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Statement on the Supreme Court’s Order to the State

Today, the Washington State Supreme Court issued their response on the Legislature’s progress in funding basic education.

The Court recognized the Legislature’s record progress in funding an education continuum and called out their work in fully funding transportation, materials, supplies, and operating costs, as well as their progress in partially funding K–3 class-size reductions and full-day kindergarten. The Court also called out the areas where the Legislature did not make significant progress, namely in funding facilities for class-size reduction and full-day kindergarten, compensation for teachers and other school personnel, and reliance on local levies to provide basic education.

Effectively immediately, the Court is fining the state $100,000 a day until a plan to fully fund basic education is implemented, which will go into a special fund reserved for basic education. The Court also encouraged Governor Jay Inslee to call the Legislature back for a special session. (more…)

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Statement on the 2015-2017 Budget

After one long legislative session (followed by three special sessions), Governor Inslee signed Washington’s 2015–2017 state budget into law late in the evening on June 30, averting a government shutdown by less than an hour. An unprecedented series of events ultimately delayed sine die until today, but with the true end of our historically long 2015 legislative session at hand, we take a moment to reflect.

What we see in this budget is a more comprehensive investment in education than at any other time in the state’s history. Through their strong investments in public education across the spectrum, early learning through postsecondary, the Legislature has given all Washington’s students more hope for their future.

The 2015 Legislative SessionThe League of Education Voters has long argued that a child’s education should be a continuum with seamless transitions from early learning through higher education. We have worked with partners around the state in pursuit of that vision, including with the Cradle through College Coalition. It is gratifying to see the Legislature following through with strategies and investments that support students at all ages. (more…)

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: March 30

It was wonderful to see so many of you last Thursday at our breakfast! Thank you to those who made it—I hope you found the event as inspiring as I did. A huge thank you to our speakers, Dr. Elson S. Floyd, President of WSU; Dr. Jill Wakefield, Chancellor of Seattle Colleges; Frank Blethen, Publisher of The Seattle Times; and Kaysiana Hazelwood and Midheta Djuderija, two students with big dreams. Their stories were just amazing. And important reminders why we do this work.

Speaking of the work, now’s the time when it gets interesting. With just four weeks left in the (scheduled) session, conversation is turning to the state budget. The House Democrats’ budget was released Friday. The Senate Republican version should come out in the next few days. Neither budget will pass whole-cloth, but they’re both important in signaling the priorities of either chamber. The House budget, for example, proposes closing tax loopholes and creating new taxes, while remaining silent on the property tax issues that vexed the Supreme Court in their school funding decision. (more…)

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: March 20

For nearly every occasion in life there is a metaphor, tortured or otherwise, that amplifies the circumstance. Whether mundane or horrifying, they roll from the tongue without much thought. For those of us engaged in Olympia on education, the offending phrase would have to be “no news is good news.” At a minimum there’s not been a lot to report in terms of education policy advancing—so if it is true that no news is good news, then education must be in fan-freaking-tastic shape.

Not that I’m throwing shade on our legislative friends, as this is the time of year when things typically go a bit off the rails, with policy bills traded or held close like baseball cards and state budget proposals still wrapped in mystery. To get a better idea of where things are, you can check our legislative bill tracker. But remember, even when you think something’s dead, until Sine Die (the Legislature’s equivalent of the closing bell) nothin’ is done, done. (more…)

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: February 20

Well, kids, it’s that time of year. The gnashing-of-teeth-while-twiddling-thumbs time of year. It’s too early to plant. The Grammies and Westminster are already over. And the rush to see all the Oscar nominees is out-weighed by the lack of desire to spend $35 on a movie and a box of popcorn. On the legislative front, it’s much the same. The first cut-off date for the Legislature just passed.

And no one is talking seriously, yet, about possible solutions to the state budget challenges. Namely, how to make public education whole, fund, or repeal the class-size initiative, and solve the transportation mess, all while not really changing the tax structure. (Note: I’m not suggesting that they shouldn’t change the tax structure. Just that, well, they won’t.)

Gnash and twiddle. It feels sort of like watching my 9-year-old clean his room. Yes, sweetie, you really CAN throw away the broken Nerf darts. And the half- chewed gum. You can also re-purpose those too-small-shoes. And neaten those boxes of toys. Or not. So much promise amid the flawed execution.

Something else that my son and the Legislature share is that there is still time. Not infinity. But time. Enough lamenting. As always, you can track the movement—or lack thereof—on education policy here. On with the news. This week, let’s play the half-used-popular-phrase game. You’ll get it. (more…)

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: February 6

Well campers, that was quite a finish! No, not that. I’m talking about the eighty points put up by Team Ruff in Puppy Bowl Xl! Oh, come on. What’s a girl to do? The Super Bowl pre-game felt like it was three hundred and thirty-seven hours long—or roughly the same length of a Hobbit movie, both of which make me want to watch commercials thinly veiled as puppy shows. Plus, I’m a sucker for a Clumber Spaniel. (By now, you’ve noticed the very soft treatment of the Super Bowl. I’ve lived in the Northwest for nearly eight years now, and the one lesson I’ve learned is that if you want a decent table in this town, or a holiday card or sarcasm-free latte, you don’t rub ‘Hawks devastating Super Bowl loss in their fans’ faces. So I didn’t. Until just then. And even then, gently.)

Enough of the kerfuffery! Lots of action going on in policy-land, and for a just-the-facts-ma’am look at it, check out our legislative tracker. So far, there’s been a fair amount of attention paid to underserved kids, including foster youth, special education students, and low-income kids. This is laudable as the state explores system change to bring more equity to our schools and beyond. In addition to bill action, there is a lot of speculation about resolving McCleary, the Supreme Court decision finding the State to be out of compliance in education funding.

Speaking of the Hobbit, and I just was, did you see this piece wherein someone “in charge” thinks a kid with a Hobbit ring talking about making someone invisible is the equivalent of a terrorist? It’s no wonder teachers want clear guidance on discipline. Onward, ho. (more…)

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: January 30

Well, two weeks’ worth of hype, including a ball-deflation flap, exes jawing about breaking bones, and a media day circus, is coming to a close. For my peeps here in Washington, it’s all about those ‘Hawks and defining dynasty. With my team out of the running, I was left to ponder bigger questions. Like, if the Seahawks were part of our State Legislature or administrative offices, what positions would they hold?

Let’s dispense with Coach Carroll quickly—he wouldn’t be in government. He’d be running a start-up that turns motivational speeches into chewing gum flavored to taste like “success,” “team,” “fun,” and “the 12s.” Russell Wilson is an easy choice to run the Department of Transportation. (You can’t swing a dirty sweat sock in this town without hitting one of his airline or auto dealership billboards.) Kam Chancellor would be a great Insurance Commissioner, because when he hits you, you’re reminded that you need insurance. Michael Bennett would Chair the House (sex) Education Committee. (Marshawn Lynch can join him as the Ranking Member of this committee.) The ‘Hawks’ orator-in-chief, Richard Sherman, makes a perfect fit in the Attorney General’s office.

On to the Ed News: You can always find the latest on education legislation here. And a piece on our priorities here. (more…)

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: January 23

Ok. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. My Packers are not going to the Super Bowl. You might think I’d like to just avoid the topic and move on—you’re right. But what I learned about conflict and loss a long time ago is that moving on without reflection doesn’t teach you anything. So, let’s learn something—and use sports metaphors!

What Happens Early Sets the Tone: I could have named this “seven is more than three,” but it doesn’t completely work here. (And it didn’t work Sunday either. First quarter. Fourth and goal from the one. This is the opportunity to define who you are and will be. It did.) It is fourth and goal for our three- and four-year-olds. Time to call the play, and it’s a no brainer—leave the field goal unit on the sideline and go all in.

Here’s why: New data from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) highlight findings from the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (or WaKids). The data show that in literacy, kids largely start kindergarten where they should—nearly 80 percent exhibit skills like rhyming, recognition and naming of up to 10 letters, and recall of familiar stories. But they also show that gaps already exist between ethnic and economic groupings—and overall math proficiency for everyone hovers just over 50 percent. This all but makes the case for high-quality early learning being an essential part of a strong start. This week, both chambers introduced the Early Start Act, which builds an integrated system of early learning and provides incentives for a diverse group of providers to improve the quality—and close gaps. Next week, the Senate Education Committee will hear the bill Monday while the House will take it up on Wednesday. (more…)

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: January 16

It’s baaaaack. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into your inbox, here come your cheeky reflections on the news from Oly and beyond.

Much has happened since last we spoke. The Legislature is being held in contempt by the Supreme Court—pending meaningful investments in “basic education,” and a plan to implement those investments. The elections have colored Washington a shade more purple than blue, and an improving economy has Washington voters thinking that education is the issue of the day. Will that spell good news for those of us wanting to see smart investments in the education continuum? Will Early Learning be the new Netflix series? Will the cheese be mightier than the hawk?? These and other questions will resolve themselves over the next few months.

But first, a look at the big themes of the session. (You can track the details here, where we describe the bills of note and what’s going on with them.)

Necessary but not sufficient: With all due respect to the K–12 system, the growing consensus is that if we are really going to prepare students to be meaningful contributors to our democracy and society, a high school diploma isn’t enough. Our view is that “basic education” is a continuum beginning early on—pre-k at the latest—and extending into higher education. We are not alone.

You say you want a revolution: According to some, our tax system (Yes, that WAS the opaque reference to the Revolution. Bonus points for those of you still with me. There WILL be prizes at the end. I swear. Really.) is kinda outta whack. Some would say it’s the worst in the country. While Senate Republicans don’t want to go gently into that taxing night, taxes will be front and center.

Sharing is caring: The closely divided Legislature provides some unique opportunities for shared leadership. Bi-partisan leadership may feel like a legacy from the past, but if we are going to see results our kids need and the Court is demanding this session, policy leaders will have to reach across the aisle to get the job done.

Trends to watch out for: Testing, testing. Free college isn’t just the President’s “thing.” It’s our thing. Early Learning WILL be the new Netflix series.

Miscellany:

Well, kids, that’s it for this first week of the session. Join us again next week when I wax on about my Packers going to the Super Bowl. And the first time a bill gets “Roached.”

As always, thanks for all you do on behalf of Washington’s kids—however old they might be. We couldn’t do it without you.

Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup is emailed to subscribers weekly and posted on our blog on Fridays during the 2015 legislative session. Sign up to receive Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup via email.

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LEV Board votes to oppose I-1351: There is no silver bullet

Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education Voters

Chris Korsmo

The League of Education Voters (LEV) Board voted last week to oppose Initiative 1351, a statewide class-size reduction initiative on the November ballot.

Our founders authored and passed Initiative 728 in 2000, and LEV has always supported class-size reduction as one necessary, but not sufficient, gap-closing strategy for grades K–3 and high-poverty schools. Nine years later, we endorsed the re-definition of “basic education” developed by our State Legislature, which includes smaller class sizes of 17 in grades K–3 upon which McCleary v Washington is based.

So, given LEV’s history and commitment to smaller class sizes, why are we opposing I-1351?

We believe the pathway to providing a high-quality public education for all students begins with identifying and funding what works.

We know there is no single silver bullet that will close the opportunity and achievement gaps for Washington students. We believe I-1351 will preclude our ability to make investments in other proven strategies, such as early learning and college readiness.

High-quality early learning, including preschool and full-day kindergarten, can significantly reduce and prevent gaps in later years. LEV believes early learning is critical to a student’s success, which is why we fought, unsuccessfully, to include it in the 2009 re-definition of basic education.

Academic acceleration is another proven strategy to raise the academic achievement for all Washington students. Instead of just catching kids up, it pushes them forward. In Federal Way, the school district increased the number of low-income and minority students taking upper-level courses (Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses) by 2.5 times over a four-year period while holding exam passing rates steady.

As the leader of Washington’s only statewide advocacy organization that works to improve public education from early learning through higher education, I know that our state has the people, the resources, and the innovative spirit to create the best public education system in the world. But it’s going to take tough decisions from each of us to make it a reality.

This fall, we are talking with policymakers, community members, parents, and educators across Washington to discuss our vision for a high-quality public education system from cradle to career. I invite you to join us.

To learn more or join us at these meetings, please contact our State Field Director Kelly Munn.

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