Archive for February, 2014

The LEV Annual Breakfast Panelists

Meeghan Black

Meeghan Black will host our Annual Breakfast.

We hope you will join the League of Education Voters at our annual breakfast on March 11 at the Seattle Sheraton to learn how, through high-quality early learning, we not only change the beginning of the story, we change the WHOLE story.

Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist Meeghan Black will host our event and Washington First Lady Trudi Inslee will moderate a panel of early learning advocates and experts.

Panelists include: Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess, Seattle Children’s Hospital pediatrician Dr. Michelle Terry, South Shore PK–8 Principal Keisha Scarlett, and Trilogy International Partners Chair John Stanton. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Early Learning, LEV News

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Washington voters step up for schools and support $5 billion in local levies

Last week, in nearly 200 local elections across the state, Washington voters overwhelming supported their local school levies, approving $5.4 billion dollars in funding for schools.

While a few elections are still too close to call and the results will not be certified until February 25, of the 194 levies that passed, 150 were for maintenance and operations and raised nearly $4.9 billion total for districts across the state. Forty-three capital levies and one transportation levy also passed.

Fifty-four of the levies passed thanks to simple majority, a 2007 voter-approved constitutional amendment supported by the League of Education Voters. Between 2008 and 2013, more than $4.7 billion was raised for schools through local levies.

In many districts, local levies make up 25 percent or more of the total operating costs of their schools. These local dollars often pay for necessary school costs like staff salaries, textbooks, or a sixth period in school—a far cry from the “extras” they were originally intended to provide.

In January 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in McCleary v. Washington that the state was not meeting its constitutionally mandated duty to fully fund basic education. The court ordered the legislature to overhaul how education is funded in the state by 2018. Last year, the legislature added nearly $1 billion to support K–12 basic education funding and gap closing strategies and programs.

Posted in: Blog, Elections, Funding, LEV News

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What a college and career ready high school diploma means

The field of Human Centered Design & Engineering is growing, and more than 80% of the program’s graduates are employed within 6 months of graduation. But Stephanie White, an undergraduate advisor in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington, says that even though the undergraduate program has been flooded with applications, a lot of the students who want to study engineering in her department can’t—they simply don’t have the prerequisites to qualify. “Many students find out their junior year of high school that they don’t have the prerequisites to study STEM in college—by then it’s too late to take the courses they need.”

Sadly, Stephanie’s experience isn’t unusual. Only 4 in 10 graduating seniors meet the basic admissions requirements to get into a public university in Washington. And nearly 60% of students who attend community or technical college must take remediation classes to get to those basic 4-year college admissions requirements. In other words, many students must pay tuition to learn what they should have been taught in public high school. Help us to change this for Washington students by signing a petition in support of a college and career ready diploma.


Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Legislative session, LEV News, STEM

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Progress in Olympia on gap-closing legislation

The House Education committee voted a number of bills out of committee this morning, including one of LEV’s priorities, 3SHB 1680, which focuses on closing the opportunity and achievement gaps utilizing a number of different strategies.

Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos is the primary sponsor of the bill, which was first introduced during the 2013 legislative session. The bill is based on recommendations from the Education Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee, which Representative Santos co-chairs, including: addressing disproportionality in school discipline, educator cultural competence, instructing English language learners (ELLs), ELL accountability, disaggregated student data, and the recruitment and retention of educators.

“The work needed to address the opportunity gap is a multifaceted issue, and it needs a multifaceted approach in order to purely address it. 1680 does that,” testified Beth Richer, a member of the League of Education Voters Government Relations team, during a House Education Committee session on Monday.

Washington students need champions, like Representative Santos and her colleagues in the House Education Committee, who are committed to closing the opportunity and achievement gaps. Stay up-to-date on the progress of the bill through the Washington legislature website and Chris Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup.

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Legislative session, LEV News

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The Early Start Act: The smart thing to do

Yesterday, members of the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee took an important step toward investing in high-quality early learning. The committee voted 8 to 5 to pass the Early Start Act out of committee.

The Early Start Act of 2014 was introduced by Representatives Ross Hunter and Ruth Kagi in the House (Bill HB 2377). The bill aims to increase the quality of childcare and preschool programs for low-income families in Washington through a combination of incentives and requirements. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Early Learning, Legislative session

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Maggie Wilkens: Change Agent

Maggie WilkensMaggie Wilkens joined the League of Education Voters (LEV) in 2009, initially as a part-time intern and ultimately as our State Field Coordinator. She recently left our organization to take a position at the Parents Union as their Director of Marketing, starting today.

In her time in LEV’s Field department, Maggie worked with diverse communities throughout Washington, including student populations and through online organizing. Maggie was instrumental in starting the conversation about race, equity, and disproportionality in school discipline at LEV. She believes that her experience growing up and attending school in Seattle Public Schools gave her a ground-level view of structural inequity.

Maggie is a basketball coach for Lakeside School in her spare time, and she credits her experience as a coach with teaching her a lot about community organizing. Her skills in organizing, combined with her commitment to racial and social justice, allowed Maggie to make a huge impact in both the organization’s direction and in the lives of those she worked with. Maggie was a key member of LEV’s current campaign on transforming school discipline policies, which led to the introduction of statewide legislation in 2013 to keep more kids in school and end the school-to-prison pipeline. According to LEV’s State Field Director Kelly Munn, “Maggie can do anything you ask her to do. Maggie is determined and thoughtful about her work and she does not allow roadblocks to deter her from her goal.”

Maggie had a huge impact on our organization, and we will all miss her greatly, but I am also thrilled that she has found an organization where she can continue working toward improving public education for all of our kids. Please join me in wishing Maggie the best in her next adventure at the Parents Union!

Posted in: Blog, LEV News

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Activist of the Month: Betsy Cohen

At the League of Education Voters (LEV), we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state. We are pleased to announce our Activist of the Month for February: Betsy Cohen. Read more about Betsy’s experience as an education activist.

Betsy CohenBetsy Cohen testified in Olympia for the first time two weeks ago in favor of the college and career ready diploma (HB 2181). That might come as a surprise to those who know her, since Betsy has been involved in education advocacy for years—since moving to Washington state when her children were young.

Betsy joined her children’s elementary school PTA and, with her background as a law professor, was quickly appointed as their legislative representative. Over the years, she has organized dozens of trips to Olympia and helped others testify (but she never had the opportunity to testify herself). (more…)

Posted in: Activist of the Month, Advocacy and Activism, Blog, Legislative session

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