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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: Olympia is Back in Business

Chris Korsmo

Ready or not: They’re baaaaacccckkk! Olympia is back in business. A lot has happened since last we were in session. There was that presidential election that you might have missed.  I mean if you were in a cave. Or a coma. After a nearly two year campaign season, America has a new TOTUS! Our Tweeter of the United States has been busy building out his cabinet including Secretary of Ed pick, Betsy DeVos whose confirmation process is being delayed to allow for her to complete disclosures to the Senate.  Expect a DeVos administration to support expanding school choice – including vouchers – and to turn the other cheek on most measures of accountability.

Closer to home, we have changes of our own, including new Committee Chairs and Ranking Members of Education for the House and Senate Republicans. And the loss of Andy Hill will be felt all over the place.

In addition, a new Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal, was sworn in this week. What’s not new? Oh, there’s lots of old familiar to be warmed by. Resolving the McCleary decision looms like that worn old recliner: to re-cover or replace, that’s the question. There’s a new rub to the story, though, as school districts are worried the state won’t address education funding quickly enough and school budgets will go over a “levy cliff” – expanded levy caps that will expire.

You can learn more about what we think by reading our latest blog series. And you can give some of your own input by visiting the Campaign for Student Success. In fact, it would be great if you’d join in the growing coalition to support more targeted resources for our kids.

While education funding is going to take up a lot of the oxygen in the room, there are a lot of other education issues that will be introduced and considered – you can find them all here on our bill tracker.

Thankfully, one thing we can always count on is you. Thanks for all you do for Washington’s kids – and all you’re going to do this session to ensure that our funding system helps our kids get the education and experiences they need to succeed.

Chris

 

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

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Education Advocate January 2017

ED Advocate, League of Education Voters Newsletter, January

Greetings

Chris Korsmo
Chris Korsmo, CEO

The new year is upon us, and the 2017 Legislative Session is officially under way. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the future for every Washington student. To that end, LEV is proud to join the newly-launched Campaign for Student Success. Together, we can stand up for students and ensure every kid in Washington state receives a great education.

Also, LEV interviewed Governor Inslee on his 2017-2018 budget plan, we have released our 2017 Legislative Agenda, and our partners at Washington STEM are hosting a free Lunchtme LEVinar January 24 on Career Connected Leaning and STEM.

Read below for more about our work.

Finally, I would like to extend a big thank-you to our donors in the fourth quarter of 2016. You make our work possible. 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 Kendra Yamamoto and Elizabeth Loftus - League of Education Voters

League of Education Voters 2017 Annual Breakfast

Please join us for our seventh annual LEV Breakfast on Thursday, March 30, a celebration of Washington’s teachers and an engaging conversation on how we can advocate to put great teachers in front of the kids who need them most. Featured will be 2017 Regional Teacher of the Year recipients Kendra Yamamoto and Elizabeth Loftus on how great teachers are the key to student success. Read more

Governor Jay Inslee - League of Education Voters

Podcast Interview with Governor Jay Inslee

On the day he released his 2017-2018 budget, Governor Jay Inslee sat down with League of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman to discuss his 2017 education priorities, how to build bridges in today’s political climate, and how to close the opportunity and achievement gaps. Listen here

Washington state capitol - League of Education Voters

LEV’s 2017 Legislative Agenda

In the upcoming legislative session, the League of Education Voters will focus on educator compensation, student supports, accountability, early learning, higher education, and local governance. Also, our 2017 Legislative Bill Tracker is now live! And if you would like to receive Chris Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup during the legislative session, you can sign up here. Read our legislative agenda here
 

Career Connected Learning - League of Education Voters

Career Connected Learning and STEM

In our free January 24 webinar, Washington STEM Chief Policy and Strategy Officer Caroline King and Senior Program Officer Gilda Wheeler will teach us how career connected learning can benefit students, how CTE and career connected learning are connected, and how to support CTE and career connected learning through policy and program work. Register here

Student Supports - League of Education Voters

Student Supports, an Integral Component of Basic Education

Part of defining basic education is determining what each and every student should have access to in their school. Currently, our system does not guarantee access to student supports that are critical to many students’ academic success—including support staff like counselors or nurses, and programming like additional tutoring. There are a number of approaches we can take to making sure that students receive the supports and resources they need. Read more

Heather Wallace, January 2017 League of Education Voters Activist of the Month

LEV’s 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 January: Heather Wallace.Learn about Heather’s work advocating for public education, especially when it comes to early learning. Read more

 

 

2017 League of Education Voters 7th Annual Parent & Community Training

Access, Equity & Excellence: LEV’s 7th Annual Parent and Community Training

LEV’s annual parent and community training happens February 11 at the Tukwila Community Center. Learn which programs are working on the state, school district, and community level to close the opportunity gap. Get the knowledge and the tools you need to speak up and start this important conversation in your own community, all among the company of likeminded education advocates. Breakfast, lunch and childcare provided. Register here

Get Involved

COMING UP

January 12, 2017 | South King County 2017 Legislative Preview, Kent Commons, Mill Creek Room, Kent
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

January 24, 2017 | Career Connected Learning and STEM, Online webinar


HELP SUPPORT THE LEAGUE OF EDUCATION VOTERS
| Donate online


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Posted in: Blog, Career Technical Education, Closing the Gaps, Early Learning, Education Advocate, Funding, Higher Education, Legislative session, LEV News, Podcast, STEM

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Student Supports, an Integral Component of Basic Education

By the LEV Policy Team

Student Supports - League of Education VotersPart of defining basic education is determining what each and every student should have access to in their school. Currently, our system does not guarantee access to student supports that are critical to many students’ academic success—including support staff like counselors or nurses, and programming like additional tutoring. There are a number of approaches we can take to making sure that students receive the supports and resources they need.

The Learning Assistance Program

Currently, Washington provides additional supports to students that are struggling academically through the Learning Assistance Program (LAP). Districts receive funding for this program from the state based on their enrollment of low-income students. Districts must spend LAP funds on services from a list of state-approved, evidence-based practices, including one-on-one or group tutoring and extended learning time, as well as limited use of funds for staff professional development and parent engagement. Beginning in the 2015-16 school year, districts must prioritize spending on K-4 literacy interventions. This focus on elementary literacy combined with limited LAP funding has resulted in some districts being unable to provide services to students in middle and high school grades.

The current funding formula for LAP does not align additional student supports and actual student need. While funding is provided to districts based on low-income enrollment, services are provided to students based on academic need, as identified by the district, regardless of income. This results in two potential misalignments. First, all academically struggling students may not be funded if there are more students in the district that need support than there are low-income students. Second, the full range of academic and non-academic needs of low-income students may not be met if they are not eligible for LAP services.

The funding formula also takes into consideration the salaries of certificated teachers in the district, even though many program services are provided by paraeducators. This creates inequities between districts because funding is different based on the characteristics of the adults in the district, not the students, even if student need is the same between districts.

LAP can be used as a mechanism to target the McCleary investments towards student supports with some changes to increase effectiveness. These changes may include:

  • Changing the funding formula to be based on student need, not adult characteristics;
  • Changing the formula to align with student eligibility for services;
  • Altering and/or expanding the allowable uses for LAP funds and increasing funding levels to ensure the needs of all eligible students are met; and
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of LAP interventions to ensure the program is improving student outcomes and closing gaps.

While considering changes to LAP, we should also be examining the needs of low-income students that are non-academic and, therefore, not addressed by the Learning Assistance Program.

Access to Support Staff

Washington provides districts with minimal funding within the current funding formula for support staff, such as counselors, social workers, nurses, and family engagement coordinators. Many of the allocations for these positions are fractions of full-time employees, meaning the amount of money districts receive is inadequate to hire these staff for more than a couple of hours a week. Our current funding structure also does not require districts to spend money allocated for specific staff positions to hire those staff. This allows districts flexibility in staffing to meet the needs of their communities, but, particularly in our environment of inadequate funding, also means that students may not have access to these staff because districts are unable or choose not to hire them. Possible ways to ensure that every student has access to the services provided by support staff could include increasing funding for support staff; requiring minimum staffing levels for support staff, potentially triggered by high-need student enrollment levels; and facilitating and encouraging partnerships between community-based service providers and districts and schools.

Special Education and Transitional Bilingual Instructional Program

Washington provides districts with additional funding for students qualifying for special education services and for English Language Learners (ELL). These funds must be spent on qualifying students, however, the funds provided by the state may not be adequate to meet the needs of all students. Particularly with special education students, the state limits the amount of special education funding to 12.7% of district enrollment. As a result, districts with larger special education student populations than the state cap may not receive the necessary funding to serve all of their students.

While special education students and ELLs receive specialized services, they also interact regularly with all school staff. However, often only the specialized staff are trained in best practices for working with these student populations. This means that outside of the specialized programing students receive, they may not be adequately supported in the school setting as a whole. Students receiving special education or English language services also may have non-academic or additional academic needs outside of those programs, and require access to other school support staff and services.

As we explore ways to better support every student in Washington schools, this could include examining the adequacy of funding for special education and the Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program (ELL students), funding professional development for all school staff in working with special education and ELL students, and encouraging schools and districts to integrate the services and supports students need outside of the specialized programming, rather than providing services in a silo.

Integrated Student Supports and Non-Academic Considerations

Students’ academic success is determined by a number of factors, including social emotional skills, physical and mental health, academic self-concept, family situation, and expectations of school staff. It is important that students have access to both the academic and non-academic supports they need in order to be successful. Washington has been taking steps to improve access to non-academic supports in recent years, including the development of social emotional learning (SEL) standards and the passage of HB 1541, which creates the integrated student supports protocol. The Washington Integrated Student Supports Protocol (WISSP) will be a tool districts can use to assess student need, strategically partner with families and community based organizations, and leverage district and community resources. These are important steps in our state’s efforts to address all of the factors that impact student achievement, but more can and should be done as we invest in 2017. This could include funding professional development for school staff in cultural competency, trauma-informed practices, and social emotional learning; funding family engagement coordinators for schools; and investing in continued implementation of the WISSP and SEL benchmarks and standards.

Investing in student supports, both academic and non-academic, and providing student access to services through staff, state investment, and partnerships can ensure that our McCleary investments will improve student outcomes.

#Beyond Basic

 

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

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

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Activist of the Month: Heather Wallace

By MyKaila Young, LEV Intern

January League of Education Voters Activist of the Month Heather Wallace

January Activist of the Month Heather Wallace

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 January: Heather Wallace.

Every New Year brings the opportunity for infinite possibilities. As the year begins, I’m sure you wonder about all the people, events and experiences that will occur over the next 364 days. Being in the right place at the right time opens the right doors to many of the great experiences and people that will make the year worthwhile, and that was the case for Heather Wallace when she crossed paths with LEV Spokane Regional Field Director Sandra Jarrard.

Heather’s background is in sociology, and she is connected with the importance of what many may call “Overall Life Experience.” One thing that stood out to me about Heather was that she’s not concerned with numbers and statistics, but how things really are and ways to address issues that may be viewed as broken or problematic.

For 15 years, she worked mainly with adolescents and then went on to the administrative level of medical management. When she wasn’t making an impact in the way she had envisioned, she did something about it and went back to school and eventually attained a Masters in Communication and Leadership Studies with a focus in dialogue and community development. She currently works at Spokane Regional Health District in a program that she very much enjoys called Neighborhoods Matter. This is a program that focuses on the social determinants of health and how to improve neighborhoods to in turn improve the overall health of the community at large.

Neighborhoods Matter works directly with residents to identify their neighborhood’s health and safety concerns, and then they work to address these concerns in the best way possible. They leverage community resources and focus on how to connect and advocate for safer neighborhoods. Heather says, “Safe neighborhoods mean people are out more and active, which contributes to long-term success.”

With the help of LEV, the Inland Northwest Early Learning Alliance, and the Spokane Regional Health District, Heather put together a conference that focused on realistic accountability. Sometimes quality is better than quantity, and that was surely the case for last month’s Spokids 2020, where the overall experience and discussion contributed to great strides for changes and hopes in 2017. Being lower in numbers but higher in perspectives allowed people to come together in a way that allowed many thoughts and ideas to come together and move forward. Collectively, everyone came up with action plans to help envision how that will look.

With so many organizations working to improve education and support families in need, and all the many changes that occur within various positions at numerous organizations, Heather sees great work being done at many different levels, which is something that is encouraging to us all.

The Spokids 2020 conference was a great way to figure out how similar organizations and families could come together, develop common goals, and leverage partner organizations to work together with the idea of a common community goal. Heather’s common community goal is that all children in Spokane County will achieve social-emotional readiness by kindergarten.

Next month, Heather hopes that word will spread about Spokids 2020’s useful discussions in order to home in on specific projects and areas of focus that will be able to identify success and how conference participants plan to measure progress as a group.

From a public health perspective, social-emotional health serves as the foundation for academic indicators and how likely a child is to succeed. Addressing these issues are imperative because if students are living in unhealthy environments and don’t have access to primary medical care and their basic needs aren’t being met, especially on an emotional and social level, they can’t learn. Heather is advocating for student supports and ways to measure a child’s social-emotional health early in the education continuum, which will help with discipline and a wide range of other issues that teachers have in the classrooms.

A student’s behavior reflects their social-emotional health and not their intelligence. I think we can all agree that we shouldn’t blame the child for the shortcomings of a system that isn’t tailored to the needs of every student, but instead we should blame the lack of resources that prevents the child from moving forward. A start in the right direction until we can get adequate resources for all students is to figure out ways to positively impact a child’s social-emotional health, which is why Heather’s work is vital for communities throughout Washington state.

Heather has three daughters, and she hopes her daughters will find work that they are passionate about. She hopes that they travel and learn about other cultures, and go on to be lifelong learners. Heather says, “A paycheck will only take you so far, and if you can’t find meaning in the work that you are doing, then money will never make you happy.”

Posted in: Activist of the Month, Advocacy and Activism, Blog

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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: Blog, Teacher Prep

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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: Blog, Teacher Prep

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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: Blog, Funding

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Student Voice: Just as the First Lady Said, “When They Go Low, We Go High”

By MyKaila Young, LEV Intern

MyKaila Young, League of Education Voters internThere isn’t a law that forbids any one of us from understanding how capable we are or how capable we are allowed to be. A few posts back, I mentioned my friend Deonte Bridges and how he was, in a figurative sense, the “Guru of Virtues.” The other day, he posted something online that I feel we should all understand. He wrote, “The system is run by two things in my opinion: Fear and Dependency. Until you give those up, you will find yourself mentally and physically controlled by things and faces that you have never seen.”

I learned a very long time ago, mainly through my stepdad’s harsh but necessary teachings, that you cannot depend on the system entirely as the sole source for your education, and you should always, if necessary, depend on something that is strong and logical. For me, I depended on actual people who made real changes in this nation through their perspectives and strength to prevail, because I figured that form of education would always be necessary. I happened to be right for once.

I believe if Malcom X or Martin Luther King were still alive, they would want us to remember that we didn’t get to where we are today by waiting for the system to change. We got to where we are today by challenging the system and taking back what was rightfully ours, and we must continue to do the same now. There is so much more power in shared knowledge and perspective than there is with restricted access to basic awareness that the broken system provides. I hope that now, more than ever, students recognize that the power is within them, but it’s up to them to embrace it.

My reaction to the election was that this is yet another time when a nation has been seized. Throughout the election, I wondered and if anyone ever thought to ask, “When was America ever great? And how could he possibly make America great again if it was never really great?” Despite what has shaken a nation over the past several days, and what will be a very different reality moving forward in the next four years, we all have to remember that this country was built on unjust ground due to an unfair system. Certain individuals took it upon themselves to decide who would be privileged and who would be burdened, without any logic or true understanding of what it takes for a person to truly be privileged, and how easy it is for a person to be burdened by intellectual poverty and be completely unaware of it.

What surprised me the most was that now, more than ever, millions of people understand a day in the life of a student who has to go to under-resourced schools, taking on ample amounts of adult challenges and anxieties, and continuously having and deal with systematic bullying and oppression as early as 9 years old due to the education system alone. It was shocking how an entire nation felt these emotions all at once. It’s not just certain people or ethnic groups who have to deal with the burden of being uncertain. Now we all do.

The system may never change, but that’s why it’s more important than ever to consider what your role is within the system, and how you can make a difference. Sure, protesting and uniting in that way does some good, but it’s time to support each other’s progressions and fundraise for our kids who will now probably have fewer resources than before. It’s time to use the unity and bond that has been created over the past several days and progress it. Sure, one person can make you feel as if you have no value or power, but the opportunities surrounding the McCleary education funding debate ask you whether that is something you will continue to believe. Will you settle for believing you are worth less than you are, because someone makes you feel that way? I hope the answer is “No,” because you can’t allow fear to carry you through a lifetime of experiences that have already been deemed to be uncertain.

What is McCleary saying to us now? Well, it’s saying that things are going to be different moving forward, but that the fight for quality, equitable education must always be at the forefront of what we continue to advocate for. Every person, regardless of background, color, age, or sexual orientation, is going to be affected in some way by this election. However, it is up to us to change the perspective for our students and help them to redefine the barriers of privilege and poverty, because nowadays you have to ask yourself, “Is there really a difference now with the current changes in the White House?” Could McCleary be saying that, despite the unfortunate event that has transpired, the one thing we still need to do is come together and figure out a way to engage and inspire our students in a unique way? I think that’s exactly what it is saying.

George Eliot once wrote, “There is no despair so absolute as that which comes with the first moments of our first great sorrow, when we have not yet known what it is to have suffered and be healed, to have despaired and have recovered hope.” Regardless of the outcome, the presence of McCleary will always serve as a reminder for every student, now more than ever, to believe the power that they hold is unique to them.

McCleary is trying to get people to realize that, although the American Dream is just an illusion, it doesn’t mean you stop dreaming and give up. Instead, change the perspective of your life and live as best as you can. Remember how this nation was built, and how hard individuals have had to fight for change and equal opportunity in all areas of life in America. Education is the foundation for all great things and, sadly, many people in power understand that. What must we do moving forward? Be optimistic. Encourage our students to believe in something greater than themselves.

There is always going to be someone or something that is going to tell you that you cannot do something or be something. But as Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bike. The key is to keep moving forward.” I lived my life in fear for quite some time, not knowing whether I was going to need another unexpected surgery that I couldn’t afford, or whether I was ever going to be able to become a great writer. Now that I am a few years older, I have learned that often we don’t fear things because we are afraid; we fear things because of their presence.

No one knows what the future holds, and it’s a scary reality. I’m sure we all dream of an equitable and prosperous educational system that empowers every student but, truth be told, why are we depending on a broken system to empower the fresh and priceless minds of our kids that is supported by a divided nation? How can we as advocates, parents, and teachers help our kids perfect and realize their power and skills?  I have an idea, but it’s going to require some time, patience and, most importantly, hope in not the system but in each other.

Education is the art of learning and creating perspective. No one can ever take away your ability to learn, as long as you agree to never stop thinking, reading, and questioning everything. That’s how I found my way to journalism.

 

Read MyKaila’s fourth post, Is McCleary Paving the Way to a New American Dream?

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Funding

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Every Student Succeeds Act Public Comments

College and Career Ready - League of Education Voters

Parents, students, teachers, and community members can help shape the public education policy that will affect students for years to come.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has created a draft Consolidated Plan that outlines how the state intends to implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). From now until mid-February 2017, OSPI is taking your comments on the Consolidated Plan. Submit your feedback HERE.

ESSA builds on key themes of the bill it replaces, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, while allowing states more say in how to address struggling schools. While NCLB brought focus to education gaps across the nation, the bill was punitive towards schools that weren’t succeeding. ESSA instead allows states to dictate what measures will be taken, working to improve schools by offering professional development opportunities, teacher recruitment and retention incentives, and more.

Sponsored by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the U.S. Congress passed ESSA in December 2015. The bill will be implemented in America’s schools in the 2017–18 school year.

Learn more about the Consolidated Plan public comment period at www.k12.wa.us/essa.

 

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, ESSA, School Discipline

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Student Voice: Is McCleary Paving the Way to a New American Dream?

By MyKaila Young, LEV Intern

MyKaila Young, League of Education Voters internDuring my sophomore year through the helpful guidance of a great mentor of mine, I was admitted into the Masters in Education Policy class at the University of Washington. It sounds really impressive but, truth be told, I was terrified. I was in a class with current teachers, Masters candidates, and students in the processes of pursuing a doctoral degree. I was just a sophomore who wanted to be part of revamping the current education system. I had no knowledge of how advocating for policy changes worked. I didn’t know if I would ever have the confidence to challenge the very people who had so much power over my K-12 schooling. All I really had was my experiences and memory of the great fight that I put up to make it through the system by any means necessary.

The first day of my graduate class was actually the first day of my bio anthropology class. Evolution never really intrigued me until I changed the perspective. The first chapter and lecture was on the evolution of birds. It’s not a super exciting topic but I worked with it. The book gave a very bland example of birds in the Galapagos Islands and how they changed or “evolved” over time. It was tragic (not really) in the sense of birds evolving over time and eventually dying off. There were birds with small beaks and birds with larger beaks. In hindsight, there was a variety of birds that carried their own unique traits, some that carried advantages within their own birthright, and some that did not have any advantages at all. A drought happened, which caused the seeds – the main food supply on the small island – to become enlarged. The disadvantaged birds were the ones that had smaller beaks. They couldn’t eat the larger seeds once they became enlarged due to the drought. They were disadvantaged because they were not physically equipped to break down or swallow the enlarged seeds that were produced by the environment. I remember thinking, “Well that sucks – how unfair.” The birds with the larger beaks were seen as the ones with the greatest advantage because they could in fact digest and eat the seeds, and take away the food supply from the disadvantaged. The only reason the larger-beaked birds survived over the smaller-beaked birds was because of their given or inherited advantages. The short-beaked birds died off because they found it impossible to survive without the proper resources. My professor mentioned that he believed that they tried to survive, but were unable because their disadvantages were just too great. That really intrigued me.

I remember not paying attention really until he started going in-depth about how there was always a “struggle for existence.” Learning how organisms have evolved and survived over time was fascinating in the sense that animals are not the only organisms that compete to survive in unruly or extremely disadvantaged environments.

One thing that I was reminded of this past week when I attended the Washington Student Achievement Council’s Pave the Way Conference in Tacoma was that, when it comes to education and the reality of the current system, receiving a quality and equitable education should no longer be a means of survival.

In society, an individual’s socioeconomic status (SES) is seen as a determinant in how a person is able to maintain, sustain and progress in life. Whether it be going to college or finding a career, SES in a sense allows you to see your advantages and disadvantages within the scope of your environment. The disadvantages within the environment are circumstances that can include addiction, poverty, abuse, neglect, and a wide range of other issues on top of a failing education system that a student is required to participate in.

The problem I see, as well as many advocates, is that the current system is not designed to support the advancement of every child. Instead, it’s tailored more to generalized outcomes than actual investments in advancements.

At some point in time, those who come from a particular SES – whether it be high, middle or low – that individual has to live in the “reality” of that status for some time. That’s a tough reality that we all have to face. We are given our disadvantages and advantages based on a status that is imposed on us at birth. I am sure there are many people much like myself who have looked at their surroundings while growing up and have said, “I didn’t ask for my life or parents to be this way,” or “I didn’t ask for all these problems.” Our survival abilities as humans come from how we deal with our unruly environments and imposed status and realities, but for most kids who are counting on the education system to help them to make it out and have a better chance at life, that’s failing them as well.

We need to stop expecting children to have the answers to overcoming poverty because there isn’t a special algorithm, especially when a quality education isn’t yet an option for everyone who wants one.

I haven’t heard of a school system that has properly equipped, fully funded without question, and strategically and morally invested in giving every child the proper resources to achieve. Instead, I continue to see a child’s background and SES being used as a shield or a reason to not fully invest, because they are seen as not as having as much potential as students who come from moderately stable (if not extremely stable) environments. It is not up to the system to decide who has the most potential and who is worth investing in, and who is not. That decision should be left up to the child.

Just as those short-beaked birds didn’t choose to be born in what would later on be considered as a “disadvantage,” they had no choice but to figure out a way to survive within their environment and to make that disadvantage work, or literally die trying. People do not choose to be born into harsh situations and environments. I can’t imagine someone waking up and saying to themselves, “Today seems like a great day to be burdened with hunger or extreme poverty.” I couldn’t imagine a child choosing to be in that position or in disadvantaged environment as a direct result of their family’s socioeconomic status. I strongly believe that McCleary is trying to get the very people who have the power to change the life experience of every child through a quality, immersive, and fully funded education.

We see in today’s society the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, and those in-between making it, but barely making it. Even within school districts, we see certain schools that have more access to resources because they are performing at higher levels than the schools who do not, which is only a direct result of not having a multitude of resources on top of the imposed realities that their education conveys to them. That was one of the strongest points that I heard at the Pave the Way Conference.

McCleary is helping to ensure that the decision is left up to the child and not the system. It only makes sense to invest in all students equally because if not, that sounds illegal.

At the Pave the Way Conference, I remember checking the agenda of breakouts after the morning speaker, Gary Orfield, finished his powerful address. He focused on the impact of policy and equal opportunity for success in American society. I checked my agenda and took notice that one of the sessions was about the “Realities of Poverty.”

One of the main goals of the session was to educate individuals on how poverty affects the development of an individual’s self-concept and influences a person’s values and beliefs. One thing that really resonated with me was that, when it comes to creating policies and truly advocating for kids from various backgrounds who may be experiencing various levels of poverty, there must a deeper understanding of how barriers are built within children that burden them every morning they walk through the doors of their respected schools. We have to see how poverty becomes a frequent reality for tomorrow’s adults, which is primarily due to a social system that does not provide pathways out of poverty that are realistic and long term, but instead generalized investments for expected outcomes.

I think McCleary is challenging the very people who have the power to create change within the current education system in the state of Washington. I believe that McCleary is asking what they are really afraid of.

The Pave the Way “Realities of Poverty” session went into great detail about how, in today’s society, we are socialized to judge and to not fully be aware, which causes us to miss out on the understanding piece. The facilitator gave a powerful example of how she once saw a man with rotten teeth and her first thought was, “He must be on drugs,” instead of taking a step back and thinking about our American society where over 40% of underserved communities do not have access to quality, affordable healthcare. Maybe his teeth were rotten because he does not have the means to see a dentist. She then went on to speak about how children see themselves through what is given/expected of them. McCleary could allow every student in the state of Washington to know that they will survive and access the American dream. After all, today’s children are tomorrow’s adults.

 

Read MyKaila’s third post, Could McCleary be Asking for More Inspiration?

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Funding, Higher Education

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