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Archive for December, 2016

Increasing Teacher Diversity in the Edmonds School District

Diana White Edmonds School Board - League of Education VotersBy Diana White, Edmonds School Board, Guest Blogger

Many industries, companies, and systems have placed a growing emphasis on diversity in hiring, and the education arena is no different. Most of these organizations have found difficulty finding ways to increase their numbers of ethnically diverse employees. It is a difficult proposition.

The Edmonds School District, in coordination with several partners, believes we have found a way to move the needle to hire and retain more diverse candidates entering the teaching workforce.

Historically, the Edmonds School District teaching staff has been largely white, with nearly 92% representation in 2016.* However, the ethnic makeup of the district’s student population is over 50% non-white. Students of color now comprise the majority of our population, and they have been increasingly vocal about teachers, educators, administrators, and curriculum that reflect their diverse community.

The Edmonds School District’s early initiatives were similar to many districts – attending diversity recruitment fairs, specific publications, word of mouth, etc. As a result, the number of new teachers of color would slowly move in the positive direction, only to be thwarted by our inability to retain qualified teachers of color.

The Edmonds District and its team realized that a ‘grow your own’ model would be needed to provide the best success at recruiting, retaining and training teachers of color. Over the course of 18 months, the District, along with the school board, post-secondary educational institutions, a local philanthropic foundation, and a nonprofit, formed the Teachers of Color Program.

Here’s how it works:

Current classified employees who work in the Edmonds School District are eligible to apply for a Teachers of Color Scholarship. Many of these employees already work with our students as para-educators, coaches, and behavior specialists, and they are passionate about our students. The classified staff is more ethnically diverse, they live locally, and many are parents of children who have graduated from or attend our schools. Some have post-secondary education, but all have a desire to earn a teaching certificate.

A designated district employee is another integral part of the process. The Teacher Education Advancement Coordinator promotes and assists all employees who wish to enter the teaching profession. Examples include assisting potential students with financial aid opportunities and grants, or identifying pathways to alternative certification programs. A great amount of work has been done to develop the application process, interview, and vet the candidates for the Teachers of Color Scholarship program. The inaugural round produced 18 candidates, of which 4 were selected as our initial cohort.  More candidates will be added as funding permits.

Our candidates are expected to undergo significant training on critical race theory, participate in mentoring programs, and advocate for other potential candidates. All are leaders in our schools, and role models for our students.

The funding model has focused primarily on a generous grant from the Hazel Miller Foundation. We also receive tuition waivers from Edmonds Community College, and hope to expand the number of tuition waivers in the future. Our research found that students historically struggle with financial barriers such as childcare costs, test and book fees, transportation to and from school, and inability to take time off for student teaching. The Hazel Miller grant allows flexibility to help students with living stipends, emergency expenses, and other costs outside of tuition that help the student succeed in attaining their teaching certification. Some of our students come to us already with a degree, but many will require assistance with the bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate. Our relationship with candidates will continue for several years, and support and assistance is tailored to each Teachers of Color recipient.

The biggest challenge to the Teachers of Color Program is I-200, Washington’s affirmative action initiative passed by voters in 1998. This law restricts hiring based on sex, age and ethnic diversity. No program monies are passed through the district, but instead are funded through a 501c3 nonprofit founded specifically to support this cause. The Teachers of Color Foundation was formed to provide a place for grants, tuition waivers, and other financial support for this program.

It took the collaboration of many to develop the Teachers of Color Program – a process that can be replicated in other districts. This program has the potential to make a visible impact on the ethnic diversity of educators in our district and mirror the diversity of our student population as we adapt to changing demographics across all our communities.

Teachers of Color Foundation - League of Education Voters

* Edmonds teacher diversity data from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)

Posted in: Teachers

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Seattle Public Schools Budget Shortfall FAQs

By Jake Vela, LEV Senior Policy Analyst

  • Rear view of class raising hands - League of Education VotersHow big is the budget shortfall for the 2017-18 school year?
    • Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has recently announced that they have an expected budget shortfall of $74 million for the 2017-18 school year. The $74 million shortfall would be about 10% of the $790 million budget recommendation adopted by Seattle Public Schools in 2016-17.
  • Why is Seattle Public Schools expecting a $74 million budget deficit in 2017-18?
    • The expiring of a temporary increase in how much the state allows Seattle to raise through local levies (levy lid) accounts for $30 million of the shortfall. The other $44 million is because the staffing levels agreed to by the district and the unions in the most recent contracts exceeded the funding levels they knew would be available in the 2017-18 school year.
  • Why is the state levy lid being reduced starting January 2018?
    • In 2010 the legislature temporarily increased the amount of money school districts could raise through local levies (levy lid). This increase was intended to be a band aid to allow districts, who were able to pass additional levies, to make-up for the reduction in state funding for education due to the economic recession. This temporary increase is set to expire at the end of calendar year 2017 as specified in the original legislation in 2010.
  • Is SPS expecting a budget deficit in 2016-17?
    • Yes, the 2016-17 budget adopted by SPS expected to spend $35 million more than they anticipated to get from the federal, state, and local sources. SPS was able to do this because they spent $35 million in reserves they had remaining from previous years.
  • Is this approach to budgeting by SPS sustainable?
    • The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction recommends that districts end each school year with reserves equaling at least 5% of their annual budget to be able to address unexpected changes in costs or funding support from local, state, or federal funding sources. To meet the 5% goal SPS would need to maintain a reserve of $39.5 million to remain in good financial health. According to the 2016-17 adopted budget Seattle is expected to end the School year with an ending fund balance of $39.9 million which would be just enough to meet the 5% reserve fund goal.
  • How has the level of state funding changed since the beginning of the recession in 2008?
    • Adjusted for inflation the state is contributing 14% more per-student for K-12 education in fiscal year 2017 than they did in fiscal year 2009.
  • When did Seattle Public School agree to the salary and staffing levels that created this budget deficit?
    • Seattle Public Schools agreed to their most recent collective bargaining agreement in September 2015 after the state had passed their most recent budget in July 2015. The district agreed to this budget following the strike at the start of the 2015-16 school year. The recent and future salary increases and staffing levels agreed to by SPS and the unions in their 2015 Collective Bargaining Agreements set district staffing levels and salary increases through the 2017-18 school year
  • How much of a school district’s budget is dedicated to staffing costs?
    • Over 80% of the average school district’s budget is from staffing costs.
  • What is a reduction in force (RIF) notice?
    • It is the notice a district sends out to existing staff that may need to be laid off if the district will not have sufficient funds in the following school year. Receiving a RIF notice does not mean an employee will be losing their job, but it does mean they will be in a pool of employees that may be laid off.
  • What determines who will receive a RIF notice?
    • The district will send out RIF notices to teachers, support staff, and other staff positions based on the district’s plan to cope with the budget shortfall.
  • What determines which employees do or do not receive a RIF notice?
    • Who does and does not receive a RIF notice is tied to the level of experience an employee has, so teachers with less experience will be more likely to receive a RIF notice than more experienced employees. New and beginning teachers are more often found in schools with higher levels of low-income students. Teachers, staff, and students in these schools will experience more uncertainty in their school building than other schools.
  • Will the budget deficit be solved before the district would need to send out RIF notices?
    • The legislature is expected to invest more money in basic education in the 2017 legislative session, but a final budget isn’t expected to be completed before the district completes their budget preparations for the 2017-18 school year.
  • How much does $74 million mean on a per-student basis?
    • $74 million translates to a budget shortfall of $1,407 per SPS student. The state would need to increase education funding by approximately $1.5 billion for the 2017-18 school year, one-year before the court mandated deadline of 2018-19, for Washington to experience a funding increase of $1,400 per-student statewide.
  • Are other districts experiencing similar budget shortfalls?
    • In the future other districts may communicate to their communities that they are expecting a budget shortfall because of the levy cliff or other budgeting challenges, but as of December 15, 2016 we are not aware of other districts publically stating they expect to have a budget shortfall in the 2017-18 school year.

Posted in: Funding

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Education Advocate December 2016

ED Advocate, League of Education Voters Newsletter, December

Greetings

Chris Korsmo
Chris Korsmo, CEO

Now that the election is officially in the rear window, we can focus on creating better opportunities for each of our kids to succeed. Join our free Lunchtime LEVinar December 20th to learn what we can expect in the upcoming legislative session.

Also, LEV has released our 2017 Strategic Plan, we’ve traveled to California to learn about their new system of education funding, and we are creating podcast interviews with influential legislators and thought leaders.

Read below for more about our work.

Thanks for all you do for kids. We couldn’t do it without you.
Chris Korsmo signature

 

 

Chris Korsmo

2017 League of Education Voters Strategic Plan

League of Education Voters 2017 Strategic Plan

Now, more than ever, we need to come together. We are all responsible for ensuring that every Washington student receives a quality public education from cradle to career that prepares them for success. It should prepare them for stable, family-wage jobs, meaningful participation in our democracy, and contributing to the well-being of their families and community. However you define success, a quality education is the key. Read more

Daniel Zavala, League of Education Voters Director of Policy and Government Relations

Education Funding Takeaways from California

Two weeks ago, Daniel Zavala, LEV’s new Director of Policy and Government Relations, went with a Washington delegation to Sacramento, the birthplace of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), California’s shift from state-controlled funding to local decision-making. Learn whether LCFF can work here in Washington. Learn more

Senator Christine Rolfes and Rep. Ruth Kagi - League of Education Voters

Podcast Interviews with Key Legislators

LEV has begun a series of podcast interviews with influential policymakers and thought leaders across Washington state. We recently asked Senator Christine Rolfesabout the Education Funding Task Force, and Rep. Ruth Kagi spoke about the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Children and Families. Listen to Senator Rolfes HERE. Listen to Representative Kagi HERE

 
McCleary Family - League of Education Voters

What to Expect in the 2017 Legislative Session

The McCleary education funding lawsuit will likely take center stage in the upcoming legislative session. But this year, several of the players are different. In our free December 20 webinar, LEV Director of Policy and Government Relations Daniel Zavala will explain the legislative landscape and answer your questions on how the 2017 session will unfold. Register HERE

Jake Vela and Julia Warth - League of Education Voters Policy Team

Learn About Education Funding in Washington

Curious about Washington’s education funding debate? See Julia Warth, Assistant Director of Policy and Government Relations, and Jake Vela, Senior Policy Analyst, present the basics of how our public education system works, thanks to TVW – Washington Public Affairs Network. Watch HERE

Get Involved

COMING UP

February 11, 2017 | Access, Equity, & Excellence: Annual Parent and Community Training, Tukwila Community Center, Tukwila
March 30, 2017 | LEV 2017 Annual Breakfast, Sheraton Hotel, Seattle


LUNCHTIME LEVINARS

December 20, 2016 | What to Expect in the 2017 Legislative Session, Online webinar


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Student Voice: Why I Want to Teach

By Camile Jones, guest blogger

Teaching student Camile Jones, League of Education Voters guest bloggerOne day, I was browsing the shelves in Seattle’s Douglas Truth library when I noticed a cookbook for children with attention deficit disorder and autism. I found it very interesting and useful, being that I was diagnosed with ADHD in elementary school. As I perused the recipes, I noticed that none of them contained sugar-based products, with the exception of the naturally occurring sugars in fresh fruit. I continued to read. Eventually, I was captivated by a quote from a top nutritionist who stated that the first meal we eat in the morning shapes the rest of our day.

Upon reading this, I reflected on my childhood and thought about all of the processed foods that both my mom and school gave me in the mornings, and how I might not have been labeled as a child with ADHD had I received the proper diet. I disagree with society’s popular notion that children who have trouble sitting still and/or paying attention in class are inclined to have ADHD, ADD, or any other mental disorder. In fact, I believe that these children are simply reacting to the copious amounts of sugar that they have been fed in their diets. The thought of this intrigued me so much that I did some diagnostic calculations of my own.

What I came up with me made my jaw drop. One cup of syrup has 214 grams of sugar. One waffle has 11 grams of sugar, and a cup of orange juice has 21 grams. That amounts to a grand total of 246 grams of sugar in one-half of an average elementary school meal, which is 221 extra grams of sugar than a growing boy or girl is supposed to consume per day, according to FDA guidelines. This is unacceptable, but before we start pointing fingers at the parents for such glaring nutritional mistakes, we need to look at the reasons why there is such a widespread lack of nutritional knowledge in general. While I do believe there should be mandatory classes to educate the parents, I also believe that the entire American school food system needs to be reformed. As it stands now, unhealthy, sugary meals devoid of nutrients are being dished out to the children who will grow to be the future of America.

After acquiring knowledge about the impact breakfast had on me as a child, I feel that I have a better understanding of myself, and the children that we as adults have the privilege of interacting with. As I continue my studies to become a teacher, I cannot wait to share my thoughts with not only my colleagues, but also with the parents who grant me the opportunity to educate their young: the future parents of the world.

This is why I want to teach.

 

“The more you know, the more you owe.” – Luis J. Rodriguez

 

Posted in: Teachers

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Education Funding Takeaways from California

By Daniel Zavala, Director of Policy and Government Relations

Daniel Zavala, League of Education Voters Director of Policy and Government RelationsTwo weeks ago, I went with a Washington delegation to Sacramento, the birthplace of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), California’s shift from state-controlled funding to local decision-making. Joined by fellow education advocates and stakeholders, including members of our state legislature, we met with members from California’s education community. This included staffers with government agencies, association members (e.g. California Teachers Association), and public advocates.

Our field trip was an exploration of the options available to our state in pursuing changes to our education funding system. California is just a few years into their model, and we got some great first-hand accounts of lessons learned and how they set up their system. However, the state is still grappling with exactly how they want to measure success, and districts are modifying their behavior based on their newfound spending freedom.

So what is the LCFF? The LCFF is a funding formula in California intended to provide resources more equitably to students with learning and socio-economic barriers, while providing greater flexibility to district leaders and school educators to serve and respond to their students’ needs.

California’s response to funding education fits squarely into three realms: the wild west of the 1960s and before, the Serrano* era of the 1970s where the state supreme court required equal funding of districts and wound up with over 40 restricted categorical funding areas leaving little flexibility in spending decisions, and the LCFF age that focuses on equitable funding based on student need. The shift from Serrano to the LCFF came after the Getting Down to Facts report highlighted issues and provided recommendations for a weighted funding model and shift to local control.

The LCFF operates under three funding streams: 1) a base grant that only varies based on the grade level band but is equal for all students across the state; 2) a supplemental grant of 20% more funding above the base grant for low-income, English-learners, and foster youth; and 3) a concentration grant of 50% more funding above the base grant for each student above a concentration threshold of 55% of students with high-needs (e.g. if a district has 60% economically disadvantaged students, then the 5% above that 55% threshold would generate the concentration grant increase). One important note is that special education funding is calculated and administered separately from the LCFF. Even without touching special education funding, this structure change resulted in a roughly $11B shift of resources toward students identified as high-need.

So now that districts have additional funds for students identified as high-need, what is the state doing to ensure fidelity of taxpayer money? In conjunction with the LCFF, districts compile a three-year Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) with annual updates that outlines how the allocation of funds will address state defined priority areas including: 1) basic services, 2) implementation of state standards, 3) parent involvement, 4) student achievement, 5) student engagement, 6) school climate, 7) course access, and 8) other student outcomes. These plans are then evaluated based on a rubric with indicators focused on: 1) academics, 2) college and career readiness, 3) graduation rates, 4) English-learners, 5) chronic absenteeism, and 6) suspension rates. Where districts are not implementing plans with success, a regional California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE) provides technical assistance and support. Where districts fail to improve** or implement recommendations from the CCEE, schools are referred to the State Superintendent of Instruction (SPI) for intervention.

Takeaways/Lessons Learned

I know that is a lot to take in, and even this overview doesn’t get into the granular details of the program. With some background knowledge about LCFF and its origin, it is also important to note the takeaways and guidance given to our Washington delegation. First, the state must track how dollars are being spent, and specifically, where dollars are being spent with academic success. When we are talking about fulfilling our Washington state constitutional requirement for ample funding of basic education, we have a right to know where those public funds are being spent. Second, LCFF was a huge culture shift for schools and districts in how they worked with budgets and funding. That shift has to be accompanied by capacity building so that districts can build expertise on how to use data to identify needs to drive spending decisions. After all, the additional money is only helpful when the spending decisions are informed and targeted. Third, to help build capacity, some of the additional funding needs to be spent on training. If our state wants to do this well, we need to make sure we actually focus on quality implementation and give our school leaders the skills to effectively shift their spending practices. Which leads me to the final takeaway: implementation has to be phased in, so that schools and districts have time and incentives to learn how to operate under a new structure without fear of reproach during that transition.

So what does this mean for Washington? I think the California example presents a good framework for us to learn and discuss what would work in Washington. The LCFF is what a diverse group of Californians decided their schools needed. Now we have to embark on a discussion with ALL education stakeholders to learn how we can create a system that works first and foremost for the benefit of our students. One thing is certain, the current system is serving only some of our students and schools well, but it is not serving ALL our students equitably.

Our trip to Sacramento sparked three thoughts that I will leave with you:

Should we focus our efforts on continued district-level budgeting control or school-based budgeting? For instance, there are roughly 600 schools in California with majority high-need student populations within districts that do not reach the concentration grant threshold.

How does an equitable funding system take into account regional cost differences, whether that is cost of living or hard-to-staff subjects and schools requiring additional funding for compensation?

Finally, how do we ensure that there is community-level engagement, understanding, and transparency in our funding system?

 

*Serrano v. Priest lawsuits and Proposition 13 (1971-1978)

**defined as districts that “fail to improve outcomes of 3 or more student subgroups in 1 or more priorities in 3 out of 4 school years.”

Watch our LEVinar on Education Funding Takeaways from California

Posted in: Funding

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