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Education Advocate of the Month: Brenda Yepez

At 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 Education Advocate of the Month for February: Brenda Yepez. Read about her advocacy for English Language Learners.

Brenda Yepez February 2018 Education Advocate of the Month - League of Education Voters

February Education Advocate of the Month Brenda Yepez

Brenda Yepez is one of the founders of a student group called the Ambassadors of Lakeview Achieving Success (ALAS), which began her advocacy journey. Brenda attended our Tri-Cities Student Legislative Roundtable in December, where students spoke with legislators about their community work, and she testified at the State Board of Education January meeting to ask for additional supports for English Language Learner (ELL) students. In addition to advocating for the Dream Act in Washington D.C., Brenda herself is a DACA student attending the Washington State University Richland campus.

She became involved with League of Education Voters through Ruvine Jiménez, our Tri-Cities community organizer. Brenda recalls, “By the time I met Ruvine, I was a member of the ALAS community group, and I am now in my fifth year with them. I started as a high school student and now I’m in college, so I’m a mentor.” At last month’s State Board of Education meeting, Brenda shared ideas of what she and her peers thought about education, specifically the new 24-credit high school graduation requirement. “Ruvine asked me to talk about my experience and thoughts as a college student, being engaged with ALAS. They’re high schoolers and some are about to graduate,” she says. “I described how I went through high school and what changes I saw.”

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Local Levies – Frequently Asked Questions

Across Washington state on February 13, communities voted on local levies to continue funding for enrichment programs and capital projects at district schools. Here are frequently asked questions about those levies.

1. What is a local levy?

a. A local property tax passed by voters of a school district that generates tax revenue for local school districts. All money generated by school district levies goes directly to the school district to pay for enhancements to the state funded basic education. By voting for a local levy, voters are voting for an additional property tax in their district.

2. How many school districts have a local school levy?

a. 287 of the 295 school districts had a local levy in school year 2016-17

3. What is basic education?

a. Basic education is the educational program that the state is responsible for funding.

i. The state Legislature defines the program of basic education and is required by the constitution to amply fund it. The state defined program of basic education is the minimum that districts are required to provide students—districts may offer additional programming and services with local funds. Currently, the program of basic education includes the number of hours and days of school that districts must offer, academic standards, and specialized instruction for students qualifying for special education, English Language support, and below or above standard academically.

4. What restrictions are placed on the use of levy money? (more…)

Posted in: Funding

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2018 Legislative Priority: K-12 Funding Implementation

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

The passage of House Bill 2242 in 2017 will inject an additional $7 billion in state funding into our K-12 system.

In order to determine whether the new investments are distributed equitably and improve student outcomes, we will need more robust means to track school spending and results. We will also need to examine the new structures and mechanisms put into place to ensure they do not recreate inequities in our funding system.

Opportunity: New mechanisms to track spending are created in both HB 2242 and in the new federal ESSA legislation.

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Posted in: Funding

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How High Quality Early Childhood Education Changes Lives: A Parent’s Story

By Kami Smith
Guest Blogger

ECEAP Parent Kami Smith - League of Education Voters“What is ECEAP?” This is the question that I have been asked countless times and I still get so excited to answer it. While the boring, generic answer would be Washington state’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, I never respond with this because to me, the name does not do the program justice. I would find it more aptly named if it were called A Family’s Second Chance, or just simply Opportunity Early Learning, because that’s what the program has meant for me and my family.

ECEAP is an early learning program offered to impoverished or vulnerable families with 3- and 4-year-olds. My family came to the program just two weeks after I was treated for severe anxiety and depression, and I wasn’t feeling like a successful parent at the time. I thought the least I could do was enroll my kids in a preschool where they could play with other kids, and maybe do an art project that I would not have to clean up after. I never could have imagined how this program would not only nurture and enrich my children’s lives, but mine as well.

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Posted in: Early Learning

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2018 Legislative Priority: Early Childhood Education

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

32.6 percent of low-income five-year-olds enter Washington schools fully kindergarten-ready.

In comparison, 60% of non-low income five year olds enter school kindergarten ready.

This 30-point opportunity gap – unequal access to the resources necessary for academic success – contributes over time to the assessment, graduation, and dropout rate gaps currently experienced by Washington’s low-income students.

Washington has worked diligently over the past two decades to increase early childhood education opportunities to close this gap. National and state-level research proves that quality early learning environments – like the Washington Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) – can help close the opportunity gap. Even better, it does so with a $4.75 return on every $1 invested. One study that compared test scores from 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders who attended ECEAP to those who did not found that ECEAP alumni earned significantly higher math and reading scores – as good or better than the most effective pre-K programs nationally.

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Posted in: Early Learning

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Education Advocate of the Month: Nikki Lockwood

At 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 Education Advocate of the Month for January: Nikki Lockwood. Read about her advocacy for students with special needs.

January Education Advocate of the Month Nikki Lockwood - League of Education Voters

January Education Advocate of the Month Nikki Lockwood

Nikki Lockwood has served as the lead on parent organizing for the Every Student Counts Alliance (ESCA), a group of advocates, parents, and community leaders seeking to reform school discipline in Spokane, and has worked effectively with Spokane Public Schools to change discipline policies. Parents with students of special needs look to her for advocacy when it comes to their kids.

Nikki first met League of Education Voters Spokane Regional Field Director Sandra Jarrard through ESCA, and they participated in the same Spokane public community meetings. Nikki grew interested in our statewide work, while Sandra wanted to learn about experience of parents and became more involved in ESCA. “Sandra has been helpful in helping me navigate the education system,” Nikki says, “And League of Education Voters has great resources for parents in the ESCA.”

Nikki started school in a private Montessori kindergarten, and her children went through public Montessori. “My parents were teen parents,” Nikki says. “They got divorced when I was 3 years old. I am grateful and impressed that my dad provided that educational experience for me.” She greatly enjoyed the open environment of Montessori, although she remembers wondering in kindergarten what she was supposed to be doing.

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Gov. Inslee 2018 Supplemental Budget Summary

Governor Jay Inslee - League of Education VotersToday, Governor Inslee released his 2018 Supplemental Budget Proposal. The Governor recommends an increase of $950 million for the 2018-19 school year to fully fund K-12 staff salaries a year earlier than the education funding plan passed during the 2017 legislative session. The Governor’s proposal would comply with the recent Washington State Supreme Court order that the state must fully fund basic education by the 2018-19 school year.

The proposed budget includes a provision (Page 227) to ensure that no school district would receive less combined state and local funding in the 2018-19 school year or after than they would have under the state and local funding laws prior to the 2017 legislative session. This is intended to ensure that when combining state and local funding levels no district will be worse off in the future with the newly passed funding plan than under previous law. It is unclear how many districts would qualify for this hold harmless provision and what the actual costs may be.

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South Shore Stories – Takeaways from Roses in Concrete Community School

League of Education Voters works with Seattle’s South Shore PreK-8 on preschool, social emotional learning, and student supports. This blog series focuses on how South Shore engages students who come from a background of trauma.

Justin Hendrickson, South Shore PK-8 Assistant Principal - League of Education Voters

Justin Hendrickson, South Shore PK-8 Assistant Principal

By Justin Hendrickson, South Shore PreK-8 Assistant Principal
Guest Blogger

“Don’t reinvent the wheel” is often a mantra heard when discussing education. At South Shore, we believe that this often holds true across the educational spectrum. Many times there are other schools that have thought of, or at least explored, solutions to challenges that our school community faces. At the end of last year, our leadership team began to think about changes for the upcoming school year; it’s never too soon to start planning.

Through the connection of one of our teachers, in May we were offered a chance to visit Roses in Concrete Community School, located in East Oakland. A team of teachers, families and administrators traveled to Oakland to visit this school in order to gain a better understanding of what they are doing right. Roses in Concrete is known for a strong social justice lens and serves as a model of how staff genuinely reflect the community it serves through strong and ongoing communication. This school was founded by Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade, a well-respected professor, teacher, and speaker focused on critical pedagogy in urban schools.

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Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Education Advocate of the Month: David Cortinas

At 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 Education Advocate of the Month for December: David Cortinas. Read about his education journey in Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities.

December Education Advocate of the Month David Cortinas - League of Education Voters

December Education Advocate of the Month David Cortinas

While many issues can divide a community, one thing that can bring us together is wanting what is best for our students. David Cortinas, Owner, Editor, and Publisher of award-winning La Voz Hispanic Newspaper in the Tri-Cities community, is a staunch supporter of students. David kept his community engaged in the Campaign for Student Success, which led to the McCleary school funding deal in the 2017 legislative session, and he has consistently shared information to make the community stronger. He was also one of the first Eastern Washington businessmen who took time out of his busy newspaper schedule to visit with representatives and legislative aides in Olympia to ask that education funding goes to the students who need it the most.

David became involved with League of Education Voters through Tri-Cities Community Organizer Ruvine Jiménez, whom he has known for over 12 years. They served together on the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Latin Business Association, and worked together on boards and community festivals in the Tri-Cities.

David’s parents always encouraged him to go to school. “As immigrants who worked on farms, they constantly told me that I’ll never get an education if I don’t go to school,” David recalls. He attended elementary, middle, and high school in Walla Walla, where he was born and raised, and worked in the fields, harvesting onions and other crops.

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Powerless to Powerful: Moving Washington State Schools Towards Excellence and Equity

Suzann Girtz, Ph.D., Associate Professor – Teacher Education, Gonzaga University - Powerless PowerfulBy Suzann Girtz, Ph.D., Associate Professor – Teacher Education, Gonzaga University
Guest Blogger

Imagine your school is in the bottom 5% of all Washington state schools for graduation. About one out of every two students will not graduate. And when people visit your school to question what’s happening, the students respond, “What do you expect?” They attribute the failures to themselves and maintain, “That’s just the way it is here.”

That is a quote from a student at Sunnyside High School several years ago. Its graduation rate hovered at 49%, students blamed themselves, teachers were exhausted, and everyone was working as hard as they could. It was difficult to envision this struggling school becoming a top performer in just a couple years – but it did. Significant change in a short time IS possible in our schools; we’ve experienced it.

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Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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