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Archive for Closing the Gaps

LEV Interviews State Superintendent Chris Reykdal About His Long-Term Vision for K-12 Education

OSPI Chris Reykdal - League of Education VotersLeague of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman sat down with Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal to discuss his six-year K-12 education plan, how the plan would prepare our kids for what comes after high school, and how we can help make it happen.

 

Listen:


 

Listen to Washington STEM CEO Caroline King talk about Career Connected Learning

Listen to Rep. Pat Sullivan talk about solutions to the McCleary education funding debate

Listen to Senator Ann Rivers talk about common ground for a McCleary education funding solution

Listen to Senator Hans Zeiger talk about McCleary school funding solutions

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

Listen to Governor Jay Inslee talk about his 2017 state budget

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

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

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

Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Career Technical Education, Closing the Gaps, Early Learning, ESSA, Funding, Higher Education, Legislative session, Media Clips, Podcast

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Activist of the Month: Miguel Lucatero

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 June: Miguel Lucatero. Read about his experience as a strong advocate for Latino parents in the Tri-Cities.

League of Education Voters June 2017 Activist of the Month Miguel Lucatero

June Activist of the Month Miguel Lucatero

Miguel Lucatero is a licensed home child care provider since 2001 who is participating in the Early Achievers program. He is also the parent spokesperson for Padres de Familia Preocupados por la Educacion y el Exito de Sus Hijos (Parents of Families Concerned for the Education and Success of their Children). In March 2016, a group of Tri-Cities parents met to exchange ideas and find out which kinds of problems they were experiencing in the education system. From there, the parent group Padres Preocupados por la Educacion y el Exito de Sus Hijos was born, and they have continued to meet monthly.

Last month, Mr. Lucatero wrote a letter to the Washington State Board of Education outlining the problems faced by his community, particularly the loss of tutoring services provided under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) when the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) planning stages began.

Miguel has been living in Washington State for 20 years. When asked what drives him, he says, “I am a person who likes to work because I am concerned for the future, the best interest of our children, and the well-being of the community.”

He and his wife have two daughters attending Stevens Middle School in Pasco. One is an 8th-grader and the other daughter is in the 7th grade. Mr. Lucatero says, “They still do not know want they would like to do, but they know they want to go to college.”

Although his community faces many challenges, Mr. Lucatero is inspired by trainings made available through the Early Learning Community on various aspects of early childhood education. “I like being able to take college classes about brain development,” he says. “That gives me ideas on how my wife and I can best teach the children in our care.”

If Miguel could design our education system, he would like to see teachers who are content experts developing curricula to ensure that students successfully finish high school with a focused, concrete foundation that would prepare them to achieve the college vision they want. “Think of how we build houses on concrete foundations,” Mr. Lucatero explains. “That way, our students could be successful in obtaining the careers they envision.”

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

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: Principals and Chardonnay

Chris Korsmo

Friends,

Well. What to say? No. Really. What is there to say? We aren’t going to talk about politics in the other Washington lest we start looking for an all-too-early excuse for room temperature chardonnay. And there’s not been a ton of progress – not public anyway – on the state budget. Fret not! It’s never a bad time to get smarter about education funding. (Put down that chardonnay! Learning is fun!)

They Call Me McCleary: First, you can catch yourself up on where things stand in the negotiations over ed funding – often shorthanded by the name of the court case the state is responding to: McCleary. Don’t miss the fight over the “Staff Mix” in the budget debate or you’ll never get the full story on how we build and perpetuate inequitable funding systems. If you’re going to understand ed funding, it’s good to know where the money goes. And, lest you forget, the people that make up the bulk of the system’s budget have thoughts on how the money should be used.

While we wrestle this issue to the ground and then some other states are working to solve the same problem.

It’s the Principal of the Thing: When you think of a school principal’s day what comes to mind? Waltzing through classroom after classroom interacting with teachers and kids, bringing a waft of fresh instructional leadership into every room they enter? Or maybe you remember the time(s) you were sent to the principal’s office and a different kind of wafting. Truth is that for many the day consists of one fire drill – sometimes literally – after another. Lunch duty, bus patrol, tying shoes, negotiating newly exposed hormones among tween girls, kids and sometimes parents with serious trauma, interspersed with classroom observations and report after report compiled and submitted. D.C. public schools is trying to get their principal corps back into the role they were hired for: instructional leadership.

And for as sexy as I just made the whole principal experience sound, teachers will climb the ranks of administration because it’s the only way to a significant increase in pay.

The Rest:

  • When confronted with a problem, one district changed everything to solve it.
  • I saw this in my college town: gaps
  • We love brain science!
  • Speaking of science

As always, thank you for all you do on behalf of our kids.

Chris

 

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

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An Early Learning Perspective on the House and Senate Budget Proposals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Value of Early Childhood Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Early Learning

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: There’s Also a Price When We Don’t Pay

Chris Korsmo

Happy Friday to you, Friends!

If you’re playing along at home, we are two weeks past the midway point of the legislative session. You can keep score here. Let’s dive right in.

If You Spend it They Will Come: If it’s true what Oscar Wilde (and with slight revisions, P.T. Barnum) said, “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about,” then Senate Republicans should feel great about their budget coverage. You cannot swing a dirty sweat sock in this town without breathless headlines and clever turns of phrase. With a $1.8 billion increase to K-12 education, Senate Republicans have said they are fully funding “basic education,” the point of the McCleary decision and subsequent rulings by the Supreme Court. The budget gives further legs to the Senate’s education plan released earlier this session with levy reform playing a leading role in the “how to pay for it” discussion. We can all agree that there’s also a price when we don’t pay…

This opening budget salvo did come at a price to higher education, early learning, housing and food assistance – cuts we hope are restored (and then some) when final negotiation are under way. And at the time of this writing it looks like Republican senators are open to those conversations. With the Senate budget out, we expect the House to put their plan forward next week. Both chambers would do well to invite this journalist to the negotiating party.

Rigorous Rigor: Last week I had a little soapbox moment about the attempts to roll back high school graduation requirements. This week, there’s more evidence that raising expectations (and supports) raises outcomes. Sometimes you gotta ask yourself whether it’s funny when you’re the butt of the joke.

De Minimizing the De Minimis: You may have noticed the Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch was engaged in multiple rounds of Senate confirmation hearings this week. A funny thing happened on the way to the marble arch. The U.S. Supreme Court – they of the even numbered variety for over a year now – managed a unanimous decision. On special education. Overturning a case from the 10th Circuit from which Gorsuch hails. I’m not one who typically exalts the writings of Chief Justice Roberts, but do not miss this:

“When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing ‘merely more than de minimis’ progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all,” wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who wrote the 16-page opinion. “For children with disabilities, receiving instruction that aims so low would be tantamount to ‘sitting idly… awaiting the time when they were old enough to “drop out.” ’ ”

Oh, SNAP!

Lovely, Lively Reads:

As always, thank you for all you do on behalf of our kids.

Chris

 

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Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Closing the Gaps, Early Learning, Funding, Higher Education, Weekly Roundup

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Chris Korsmo: My Ed Path

Chris Korsmo

When I reflect back on my education, it becomes clear pretty quickly that there was not one big “aha” moment. I didn’t just wake up one morning and was suddenly enlightened about everything on the face of the earth. And we haven’t yet figured out how to download information directly into our brains, like Carrie Anne Moss suddenly learning how to fly that helicopter. Everything I learned built on what I had learned previously. Graduation requirements at my high school were aligned to college-going. While rigorous, those requirements allowed for the arts. Seven years of marching band made me who I am today. All the stories about band camp are true.

This is why our vision at the League of Education Voters is for every student in Washington state to have access to an excellent public education – from early learning through higher education – that provides the opportunity for success. And this is why LEV is a proud member of the Cradle Through College Coalition.

To that end, during the 2017 legislative session, LEV is advocating for:

  • Additional funding for increased access and participation in high-quality early learning programs across the state
  • A system that attracts, retains, and supports qualified and effective educators, which includes teachers, para-educators and principals, while addressing needs for equitable access to quality instruction
  • Programs and funding targeted toward students who need it most, providing both academic and non-academic supports for students to improve outcomes and make progress in closing the opportunity and achievement gaps
  • An accountability system that provides transparency for families on school budgets and student outcomes, measures student and school success meaningfully, and provides effective state- and district-level supports for struggling schools
  • Additional funding to serve all students eligible for the State Need Grant

Here’s what we know about our kids: They all have assets. Every one of them has talent. They are not widgets. They want to know that what they’re learning has meaning. And they want you to know their names. For all the difficulty we ascribe to changing education policy, it’s really pretty simple:

  • Foundational skills that transfer with them to careers
  • Access to information about possible career choices
  • Individualization
  • Applied learning or relevance
  • And adults who care about them

Speaking of caring adults, none of my success would have been possible without great teachers. Research consistently shows that a great teacher has the single biggest impact on whether a student will succeed. I know this from personal experience, and I thought you might appreciate these photos from my education path:

League of Education Voters CEO Chris Korsmo's education path

Spring Day at Beloit College was a huge day of fun. There were no classes, and air band contests were the order of the day. Guess which band we were and who I was? I believe the year was 1983. I’m holding a toilet brush, in case you’re curious. For the record, the brush was brand-new.

I couldn’t have made it to Beloit without support from my favorite teacher, Sue Remley. I had her twice for math in high school and she took me under her wing. I could tell she was paying attention, which is why I did not want to let her down.

Her expectation for me was a motivating factor in applying to and going to college, because she let me know when the SATs and ACTs were. She even asked me who I was sending them to. She had 150 kids a day, in six or seven classes. And she knew everybody. I wasn’t the only person she was talking to. I wasn’t the super special kid. Everybody was super special. And that was cool.

Wouldn’t it be great if every student had a story about a favorite teacher, and every student had access to great teachers from early learning through higher education to help them along their education path? Call your legislators and encourage them to support the full education continuum at 1-800-562-6000. If you need help finding your legislators, just click here.

 

#MyEdPath

Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Closing the Gaps, Early Learning, Funding, Higher Education, Legislative session, Teacher Prep

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: Sunny Skies for Now

Chris Korsmo

You ever play those meeting “icebreaker” games where you have to indicate which tree you’d be, or what animal you were in a past life? If the legislature were a condiment, what would it be? My vote this week is ghost pepper sauce. Discuss.

Money, Money, Money, Money. Money! When last we met we shared the news that the legislature had averted multiple local education funding crises by passing an extension of the levy cliff. This was welcome news for many, even as attention quickly turned to the bigger issue, McCleary. The good news? The economic forecast is sunny. The bad news? Well, for now, there really isn’t any. Yes, the two sides might bicker from time to time and we don’t yet have a final plan to fund, but we will. Our aim is to make sure more of the resources intended for kids who need something more or different – see gaps diatribe below – actually get those resources. Even while we build a compensation system that our education professionals find both fair and energizing.

Next week we’ll get our first look at how the Senate will address education funding when they release their budget. Expect the House version the week after. Here’s how things stack up so far.

Testing Testing: The state’s long love affair with the testing debate will air in all its glory next week when Senate Education takes up HB 1046, the House bill that “delinks” passing the state’s math, English language arts and science exams from high school graduation. Superintendent Reykdal was asked about it recently and spoke in support of removing the requirements. We’ve long taken a different position, that delinking the exams makes it difficult to know whether they’re taken seriously. As the only consistent statewide measures of proficiency, we need good – comparable – data that tells us how our students are doing and importantly, how students fare by groups. We’ve long said we can’t close gaps we can’t see. Between the national moves to reduce federal oversight – or even expectations – and the state wanting to no longer (accurately) capture this information, our kids caught in the opportunity and achievement gaps will be invisible. And, sadly, kids who think they’re college material because they can pass the high school courses that meet the graduation requirements will often find out that they are in fact, NOT ready for prime time. For a state with the kind of student academic performance we have – only 31% of our kids get a degree or certificate from a two- or four-year college – this is a major step backward. Proponents will say that kids are the only ones being held accountable for proficiency – the graduation requirements are high stakes exit exams. It’s true our system is not a bastion of accountability. But eliminating the little bit that we have will only hide the gaps, mislead our kids, and drive our degree completion rates in the wrong direction. (How do I really feel?)

While we’re talking about money, the President’s budget was released this week and it is not a good time to be poor, or a first-generation college student, or a kid in after school programs. The good news here is that a President’s budget is typically just a conversation starter. And, by the looks of it, everybody’s talking.

Light Reading:

  • Sometimes a walk in the woods really pays
  • Speaking of gems, there’s one right in our backyard.
  • More thinking on the causes and impacts of the achievement gap.

As always, thank you for all you do on behalf of our kids. Happy Saint Paddy’s Day!

Chris

 

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Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Closing the Gaps, Funding, Legislative session, Weekly Roundup

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: It’s Halftime

Chris Korsmo

Well Folks,

If the legislative session were the Super Bowl, Lady Gaga would be pretending to drop through a hole in the Capitol roof – it’s halftime! Sort of. Whatever time it is, you can always catch up on the action with our bill tracker. You might also check out our podcast series, including the newest one with Senator Hans Zeiger, Chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. Let’s take a look at how things are going.

Progress: That wind storm that rocked the western half of Washington may have been caused by the collective exhale of school district officials upon the news that the legislature passed an extension of the so-called Levy Cliff. With expanded levy capacity set to expire at the end of the year and levies to drop, districts were scrambling to figure out how to avoid sending out pink slips to staff. Now the legislature can settle in to resolve the rest of the K-12 funding situation – including a reprisal of sorts of the McCleary task force, an 8-member group tasked with drawing up a final plan. While much of the discussion so far has focused on the State’s obligation under the McCleary ruling, there’s been good movement in thinking about how to get more resources to kids who need more – how to ensure that money allocated to close gaps and accelerate results for struggling students. We aren’t the only state trying to unleash the potential that this moment holds. However we go about it, we’d like to see more of this.  And this.

Regress: Even as the Legislature buckles down on the funding issues, we can feel the slow shifting of the ground – ground we thought we’d already covered – underneath us. Bills to reduce graduation requirements and undo the State Board of Education continue to be debated. In case you missed it, the Washington Round Table issued a report showing both the heightened expectations for our workforce of tomorrow and the underwhelming way in which we prepare our kids for those opportunities. Backward is how you get out of a driveway. Not how progress is made.

Recess:

  • Turns out parents really can be influential.
  • That hour of sleep you’re about to lose this weekend? It’s not good for you.
  • Principals, the oft ignored solution…
  • Purple goes the way of analog. Legislative and Congressional districts aren’t the only places where politics are undivided.
  • There’s an algorithm for that.

That’s all for now, kids! I’ve got to get my hands mani on before the PTA auction tonight. Can’t raise a paddle with claws like this, now can we? As always, thank you for all you do on behalf of our kids! And keep it up! Halfway isn’t all the way, but it’s a good start.

Chris

 

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Posted in: Closing the Gaps, Funding, Legislative session, Podcast, Weekly Roundup

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Activist of the Month: Sameth Mell

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 March: Sameth Mell. Read about his experience as a strong advocate for education, housing, and immigrant communities.

League of Education Voters March Activist of the Month Sameth Mell

March Activist of the Month Sameth Mell

Sameth Mell is an active leader with the Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees & Communities of Color (CIRCC), serving on the leadership and advocacy committees. He works for the Mount Baker Housing Association as the Outreach & Resident Services Manager, helping residents access needed services and programs, and helping them to engage in their community. He is also responsible for connecting the agency at large to community based organizations and public officials, and works on legislative materials. He is a community activist extraordinaire on behalf of the Cambodian community and many social justice issues that the community faces.

Sameth supported the Campaign for Student Success (C4SS) by adopting its three principles of funding and fairness, talent, and accountability as part of CIRCC’s advocacy agenda for this year, along with other priorities that focus on housing development for communities in South Seattle, opposition to building a new youth jail, and ending fines for formerly incarcerated people that often prevent them from being able to support themselves.

After he put together CIRCC’s advocacy agenda, Sameth then scheduled C4SS group meetings with four Seattle City Council members to date, and seven state legislators. As a small group, C4SS met with council members Burgess, Johnson, Herbold and Harrell. Each time, C4SS had thoughtful conversations with the council member about the priorities on our advocacy agenda, and C4SS has asked the council member to sign onto the Campaign for Student Success. Of the four, one has signed on so far. Sameth is now working on setting up more appointments with the remaining Seattle City Council members.

Sameth was born in a refugee camp in Thailand after his parents fled the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia. After his father died in the camp, his mother signed up to relocate him and his three siblings to the United States in 1985.

Living in poverty in mid-1980s Seattle, Sameth wondered why he was transferred from High Point Elementary School near his home and bused to Lafayette Elementary seven miles away. He didn’t understand the policies then.

Sameth became involved in Asian Counseling and Referral Service’s APIRA (Asian Pacific Islander Rising Above) program in his teen years, and started to recognize his Khmer identity as being important to him. He began working on identity politics, recognizing racism and oppression and addressing more of that as he grew older. Sameth says, “I saw organizing as a way to effect change and create equity for my community members.”

In addition to C4SS, Sameth is working with the Cambodian-American Community Council of Washington State to create scholarships. They have strong advocates from the education sector working on the education subcommittee, particularly around mentorship to help students continue to higher education. He hopes to have conversations with elected officials about helping support Cambodian-Americans attain degrees and certificates, and share stories about the Khmer Rouge genocide.

When Sameth went to high school, there were only two paragraphs about the Khmer Rouge genocide in his history books. He would like to see an education mechanism to educate the general public about the genocide so that his community can take pride in overcoming that, and draw attention to its implications in today’s political climate. He says, “Refugees don’t come to America because they just want a better life. My mother never asked to be here. We had no choice but to survive.”

Sameth says all the issues he works on intersect. In addition to C4SS, he is supporting the creation of a Filipino Community Center, construction of the Mount Baker Gateway Project to build 250 affordable housing units in Southeast Seattle, and the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA). He says, “We’re rewriting the narrative – ecology equals affordable housing. If we want to build on a space contaminated by solvents, we need to get MTCA funds to make that happen.”

His overall plan is create spaces where people can live, celebrate their cultures, and have access to quality education. After all, Sameth says, “We have along Rainier the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the country.”

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

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