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Archive for April, 2017

Why Early Learning Matters

Pre-K teacher Julia Brady uses handmade rekenrek’s with her students during a math lesson at South Shore Pre-K. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

By Kristin DeWitte
Principal of South Shore Pre K-8
Guest Blogger

On my first day of first grade, I stood up and said that I wanted to become a teacher. I never wavered from that goal. As I got older, I had the opportunity to work in a school for children with disabilities about the time that PL 94-142 (the first special education law) went into place. I went to Central Washington University and earned my degree in Special Education with an elementary minor. Later in my career I went on to complete two Master’s degrees, the first in Curriculum and Instruction, and the second in Educational Leadership.

I worked most of my career In the Marysville School District, about half the time in special education and the remainder of the time in general education. I have taught kindergarten, first grade, second grade, fifth grade, sixth grade, resource room, elementary, middle school, and high school EBD (Emotional and Behavioral Disorder) classrooms. I have also worked on the core education faculty at Antioch-Seattle, the adjunct faculty at Western Washington University at Bellingham, Everett, North and South Seattle satellite campuses. I was the original developer of both distance and online learning components of continuing education for Seattle Pacific University. And I have consulted on a variety of topics in an eight-state region of the Northwest and Southwest US.

Prior to coming to Seattle Public Schools, I worked for current Seattle Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland when he was in the Marysville School District. He asked me to take a position at Quil Ceda Elementary, which was a failing school in the state of Washington. We were in the bottom 5 percent of the state when I became principal there. I was there for five years before following Dr. Nyland to Seattle Public Schools. Under his leadership, I learned that being an effective administrative leader means that you build your teachers’ instructional skill and that equity is not frosting on the cake; it is a basic right for the students in high poverty schools. All schools in our state have a lot of work to do on the topic of true equity. I was lucky enough to land at South Shore Pre K–8.

When done right, early learning finds the children from within our school boundaries and invites them in to experience school before they hit kindergarten age to ensure that they are in a language- and experience-rich environment, and that they have had opportunities to learn social emotional skills for functioning in a classroom setting. The purpose is to equalize readiness for all students so they are prepared for kindergarten. Two factors that often play a role in school readiness are an early literacy-rich environment (which builds both vocabulary and introduction into a print-rich environment), and experiences had outside of school.

In addition, most children for a variety of reasons have had opportunities to attend daycare or other preschools that allow children to develop social-emotional literacy, as well. At South Shore, our preschool program is developed to teach to the whole child. Not only do they get early learning skills, but the High Scope program is designed to help students learn how to manage their time and to develop skills for problem solving.

We know that if children do not have a rich environment prior to entering school, they will most likely always be playing catch-up. At South Shore, early childhood education allows us to supplement the home experience so that all children enter kindergarten on a level playing field. To me, having early childhood education is one of the most important components of a school that serves a diverse population, some of which live below the poverty level. We can support and enrich what is happening at home.

In our preschool program, students attend 4 days out of 5. The 5th day, Fridays, are spent on parent engagement activities. A major benefit to students of this program is that students stay with their teachers for two years, so students develop very close relationships with their teachers. Our pre-K and kindergarten teachers are some of the most culturally responsive of the staff because they know what is going on in their students’ neighborhoods. Teachers have been hearing recently from some of our immigrant students about their fears about the recent executive orders, and it is affecting our staff also. We had a pre-K assembly on Friday a few weeks ago in which staff greeted families and gave them strong messages that they are welcome at South Shore.

Funding from a private donor has enabled us to retain a therapeutic counselor and data teams so that we are able to work very closely with particular families who need intensive wraparound support. Many students in grades K-2 do meet learning standards, but not all remain on track. Two subgroups who do not fully meet standards are students with special needs and English language learner (ELL) students; such students may benefit from longer placement to help develop their language access skills. Students are also provided a therapeutic setting where they can take regular “motion” breaks to move around as they wish, and this helps them learn more effectively.

A benefit to our pre-K staff is that they do professional development on Friday afternoons and that the instructional aides receive training along with teachers, so instructional aides get professional development as strong members of the pre-K teaching team.

Seattle Public Schools uses an equity formula and approach to placing students in special education. We are well aware that students of color are over-identified for placement in special education, so our staff works with our pre-K and kindergarten students of color to avoid unnecessarily placing them into special education.

At South Shore, we believe that our whole child approach to early learning, parent engagement with students’ families, and regular professional development for certificated teachers and instructional aides all help provide a strong foundation for students after they leave our preschool and progress onto successive grades.

Posted in: Blog, Early Learning

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: Overtime Begins Next Week

Chris Korsmo

Well, it’s that time.

Where all metaphors for things that take longer than planned – again – are pulled out. The legislative session is wrapping up without a budget agreement, which means lawmakers will be called back into special session. For some this is Groundhog Day. For others it’s Mad Magazine. Still others envision a multi-year advent calendar of legislative treasures. And of course, there are the inevitable sports event references. For you Dragnet fans from the Wayback Machine, we even have a “just the facts, ma’am” approach to the effort. However the story gets covered, the plain and simple truth of the matter is that education funding – resolving the over-reliance on local levies while also making targeted investments to improve outcomes – is the major sticking point. Legislators will adjourn over the weekend with much work left to do – let’s hope they aren’t making a deal more difficult on the way out.

If they’re looking for guidance, the Superintendents of Education Service District 189 have some suggestions worth considering. While they’re at it, let’s build in more transparency into the system so that it doesn’t take a massive investment from Steve Ballmer to actually follow the money.

Meanwhile, you can track all that is – or isn’t – happening here on our bill tracker. And hear from one of the 8 legislators working to craft an education compromise, Senator Ann Rivers, here.

In other news:

  • I’ve marched for a lot of things. But never did I think we’d have to do it for science.
  • Marchers, leave that plastic water bottle on the shelf and fill a reusable…
  • What’s love got to do with it?
  • If it makes you happy.
  • Did you see who ‘Hawks open up with? Oh, Yes…

‘Til there’s news to share, thanks for all you do on behalf of Washington’s kids.

Chris

 

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Posted in: Funding, Legislative session, STEM, Weekly Roundup

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LEV Interviews Senator Ann Rivers About Solutions to the McCleary Funding Debate

Senator Ann Rivers - League of Education VotersLeague of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman sat down with Ann Rivers, Co-Chair of the Education Funding Task Force and member of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, to discuss why she decided to run for office, where she sees common ground for a McCleary education funding solution, and her favorite classroom accomplishment when she was a middle school teacher.

 

Listen here:


 

Listen to Senator Hans Zeiger talk about McCleary school funding solutions

Listen to State Superintendent Chris Reykdal talk about priorities for his first 100 days

Listen to Governor Jay Inslee talk about his 2017 state budget

Listen to Senator Christine Rolfes talk about the Education Funding Task Force

Listen to Rep. Ruth Kagi talk about the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Children and Families

Listen to Washington state Teachers of the Year talk about teaching philosophy, classroom accomplishments and education priorities

Posted in: Blog, Funding, Legislative session, Podcast, Teacher Prep

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An Early Learning Perspective on the House and Senate Budget Proposals

Jennifer Jennings-Shaffer, Children's Alliance - League of Education VotersBy Jennifer Jennings-Shaffer, Early Learning Policy Director at the Children’s Alliance
Guest Blogger

Early learning is the foundation of the education continuum; it supports a child’s progress in school and in life. The House and Senate budget proposals each address early learning—but differ markedly in their approach to three key areas of interest to education advocates. Here’s how:

First, both budgets recognize the value of access to high quality pre-kindergarten. The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) is quality pre-kindergarten for income-eligible children who all too often face barriers to success in K-12. When poverty and other barriers tip the scales of child development toward the negative, ECEAP tips them back toward a good education, a good job, and a good life. Eligible families earn less than 110 percent of the federal poverty line—for a family of four, that is less than $26,730 per year. Despite delivering proven results in academic achievement, lawmakers fund ECEAP for fewer than half of our state’s eligible families—leaving approximately 23,000 children eligible but unserved. This is a missed opportunity.

The Senate budget proposes to provide access to ECEAP for an additional 1,200 children and increase the rate paid per ECEAP slot to more accurately support our early-childhood educators. The House budget proposes to provide access to an additional 2,043 children and also increases the slot rate. The House budget builds upon the proposal from the Senate; it is good progress toward ensuring that children who stand to gain the most from access to high quality pre-kindergarten get it.

Second, neither budget proposal responds to the crisis we see in child care, where lawmakers are giving working families inadequate support to meet rising costs. Washington is already one of the least affordable states in the country for families to find child care. The rates paid to center-based child care providers serving tens of thousands of children in the Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) program are far below the nationally recommended benchmark of 75 percent of market rate. When lawmakers try to offer assistance at these inadequate rates, child care providers face a difficult choice: serve families at a loss, stop serving them, or pass the cost on to (often only slightly) more affluent families to make up the difference. Lawmakers need to respond by raising rates for Working Connections Child Care paid to center-based providers. Neither the House nor the Senate budget adequately addresses this issue. The Senate budget includes $8.1 million for rate increases and the House budget includes $20.3 million. Advocates estimate that $40 million is the minimum investment necessary to protect access to child care.

Beyond failing to adequately address child care rates, the Senate budget includes deep cuts to child care access and quality. The Senate budget proposes a cut of -$31.9 million in access to WCCC. This cut includes eliminating 12-month authorizations for families and decreasing the number of families who can be enrolled in the program. If enacted, these cuts would mean that enrolled families could lose care in the middle of the year due to minor changes in their circumstances. Families who need and qualify for care would find themselves on a waitlist. Additionally, the Senate budget proposes to cut the Early Achievers program by $16.6 million. Early Achievers supports child care providers to improve their quality. These cuts put the brakes on our steady progress to ensure that Washington kids enter kindergarten ready to learn.

Third, evidence-based home visiting programs and paid family leave are both proven strategies for supporting parents as their child’s first and most important teacher. Both the House and Senate budgets protect access to home visiting services but only the House budget includes funding to implement paid family leave. Quality time at home with one’s newest family members is associated with improved maternal and infant health outcomes and increased employee retention. State and local governments across the country are increasingly implementing this smart policy.

We all have a stake in making sure that ALL our kids get a great start. As the House, the Senate and Governor Jay Inslee prepare to finalize a two-year state budget, we are calling on lawmakers to sustain and enhance their early learning investments. Children’s brains develop more rapidly in the first five years of life than at any other time. We cannot hope to close the achievement gap in K-12 if we ignore the early years.

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Early Learning, Funding, Legislative session

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Ask a Teacher on the WA Teacher Advisory Council

2015 Washington state Teacher of the Year Lyon Terry - League of Education VotersBy Lyon Terry, 2015 Teacher of the Year
Guest Blogger

As the 2015 Washington state Teacher of the Year, I am often called to be a speaker, panelist, story-teller, spokesperson and more. But I am far from the only teacher who understands what works in education. To improve our schools, we must involve the people doing the work—the teachers.

I remember speaking in front of six hundred education advocates in a windowless room at the Seatac DoubleTree. The people there wanted to support kids and improve education, and I was glad to be called. But I was the only teacher in the room. How was this audience going to make change to schools without talking to the people who teach the kids?

Education is at a crossroads in our state right now. We must ask teachers for solutions. Teachers should be in every education conversation. Yet, we are often not consulted.

Washington state must increase funding for education by billions over the next two years to satisfy the McCleary Decision. What is needed? Why is it needed? Ask teachers. They will tell you.

Sure, we must increase salaries, particularly for beginning teachers, but teachers are not in the profession for the money. Teachers know there are many other needs. The following teachers are all award-winning educators in the WA Teacher Advisory Council Network. You can search for any education issue there and even use it to gain access to classrooms. We want you to see what is needed. Here are some of the issues that match our teachers’ expertise:

Michael Werner in Granite Falls or Spencer Martin in Sunnyside can tell about the funding needed for their amazing Career and Technical Education Programs.

Ask Katie Brown in Bellingham, Alisa Louie in Kent, or Jose Corona in Yakima about the needs of students who are learning English for the first time.

Have questions about special education? Ask Elizabeth Loftus in Oak Harbor or Theodore Mack in Moses Lake.

Do you want to know solutions for funding our massive teacher shortage? Ask Bethany Rivard in Vancouver, Dave Gammon in Spokane, or Nathan Bowling in Tacoma.

What about the importance of social and emotional learning? Ask Theresa Holland-Schmid on the Kitsap Peninsula or Lynne Olmos in Mossyrock. They can also bend your ear about the importance of arts integration.

Teachers Kendra Yamamoto in Vancouver and Tim Larson in Odessa can articulate the incredible importance of early learning.

Many teachers know what is needed to support science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM).  Ask Barney Peterson in Everett, Jeff Wehr in Odessa, Jeff Charboneau in Zillah, John Gallagher in Port Angeles, or Camille Jones in Quincy if you are interested.

How can we improve parent engagement? Ask Kimberly Witte in Bremerton or Brian Sites in Richland.

Do you care about dual credit, advanced placement, and access for all? Ask Nathan Bowling in Tacoma or Shari Conditt in Woodland.

I could go on and on. I love knowing these teachers. They are all Teachers of the Year, recognized by their districts, ESDs, and the state as experts in the field; they know what our students and schools need to be successful, to thrive. They are members of the WA Teacher Advisory Council with the mission to inform education decisions and influence policy, promoting equity and excellence for all.

Let them rise to their mission. If you have an education question, then please, talk to an accomplished educator. And listen. #askateacher

 

Lyon Terry teaches 4th grade at Lawton Elementary School in the Seattle Public Schools. He is a National Board Certified teacher with 20 years of experience. Every day he plays guitar and sings with his students. You can find him on Twitter @lyonterry or email: wastoy15@outlook.com.

 

 

 

Posted in: Blog, Career Technical Education, Early Learning, Funding, STEM, Teacher Prep

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Education Advocate April 2017

ED Advocate, League of Education Voters Newsletter, April 2017

Greetings

Chris Korsmo
Chris Korsmo, CEO

Thank you to everyone who was able to join us at our annual breakfast last week. We enjoyed a thoughtful conversation with 2017 Regional Teachers of the Year Kendra Yamamoto and Elizabeth Loftus about what it means to be a great teacher, how to create a pipeline of more great teachers, and what it means to put great teachers in front of our kids who need them most. You can see photos of the event and a moving film about great teachers produced by our friends at Workhouse Creative here.

Below, you will find a shout-out to our donors from the first quarter of 2017. If you supported us at the breakfast, look for your name. Thank you!

The regular legislative session is scheduled to end in just over two weeks, on April 23. Since this is a huge budget year for funding our schools across the state, we will likely see one or more special sessions coming our way. We will host a free webinar April 27 on where we stand. You can follow all the action on our Bill Tracker here.

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 Washington state Regional Teachers of the Year Elizabeth Loftus and Kendra Yamamoto with Daniel Zavala - League of Education Voters

Highlights from the 2017 Annual Breakfast

Thank you for making our breakfast a success! 2017 Regional Teacher of the Year recipients Kendra Yamamoto and Elizabeth Loftus spoke on how great teachers are the key to student success. See photos from the event and a moving film by our friends at Workhouse Creative. Read more

Special thanks to our sponsors: Anonymous, Workhouse Creative, Microsoft, Boeing, The Seattle Times, Vulcan Inc., College Success Foundation, ECONorthwest, K&L Gates, and GOBE Design + Production.

Washington state Capitol - League of Education Voters

LEVinar: Where We Stand in the 2017 Legislative Session

The regular legislative session winds down April 23 and a special session looms in this important budget year for our kids. In our free webinar 4/27 at 12:30pm, LEV Policy and Government Relations Director Daniel Zavala will provide status updates on school funding, educator compensation, student supports, accountability, early learning, and higher education. Register here

Campaign for Student Success - League of Education Voters

Help Our Kids Get the Education They Deserve with the Campaign for Student Success

Over the last few weeks, Campaign for Student Success coalition members have been busy visiting and calling key legislators in Olympia, writing letters to editors around the state and sharing our stories and vision for the McCleary solution through op-eds. Our supporters, like you, know that time is running out to ensure that Washington students get the education they deserve and need. We need your help. If you would like to get involved, please contact LEV State Field Director Kelly Munn for details. Read more

Thank You to our 2017 Q1 Donors - League of Education Voters

Celebrating Our Donors

Donations are made to the League of Education Voters (LEV) and the LEV 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 has access to an excellent public education that provides the opportunity for success.

We’d like to take a moment to celebrate our supporters who donated to LEV or the LEV Foundation between January 1 and March 31 of 2017. Thank you!

GiveBig 2017 - League of Education Voters

Save the Date: GiveBIG Coming May 10

GiveBIG is back! If you were not able to donate at the annual breakfast (or even if you did), you can support the League of Education Voters Foundation on May 10 as part of our community’s biggest day of giving of the year. The Seattle Foundation will match your donations! Get involved now by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter, and stay tuned for details.

Get Involved

LUNCHTIME LEVINARS

April 27, 2017 | 2017 Legislative Session: Where We Stand, Online webinar


HELP SUPPORT THE LEAGUE OF EDUCATION VOTERS
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Donate online


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Celebrating Our 2017 Donors: First Quarter

January 1–March 31, 2017

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 first quarter of 2017, January 1–March 31. We regret any omissions or errors to the donor list. Please contact our Development Associate, Jessica Nieves, by emailing jessica@educationvoters.org or by calling 206.728.6448 with any questions or to correct any information.

Thank you to all of our donors!

(more…)

Posted in: Blog, Development

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The Value of Early Childhood Education

South Shore PK-8 Teacher Matthew O'Connor - League of Education VotersBy Matthew O’Connor, Guest Blogger

I came to teaching at South Shore because of previous experience with Teach for America, working in a Head Start classroom in Houston with 3- and 4-year-olds. This inspired me to become an Early Childhood Education teacher.

I am a pre-K and kindergarten teacher at South Shore PK-8 in Rainier Beach. This is my seventh year teaching (fourth year at South Shore) and I work with five other colleagues, three lead teachers, each partnered with a full-time classroom teammate. Our vision for students begins with the belief that every student can be at grade level when they move on to first grade.

Moving forward from that belief, my team considers the reality that the American public education system does not mirror the histories or lived realities of students of color. To respond to this truth, we try to build classroom experiences that combine content and student identity in order to develop a good foundation of academic and social-emotional skills as well as a good sense of self and family. We hope that, in the future, this will allow them to tell their story of self in order to advocate for themselves and their community, reveal truth, interrupt bias, and encourage healing.

We loop with our students, starting with them as preschoolers at 4 years old, and stay with them as kindergarteners. Because of getting to work with our students for two years, we develop deep relationships between us. The students we have are very diverse, from multiple ethnic and racial backgrounds: immigrants, refugees, communities of color, many low income.

For most of our students, it is the first experience that they have with the American education system, and it is a privilege and a burden. It is a privilege because if we do our work right, they obtain a good foundation about what being in school means. They come to understand that the quality education that is their birthright includes a teacher who cares about them and listens authentically to their needs. They also know that this education includes discussions about what is happening in their community. They hopefully come to understand that it is school that must respond to their needs and the stories they bring—not the other way around. It is a burden to know that we send them off as six-year-olds and that they have twelve more years to finish their education, because they may not receive an education that continues to support them to be the best that they can.

Some projects that we do include a unit on developing preschoolers’ sense of self – we interview students about their favorite food, color, they create body shapes and mix paints to match their own skin color, we interview students and parents about their names, why they like their names and what their names mean. We also do two family projects. One is a family tree in which they identify family members in multiple generations. The other is a genetic one about students’ hair, skin, and facial features. Students write what they learn about their families, and what they learn is compiled into a book. At the end of the unit we have a publishing party where students share their work with their families.

Parents are also actively involved in our program. One way is that we invite them to give input on choosing the top 12 priorities that they wish to see students learn. Later they assess their children’s teachers on how they have done to implement these priorities into their children’s lessons. This is done through a tool developed by the Teaching Excellence Network. My team members and I also conduct Chalkboard Chats for parents on different topics – some are academic, focused on how to do a great read along with your children.  For others, community experts were invited in to discuss issues of parenting—such as talking to young children about racial identity or what to do if you expect your student is exhibiting atypical academic or social behavior.

The value of early childhood education is that it gives children a good foundation on which to build for their succeeding years in school – besides academics, students develop a good sense of self and family, and learn that their actions, no matter how small, can help make the world better.

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Early Learning

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A Higher Ed Perspective on the House Budget Proposal

By Juliette Schindler Kelly, Director of Government Relations and Advocacy at the College Success Foundation
Guest Blogger

On March 27th, the Washington state House Democrats released their operating budget proposal for the 2017-19 biennium, SHB1067. Generally it was received favorably by the higher education community as supporting our priorities, and as a necessary improvement upon the Senate’s postsecondary funding approach. Additionally, many representing postsecondary in the education advocacy space emphasize the need to support the entire education continuum, from the formative preschool years to post-high school additional credential or degree. The House budget demonstrated an understanding of moving beyond the McCleary mandate to provide genuine learning opportunities for Washington’s youth.

The House budget expands higher ed pathway opportunities, with a focus on preparing Washington students for today’s labor market. Affordability and pathways are key components, although there is still room for enhancements. The approach to addressing the cost barrier for students pursuing postsecondary study is a combination of a tuition freeze (with backfill for the public institutions of higher education so that the loss of funds is not detrimental), with need-based financial aid in the form of bolstering the State Need Grant. Investing in the State Need Grant to give more low-income students access to postsecondary education is a critical component to increasing access for Washington students. Unlike the Senate budget, the House proposal opens the door for 6,000 more of our students to receive a State Need Grant. The goal should be for all 24,000 deserving but unserved students to not have to struggle to find a way to afford college, but this step moves us closer to the goal post.

The budget also displayed an understanding that obstacles exist beyond financial need.  Many students need assistance in the transition to, and persistence within, their postsecondary experience. Low-income, first generation students often need extra navigational assistance in this foreign environment. Many students from diverse and economically-challenged populations attend community and technical colleges, and benefit greatly from student advising and supports. Therefore, it is gratifying to see the proposed increase for community and technical colleges (CTCs) to use Guided Pathways, or a similar model designed to improve student success, to better serve students in this system.

Breaking down barriers to postsecondary opportunities is for naught if the basic needs of a low-income individual prevents him from pursuing further education. The Senate budget proposal diverts Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Work First dollars to support the State Need Grant program, which is counterproductive. The House budget writers are wise to include increased funding to address homelessness and augment the TANF, State Family Assistance, and Refugee Cash Assistance Program grant amounts. These programs help stabilize the families of the very students we seek to provide a greater opportunity for focused learning.

Budgets reflect priorities, and although there is more work to be done, we applaud the House for targeting many of the essential priorities that will help move our state forward, advance our economy and close opportunity gaps. In this spirit, let us all support greater investment in our education system from early learning through higher education so that increased attainment will reap greater prosperity for all Washingtonians.

Posted in: Blog, Funding, Higher Education, Legislative session

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