The League of Education Voters partnered with the Office of Educational Ombuds this fall to offer trainings to parents and family members of public school students to help them better engage with schools and participate in their children’s education.
The Office of Educational Ombuds (OEO) in Washington state is a statewide agency that works to resolves complaints, disputes, and problems between families and Washington state elementary and secondary public schools in all areas that affect student learning. Their mission is to “promote equity in education and support the ability of public school students to fully participate and benefit from public education in the State of Washington.”
OEO developed the “Finding your Voice” to prepare parents and family members of public school students to better engage with schools and participate in their children’s education. The training covers the basics of education, such as how a school district is set up, how public education works, and some basic advocacy techniques. However, budget cuts over the last few years have made it more difficult for OEO to offer training sessions.
At the same time, LEV’s new Yakima community organizer Micaela Razo, a parent with kids in Grandview public schools, suggested that an OEO parent training in her community would be well-received.
LEV partnered with OEO this fall to offer trainings in Highline and Grandview, near Yakima. The Highline training was attended primarily by paraprofessionals, family liaisons, and paid staff in the district. According to Kelly Munn, this trained the support staff and families working with the district, giving parents a voice within the district.
The Grandview training was conducted almost entirely in Spanish, Kelly says. One of the unexpected issues LEV discovered during that training was that many of the parents are either undocumented or have friends who are undocumented, so they are reticent to complete a state background check (a requirement for volunteers in all schools). This prevents some Grandview parents from participating in their children’s school. These parents want to be involved in their children’s education, but cannot be, so learning to advocate provides them with a way to participate.
LEV found both trainings to be a valuable experience and deeply admires the work that OEO is doing to promote equity in education in Washington state.