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Archive for September, 2016

Celebrating Our 2016 Donors: Third Quarter

July 1–September 30, 2016

Thank you!Donations are made to the League of Education Voters (LEV) and the League of Education Voters Foundation by individuals, groups, and businesses throughout the community. These generous donations from you who believe in high-quality public education allow us to ensure measurable progress toward LEV’s vision that every student in Washington state receives an excellent public education from cradle to career.

Below are our donors from the third quarter of 2016, July 1–September 30. We regret any omissions or errors to the donor list. Please contact our Major Gifts Director, Robin Engle, by emailing robin@educationvoters.org or by calling 206.728.6448 with any questions or to correct any information.

Thank you to all of our donors!

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Posted in: Blog, Development, LEV News

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A Teacher’s Perspective on Contracts and Collective Bargaining

By Cate Simmers, LEV Board Member

Teacher Helping Student - League of Education VotersAs conversations around the McCleary decision continue to spur discussion around the state, I’ve been prompted to think about my teaching career over the past 15 years and the changes that I have seen during this time. Yes, there have been significant changes (the implementation and implications of the Common Core State Standards being one of the biggest), but many programs and structures remain the same. As our society changes and as our students’ needs change, I wonder if it’s time to consider policy changes that affect these structures? Following are some thoughts around two education issues that I believe should be viewed through a new lens.

The Teacher’s Contract

Currently, teachers are paid by the state for 180 days of work, the 180 days of contact time with students. Different districts around the state use creative ways to add days to this contract or to use regular early release or late arrival schedules to allow time for teachers to participate in collaborative work or professional development opportunities. These different approaches create an inequity between districts and the supports that are offered to their teaching staff. What if, instead, the contract changed to a year-round contract?

A year- round contract is not to be confused with a year-round school year. In this proposal, the school year would remain the same for students, but teachers would be asked to extend the number of contracted work days. Extending the contract an extra week or two after the school year ends and/or before the school year begins would give the opportunity for teachers to receive professional development and to work with their colleagues to plan high-quality, rigorous instruction as demanded by Common Core.

Currently, teachers often take time off from work or take classes once the workday is done when receiving professional development. Additionally, it is a teacher’s tradition to work late into the evening and on weekends and breaks when collaborating with their colleagues and planning for their instruction. Instead, having dedicated time in the summer to complete these activities would allow for fresh, energetic participation. It would also give the opportunity for teachers around the state to gather together to learn from and work with one another. Lastly, it would bring more equity to our profession and compensate teachers for the work that is required outside of the classroom.

Salary Bargaining at the State Level

Teacher salaries in Washington state are provided by two funding sources. The majority of a teacher’s salary comes from the state and is then supplemented at the district level. This is called TRI (time, responsibility and incentive) pay and the amount of compensation varies from district to district. Teachers receive different amounts in TRI compensation based on what is bargained at the district level and districts are increasingly using their levy dollars to fund teacher salaries. In my district, over 25% of teacher salary comes from TRI pay. There are two relevant issues at play in this scenario.

First, teachers receive inequitable compensation depending on the district in which they work. Many of my colleagues have left one district for another simply because the pay was better. Higher paying districts tend to attract higher quality teachers, which can lead to an inequity in teaching staff from district to district.

Second, if salary bargaining was completed at the state level, individual districts would be able to spend their bargaining time working on issues that affect their population’s individual needs. Instead of designating a large percentage of their budget toward teacher salaries, districts could use this money in other ways. I think of my current district and the lack of staff and resources that we are able to fund. Examples include counselors, librarians, and intervention specialists as well as curriculum resources. District bargaining could potentially focus on needs such as these instead of teacher compensation.

As Washington state grapples with the definition of basic education and how to allot funds to pay for it, we are beginning to look at education policy through new eyes. As a teacher, I welcome this timely opportunity for us to examine traditional education structures as well.

#BeyondBasic

Posted in: Blog, Funding, Teacher Prep

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Listen to the Superintendent of Public Instruction Candidates in Their Own Words

Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates Erin Jones (L) and Chris Reykdal

Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates Erin Jones (L) and Chris Reykdal

The League of Education Voters interviewed both candidates for Washington state Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

Listen to Erin Jones HERE

Listen to Chris Reykdal HERE

Note: The League of Education Voters did not promote or endorse either candidate.

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Elections, ESSA, Funding, Higher Education, Media Clips, Podcast, School Discipline, Teacher Prep

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Teachers: The Most Important Part of Our Education System

By the LEV Policy Team

Teacher Compensation - League of Education VotersWe begin our discussion of redefining basic education with the most important part of our education system: our teachers. Research consistently shows that teachers have the strongest school-based impact on student performance, but that is not reflected in their current pay. The Washington State Supreme Court is requiring the Legislature to increase the state contribution to teacher salary as part of its duty to fully fund education. As the state grapples with how to meet its McCleary obligations, we must continue to advocate for meaningful investments in education—which starts with investing in teachers.

Teacher salary in most districts comes from a combination of state and local levy funding. Currently, the state pays districts only $35,700 for first-year teachers with a bachelor’s degree. To provide a wage that accurately reflects the job responsibilities of teachers, districts use local levies to supplement state funded salary. The ability to pay teachers additional salary and the amount of additional salary varies from district to district and is dependent on how much districts are able to raise through local levies.

The average teacher in Washington gets paid $64,867, but the state only pays for $53,767 of that. The state must contribute more towards teacher pay, but simply changing who pays for teacher salary will not change the experience of teachers or students. Improvements to our state’s compensation system are needed to better recruit, retain, and reward high-quality teaching, including increasing starting teacher salary.

Our current state salary schedule focuses on years of experience and educational attainment rather than difficulty of the teaching assignment, job performance, or teaching certifications. Aligning teacher compensation to career advancement and attaining higher certification levels, as recommended by the Compensation Technical Working Group, would better align salary increases with the knowledge and skills teachers have accumulated. Teachers who have demonstrated excellence in teaching should also be given opportunities to take on additional leadership roles, such as serving as a mentor for beginning teachers, and be compensated for these additional contributions.

Ideally, compensation reform would include an extended contract that more accurately reflects the time and work teachers dedicate to their students outside of the school day or year, like evaluating student work or meeting with students after school. Providing teachers with a competitive salary along with an extended contract can allow more time and resources for parent teacher conferences, job-aligned professional learning, and lesson planning. An extended contract allows for restructuring professional development so it limits disruptions for students and families during the school year.

Establishing a better way to compensate teachers will help to attract and retain effective teachers, but compensation isn’t the only way we should be investing in teachers. Dissatisfaction with professional support, leadership, and other working conditions are leading causes for teacher turnover. We need a thoughtful approach to more effectively retain high-quality teachers that is informed by what causes teachers to leave the classroom. If Washington wants to address teacher retention in the long-term, we must do a better job of supporting teachers and school building leaders to tap into their incredible drive and passion for their students. We’ll be exploring ways to do this in upcoming blogs.

Our teachers are our most effective resource for closing the achievement gap and improving student outcomes. How can we move beyond the status quo and rethink the way that we compensate our educators?

#BeyondBasic

Read LEV board member Cate Simmers’ view on teacher compensation, A Teacher’s Perspective on Contracts and Collective Bargaining

Read Part 1 of our McCleary blog series, Rethinking Our Education System

Posted in: Blog, Funding, Teacher Prep

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Education Advocate September 2016

ED Advocate, League of Education Voters Newsletter, September

Greetings

Chris Korsmo
Chris Korsmo, CEO

It’s hard to believe it’s back-to-school time already. It feels like just yesterday when our kids wrapped up the school year in June and now we’re back at it again. At least the NFL gets underway tonight.  And I’m ready for some football.

Here at the League of Education Voters, we’re drilling down on the opportunities and implications of the McCleary education funding lawsuit. We’re starting a blog series, so you can know where we’re leaning. Read the first installment here. And we want to know what you’re thinking, as well. This is a journey, so come aboard!

In the meantime, I invite you to read our September newsletter to learn more about our activist of the month, Col. Felix Vargas, and an upcoming free Lunchtime LEVinar on Expanded Learning Opportunities, featuring our partners from School’s Out Washington.

Also, I would like thank everyone who sent in questions for our podcast interviews with state Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) candidates Erin Jones and Chris Reykdal. We will post the interviews by the end of the month and continue to publicize OSPI candidate forums on the LEV website.

Lastly, I’d like to let you know that you can now support the LEV Foundation when you shop online through Amazon Smile. Every time you shop, Amazon will donate 0.5 percent of what you spend to the LEV Foundation. Visit Amazon Smile to learn more today and select LEV Foundation as the charity you support.

Thank you, and thanks for all you do for kids.

Chris Korsmo signature

 

 

Chris Korsmo

LEV’s Activist of the Month

Felix Vargas is LEV's September Activist of the Month At the League of Education Voters, 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 September: Felix Vargas.

Read more about Col. Vargas’ work advocating for public education—especially when it comes to equity in education around the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Read more

Lunchtime LEVinar: Expanded Learning Opportunities

LEVinar: Expanded Learning OpportunitiesEducation does not stop when the school bell rings. So young people’s access to high-quality expanded learning opportunities—afterschool, in the summer and throughout the year – should grow.

Join Stephanie Lennon and David Beard from School’s Out Washington to learn more about expanded learning, its role in helping students succeed and grow, and how you can help make this happen. This 30-minute Lunchtime LEVinar will take place on Thursday September 22, at 12:30 p.m. Learn more or register

OSPI Candidate Forums

OSPI Candidate ForumsWashington Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates Erin Jones and Chris Reykdal are continuing to speak at forums around the state.

See them September 20 in Tacoma and September 28 in Seattle. Also, watch for LEV-exclusive podcast interviews later this month at educationvoters.org and on LEV’s Facebook and Twitter pages!
Learn more

LEV’s vision for McCleary

LEV's vision for McClearyWhat is required of our educational system will continue to change over time. We need to develop a program of basic education that can evolve based on current and future student needs and a funding mechanism that is flexible enough to support that shifting program. Let’s envision a program of basic education that is aspirational and that creates a new path forward for Washington state. Read more

Get Involved

LUNCHTIME LEVINARS

September 22, 2016 | Expanded Learning Opportunities, Online webinar


HELP SUPPORT THE LEAGUE OF EDUCATION VOTERS
| Donate online


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Posted in: Education Advocate, ESSA, LEV News

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Activist of the Month: Felix Vargas

League of Education Voters - September 2016 Activist of the Month

September Activist of the Month Col. Felix Vargas

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 September: Felix Vargas.

Retired Colonel Felix Vargas of Pasco, Washington, has taken on the charge of helping the League of Education Voters understand the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) at a local level so that we can ensure that children who need additional support are not denied tutoring services promised by the federal government. Col. Vargas advocates with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and speaks regularly with Senator Patty Murray’s representatives and the local Pasco School District, which has not yet provided in writing the district’s plans for tutoring services.

About a year ago, Col. Vargas met LEV Community Organizer Ruvine Jiménez at a Pasco Citizens for Better Schools forum to support a school levy and he now meets with Ruvine at least once a week. He has since invited Ruvine to participate in two meetings with Congressman Dan Newhouse. These sessions have provided an opportunity to explain to the Congressman why it is important to maintain ESSA funding for the Tri-Cities region. Col. Vargas is working on what ESSA means for the community, such as adding resources for early learning programs like a pre-K learning center, and looking at how schools provide information and how they are evaluated.

Thanks to his work, the Tri-Cities community now has access to senior levels of leadership in government and education. Deputy State Superintendent Gil Mendoza has recently spoken on two occasions to the community on ESSA. Col. Vargas participated in an OSPI candidate forum in July and is helping to organize another similar forum this fall.

Col. Vargas also meets with a Latino parents’ group monthly to discuss why students are under-performing. He explains, “Beyond the obvious factors of language, culture and socioeconomic standing, we believe that the quality of instruction and teaching credentials have to be assessed and weighed as well. Our parents want a 360-degree review.” He listens closely to what the Latino parents say, and then holds quarterly meeting with the Pasco School District’s Parents Advisory Committee.

Col. Vargas is not shy about talking to anyone. He held concurrent careers in the U.S. Government as a military and civilian officer. He served as a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. State Department and as a U.S. Army Reserve officer. Col. Vargas served two tours of duty as an Army Ranger and Special Forces officer in Vietnam. After retiring from the U.S. government, he entered the corporate world, serving as manager of sales and marketing for an American helicopter company in Mexico City, where he sold helicopters to the Mexican government and the private sector.

From 2006 – 2010, Col. Vargas returned to Washington, DC, to champion education and training opportunities for the newest generation of U.S. military veterans returning from wars in the Middle East. He received a White House appointment as member, then chairman, of the U.S. Advisory Committee for Veterans Business Affairs during this time. In April 2010, he accepted an assignment to work with U.S. and international agencies assisting Haiti following the catastrophic earthquake in January 2010. Col. Vargas lived in Haiti for a year.

In 2012, he returned to his hometown of Pasco, Washington, where his focus now is on his community in the Tri-Cities. He hit the ground running, forming the Consejo Latino (Latino Council) to serve as a discussion group on issues of interest to a diverse and dynamic Hispanic community, getting involved in community policing and economic development of Latino businesses.

Two years ago, Col. Vargas added advocacy for voters’ rights, rights for injured agricultural workers, and education. He started reading and learning about the local education landscape. He recalls, “I was surprised to find out that two of our elementary schools have 98 percent Latino students, and the schools overall are 70 percent Latino in the Pasco district. Times sure have changed.” Col. Vargas was the only Latino in his high school graduating class, and the only other Latino(a) in the school at the time was his younger sister.

Education has now become a core issue for Col. Vargas. He recently met with the superintendent of Educational Service District 123 in Pasco to discuss developments and approach in such areas as early learning and bilingual education. He always expects and looks forward to civil and productive conversation. He says, “I will continue to collaborate with community providers and other partners at the State and Federal levels to seek solutions to the many challenges of education for all students. Let’s keep up the drumbeat.”

Posted in: Activist of the Month, Advocacy and Activism, Closing the Gaps, Early Learning, ESSA, School Discipline

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