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A Way Forward: We can and must do better for Washington’s students

A child’s education should be a continuum with seamless transitions from early learning through postsecondary education. The League of Education Voters (LEV) is pleased to release its vision for an expanded definition of basic education.

Washington’s policymakers have spent much time, money, and intellectual capital trying to overhaul our state’s education funding system—multiple task forces, studies, work groups, legislative efforts—and yet, we lack a plan for ample, equitable, and stable funding. In addition, our definition of “basic education”—what this funding system is supposed to pay for—doesn’t go far enough to prepare our kids for college or career.

A Way Forward: We can and must do better for Washington's students. January 2015

A Way Forward

The Washington State Supreme Court found that the state was violating its constitutional obligation to amply fund basic education in the McCleary v. State of Washington funding case. Lawmakers were given a 2018 deadline to fix how we fund basic education. The passage of Initiative 1351 to lower K–12 class sizes statewide magnifies the intense pressure on the Legislature to determine a viable funding plan for public education. Though the 2018 deadline looms, the Court found the Legislature in “contempt of court” last fall, giving them until the end of the 2015 legislative session to make significant progress on a funding plan. While the funding issues are paramount to the Court, this time frame provides a unique opportunity to reflect on what our kids really need from our public education system to succeed. (more…)

Posted in: Career and College Ready Diploma, Closing the Gaps, Early Learning, Featured, Funding, Higher Education, LEV News, Uncategorized

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2014 elections re-affirm the importance of compromise, bipartisanship

Frank Ordway

Frank Ordway, Government Relations Director at the League of Education Voters

The 2014 election results are all but certified, so we now have a better idea about the political landscape going into the 2015 legislative session. The second elephant in the room—after McCleary, that is—may be Initiative 1351 (and how we’re going to pay for it), but what the election results reflect, more than anything, is how critical a bipartisan approach will be in the coming legislative session.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate’s majority parties’ holds are slim in their respective chambers, and all parties will need to have a high level of discipline to get very much done during this critical session.

The overarching question, of course, is how we are going to pay for education funding. Initiative 1351 has redefined “basic education,” and the four-year balanced budget legislation requires that the Legislature find funding for McCleary and I-1351 through the next four years—amounting to nearly $7 billion above and beyond current education funding levels.

How do you find that kind of money? Well, the current revenue structure won’t get us there. So, we either need to restructure how revenue (read: taxes) is collected in the state or cut other programs.

If we look to history, we see that legislation with bipartisan support tends to be the strongest and most likely to succeed. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Elections, Featured, Funding, Legislative session, LEV News

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All means all: Preparing all kids for the future

At the League of Education Voters (LEV), we believe that all Washington students should have access to a high-quality public education that provides the opportunity for success. All means all. Our recent work to implement a rigorous high school diploma that prepares every student for college and career is a good step in the right direction. But as a recent guest blog post mentioned, 64 percent of foster kids in Washington do not graduate from high school in the first place.

That’s why we are thrilled to highlight the work of one of our partner organizations, Treehouse, which works to give every foster kid a childhood and a future. Continue reading for summaries of several Treehouse stories about preparing students for their future and for life beyond high school. (more…)

Posted in: Closing the Gaps, Featured, LEV News

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Endorsements announced by the League of Education Voters

The League of Education Voters (LEV) is pleased to announce its endorsements for the 2014 elections.

“Our vision is to improve public education for all students in Washington state, from cradle to career, with ample, equitable, and stable funding,” said LEV CEO Chris Korsmo. “To achieve that vision, our goal is to elect candidates who will be partners in that effort.”

LEV’s endorsement process is conducted by a committee of board and community members who interviewed candidates beginning in May. The LEV Board voted at their June, July, and August meetings to approve the committee’s recommendations for endorsement. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Elections, Featured, LEV News, Press Releases & Statements

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“Sending my child to school is the only way I can ensure he doesn’t have to work as hard as I do; it is the only way out for my family. But I cannot speak English, so how am I going to make sure that he succeeds in school?”

Maria Zanotti of Inspire Development Centers introduces new techniques to make at-home learning fun for both parents and children.

Maria Zanotti of Inspire Development Centers introduces new techniques to make at-home learning fun for both parents and children.

This is one of the many stories that can be heard in Yakima Valley, Washington. Yakima, located in eastern Washington and known for its lively agricultural communities and large production of hops, is also home to a large and vibrant Latino community that makes up approximately 40 percent of the population.

While public education is confusing and complicated for a lot of people, navigating the system turns out to be particularly challenging for Yakima’s Latino community, as many parents only speak Spanish and work long hours in the fields trying to provide for their families.

Thus, it came as no surprise that when registration opened at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 21, crowds of eager parents and family members queued up at the entrance of Sunnyside High School to participate in our summit and activist training, Parents Partnering in Education. The League of Education Voters partnered with Inspire Development Centers and the Sunnyside School District to offer the summit.

League of Education Voters' Community Organizer Micaela Razo answers questions after her crash course in Advocacy 101.

League of Education Voters’ Micaela Razo answers questions after her crash course in Advocacy 101.

Parents Partnering in Education was an all-day event that covered topics ranging from the basics of advocacy to how to best support children with special needs. By the end of the day, parents had the opportunity to attend 17 different workshops and presentations.

The children who accompanied their parents were also well taken care of. Childcare was provided in classrooms around the school in the form of an exciting day filled with arts and crafts and other fun activities, and complete with instructional sessions from trained teaching staff.

About halfway through the day’s activities, participants were invited to a special presentation by guest speaker Bernardo Ruiz, Seattle Public Schools’ School Family Partnerships and Race and Equity Director, and the League of Education Voters’ Community Organizer, Micaela Razo. The presentation was a combined effort to empower parents to take “ACCION!”

Guest speaker Bernardo Ruiz delivers his charge for parents and family members to take “ACCION!”

Guest speaker Bernardo Ruiz from Seattle Public Schools delivers his charge for parents and family members to take “ACCION!”

Bernardo told the story of his struggles as a child to achieve academic stability. He attributes his success to the hard work and determination of his mother—who herself had little education—to see him succeed. This was not an easy task but during this time Bernardo says he developed a habit for trading schools and people—from those who told him that he could not to those who told him he could.

Bernardo’s message resonated throughout the day. Fighting for equitable access to a good education will not be easy and parents, families, and students will face obstacles. However, by continuing to take action and by surrounding yourself with people who believe in you and who are fighting for the same thing, you can be heard and instigate change.

And starting on June 21, 200+ families found their voice and are ready to be heard.

Raymond Fenton is the League of Education Voters’ Field Organizing Intern this summer. He is studying rhetoric and media studies and theater at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. He has a passion for social justice and is a vibrant race and ethnicity advocate and student government leader on his college campus. 

Posted in: Advocacy and Activism, Blog, Events, Featured, LEV News

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A definition of basic education worth fighting for

Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education VotersChris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education Voters, submitted an op-ed to The Seattle Times‘ Education Lab yesterday. It was published in The Seattle Times print edition on June 20.

In her column, Chris argues that the definition of “basic education” in Washington is too narrow—it does not include early learning or higher education. Read below for an excerpt, or read the entire column online.

At the League of Education Voters, we support an ample, equitable, stable education funding plan. While we supported the re-definition of “basic education” developed in 2009 (it includes smaller class size, full-day kindergarten, transportation, materials and supplies) upon which McCleary is based, we advocated that the definition should also include early learning and higher education.

During the past two years, we have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the current definition of basic education. It is neither ample nor equitable. And thanks to our over-reliance on local levies, it certainly isn.t stable.

We need a definition of basic education that puts students and their learning at the center.

Read the entire op-ed on The Seattle Times website.

Posted in: Blog, Early Learning, Featured, Funding, Higher Education, LEV News

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Schools Doing Great Things

Posted by Molly

Sometimes I feel like I spend all of my time thinking about the problems in our education system — kids falling through the cracks of a broken system, teachers struggling to effectively teach a class of nearly 30 students, and school districts making tough budget cuts while navigating the levy/bond gauntlet.  Reform often seems daunting, intimidating, overwhelming, and at times impossible.  However, there are teachers, schools and organizations doing amazing things for our kids.  I want to highlight just a few that I have had the opportunity to see firsthand.

The New School

The New School is a Seattle public school that receives supplemental funding through a private foundation.  With the additional funds, the New School is able to provide a comprehensive curriculum to its students, with a strong emphasis on quality programs and excellent and enthusiastic staff.  During my visit, I was amazed to see kindergarteners counting by tens to 100 and second graders making graphs to illustrate data.  It was inspiring to see these students rising to the challenge of high standards in such a supportive learning community.

Meany Middle School

Located in the heart of Capitol Hill, Meany is dealing with the typical problems that most urban schools in our country face — large populations of free and reduced-price lunch, ELL, and special needs students.   However, the teachers, staff and students of Meany are working hard and doing some really great things.  Due to private financial support from the Nesholm Foundation, Meany has recently undertaken the challenge of integrating the arts into the curriculum and the evidence is apparent when you walk into the building.  Poems, self-portraits and drawings line the hallways and the students’ pride is palpable.  I was lucky enough to be there on a day when students were sharing poems from their poetry portfolios.  Some of the themes of the poems were very mature; it was clear that a lot of these students are grappling with some very serious issues in their lives.  I was touched by the strength, wisdom and empowerment of the students as they were sharing.  This was just one day in one classroom, but it was clear that the students of Meany are flourishing.

The New School and Meany Middle School are combining quality programs, high standards and excellent staff that lead to higher student achievement. Progress does not come without costs however. Private foundation grants provide critical additional funding to allow for smart, strategic investments in programs that work. I was lucky enough to see progress at work in the classroom. With statewide per-student spending lagging far behind (43rd in the nation currently), clearly there is an urgent need to increase smart investments across Washington.

I encourage everyone to look to these great schools and programs for inspiration.

Posted in: Blog, Featured, LEV News

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