of the kids who is not ready for school and she can guess that you are one of the kids who will not graduate from high school.

Imagine yourself as a 5-year old – and you are already projected to fail.

My husband and I invest in quality early education because is shows that it makes a huge difference for kids.

Kids in quality programs enter kindergarten with a solid foundation of social skills and learning skills. They are less likely to repeat a grade, to be placed in special education, to commit a crime, or to become pregnant as a teen.

My husband and I invest in quality early education because it is a good investment for our community.

Research from prominent economists has shows that for every dollar invested in high quality PreK saves taxpayers up to $7 later. Not only are there savings from remedial and juvenile justice programs, but over the long-term, these kids are more likely to graduate from high school, gain stable employment, and contribute positively to our community.

Protecting PreK under basic education would ensure that the program could not be cut and that all eligible children would be served.

I grew up in Iowa and when I was 10-years old, my family moved to a new house. We were one of the first in a new development. My mother planted all sorts of trees – but they were scrawny twigs when she put them in no bigger than I was. I asked her what she was doing and she told me she was planting trees so we would have shade from the sun, apples to pick in the summer, and privacy from our neighbors. I remember looking around from our prairie hilltop and noticing that we did not have any neighbors and I thought she was crazy. But of course she was right. Over time, the small plants she carefully watered and pruned sheltered us from the sun, gave us fruit, and offered us privacy from the neighbors who did move in.

I know it’s hard to think 5, 12, or 20 years ahead. But I hope you will be like my mother and have the foresight to know that caring for our children now will bring many benefits in the future. Imagine that 5-year old – we can offer her a hopeful future instead of failure.

Including a program of early learning in Basic Education will guarantee that our limited resources are focused where the can make the most difference in the life of every child, and to our community.

Thank you.

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Guest Blog: A parent activist's day in Olympia

The following is a guest blog from Sherry Krainick, a parent and education advocate in the Northshore School District.

I believe that public education is our largest public works program and, at the same time, potentially our most effective social justice program providing opportunities to all the children in our state.  When you are passionate about all kids receiving the basic education laid forth in the Washington State Constitution, it hardly seems like work to leave Bothell at 6am, arrive in Olympia at 7:45 and start a day full of meetings with as many legislators as possible to ask them to support legislative changes that will make Washington State a competitor for the Federal Race to the Top grants.  Here’s a recap of my day in Olympia on Thursday, January 14, 2009.

I met with eight legislators and five legislative assistants to request the legislator’s assistance in passing legislation to meet the four assurances under the Race to the Top (RTTT) grant program so our state can apply for the grants.   At noon, I attended the Race to the Top luncheon sponsored by the Excellent Schools Now Coalition.  The Coalition is focused on making sure the groundwork exists for Washington State to be an applicant and hopefully a recipient of a portion of the $4.3 billion in federal RTTT grants.  The luncheon was held at the Governor Hotel.  The room was overflowing with roughly 100 attendees including  legislators, coalition members and advocates from around the state.

Bill Gates Sr. was the keynote speaker and stressed the importance of improving education in Washington State–a state that is 4th in the nation in high technology/science jobs, but 46th in the nation in graduating students from four year institutions who can fill those jobs.  Our education system must be changed and updated; the RTTT grants will help us further work that was started with the passage of HB 2261 last year.   RTTT will move the focus away from inputs and on to outputs.    Lisa Macfarlane of LEV shared with us that Washington State must pass legislation to meet the four assurances of the RTTT application criteria including:  effective teachers, state intervention in struggling schools, better data systems and higher standards.

We then heard from three very inspirational speakers: Andrew Miller, 9th grade teacher at Technology Access Foundation Academy, and Pat Erwin, principal at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, who focused on doing things differently when more of the same doesn’t improve outcomes for the students.  They described amazing programs with amazing results in areas with higher rates of at-risk students, who now enjoy the same grades as their peers across these schools!  Kudos to these programs!  I felt most inspired by Thelma Jackson, President of the Washington Alliance of Black School Educators.  What inspired me?  I read the Achievement Gap reports that were published last year.  Ms. Jackson acknowledges the achievement gaps among students of color, but indicated that those students can meet the challenges of educational programs that include rigor and have high standards.  She spoke about how our minorities are becoming majorities in many parts of our communities and that we need to raise the bar and provide the additional services to close the gap, beginning with Early Learning.  RTTT grants will provide the foundation for many of the programs outlined in HB 2261.  By closing the achievement gap, these students will be ready for career or continuing post-secondary education leading to the opportunity of success. The American Dream!

We also heard from Randy Dorn, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Judy Hartmann from Governor Gregoire’s office and from Jeff Vincent of the State Board of Education.  They are all working together to prepare a proposal from the Governor which we should see in the near future.  The legislature needs to make some changes Lisa Macfarlane spoke about to pave the way for RTTT eligibility.  Many advocates spoke with their legislators on Thursday to ask for their support when the proposal is announced.  Please encourage your Senators and Representatives to support the changes necessary to make Washington competitive in the application process for RTTT grants.

It was a long day, but my passion and the thoughts of my three sons at home kept me going.  It was great to walk into our home at 7pm and tell them about my day and hear about theirs.  I want my sons’ public education filled with all the opportunities available to them and I want that for all the children in Washington!

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