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There Is No Excusing Racism

This has been a really devastating week for all of us. Racism is a stain on this country. Though it cannot be erased, we can work together to remedy its effects and make a future that reflects the values for which this country stands. We recognize that people of color experience the effects of racism every day, and that it impacts our students.

We believe that every child deserves the opportunity to achieve their dreams.

We cannot let events like Charlottesville drive us apart. We have to work together. This is not the first time that hatred has raised its ugly head, and it won’t be the last time.

What’s happening is not okay today, it wasn’t okay yesterday, and it’s not okay for tomorrow. We stand together to raise our voice unequivocally that we do not tolerate racism and we will not be silent.

Sincerely,
The League of Education Voters staff

Chris Korsmo, CEO
Daniel Zavala, Director of Policy and Government Relations
Leann Arend, Chief Operating Officer
Emily Ditty, Development Director
Nancy Hopkins, Senior Administrative and Accounting Assistant
Sandra Jarrard, Regional Field Director, Spokane
Ruvine Jiménez, Community Organizer, Tri-Cities Region
Arik Korman, Communications Director
Kelly Munn, State Field Director
Jessica Nieves, Development Associate
Angela Parker, Policy Analyst
Ashley Rammelsberg, Digital Communications Specialist
Jake Vela, Senior Policy Analyst
Julia Warth, Assistant Director of Policy and Government Relations
Joyce Yee, Community Organizer, South King County Region

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Longtime LEV lobbyist to join the state Department of Early Learning

By Chris Korsmo

After giving a voice to Washington state students and families for almost eight years at LEV, I am proud – albeit  sad – to wish Frank Ordway all the best as Assistant Director of the Department of Early Learning (DEL).

Frank, our Government Relations Director, will be helping Ross Hunter at the state level, making sure our youngest learners have every opportunity they can to succeed at school. His last day at LEV is Dec. 4.

Frank has served the League – and the kids of Washington – in extraordinary ways. His passion, commitment and vision were the threads that helped sew together state budgets increasing education funding by billions of dollars, create and pass the Early Start Act and fully fund College Bound Scholarships.

Frank would say that he didn’t do these things alone – and he’s right – but it’s safe to say some of these things wouldn’t have happened without him. It is a bittersweet moment for us at LEV, but we know that our kids will be served well with Frank in a leadership position at DEL.

While we will greatly miss Frank, we are thrilled to have a deep bench at LEV. Jene Jones will serve as our voice in Olympia during the upcoming short budget session. She will tackle issues large and small on behalf of kids as LEV’s representative in Oly.

On behalf of LEV, we are all proud that one of our own will be helping our students at the state level. We know that Frank will continue to be tireless advocate for our students, families and schools. We wish him all the best.

Chris

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LEV applauds Ross Hunter’s appointment as Director of the Department of Early Learning

The League of Education Voters has worked with the Washington State Department of Early Learning to since its inception to improve access to, and quality of, early childhood education for all Washington kids. We have also worked with Rep. Ross Hunter for many years as a legislator in the House of Representatives, where he has been a steadfast champion for education.

As an organization that believes in a continuum of education for all Washington students, from early learning through postsecondary, we are pleased with Gov. Inslee’s appointment of Ross Hunter as director of the Department of Early Learning. We look forward to working with him to continue growing access to high-quality early learning and working to ensure the strong implementation of the Early Start Act.

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Statement on the Supreme Court’s Order to the State

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

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

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

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LEV Board votes to oppose I-1366: Another mean-spirited distraction from Tim Eyman

The League of Education Voters (LEV) Board voted to oppose Initiative 1366 on June 23, 2015. I-1366 is sponsored by Tim Eyman and Jack and Mike Fagan and qualified for the ballot today.

The initiative would cut Washington state’s sales tax by one percent, resulting in the loss of approximately one billion dollars per year for the state—unless the Washington State Legislature approves a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote to raise revenue by April 2016. With about sixty-six cents of every sales tax dollar going toward public education, the passage of I-1366 would be disastrous for Washington’s students.

Eyman’s tactics in this initiative are nothing new; he has attempted time and time again to pass initiatives (I-960, I-1053, I-1185) requiring a two-thirds vote to raise or recover revenue. Thanks to the League of Education Voters v. State of Washington court case, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled I-1053 unconstitutional in 2013. Given the outcome of that case, Eyman is now resorting to extortion in an effort to force the Legislature to pass a two-thirds constitutional amendment.

Cutting the sales tax by more than $2 billion per biennium would necessitate devastating cuts to our schools, in violation of the Supreme Court’s McCleary orders and in violation of Article IX of the Washington State Constitution, which instructs the state to make “ample provision” for the education of Washington students.

Our Legislature recently passed one of the best budgets for education in our state’s history. Now is not the time to backtrack on the state’s progress toward an ample, equitable, and stable education system.

Learn more about our partners in opposition of I-1366 at the No on Tim Eyman’s I-1366 website.

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

Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education Voters

Chris Korsmo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On the proposed rules for E2SSB 6552

League of Education Voters CEO Chris Korsmo sent the following letter to all Washington state legislators earlier today regarding the proposed rules for E2SSB 6552.

On behalf of the League of Education Voters, I applaud the Legislature for the passage of E2SSB 6552 and for the explicit recognition that “preparing students to be successful… requires increased rigor and achievement, including attaining a meaningful high school diploma with the opportunity to earn twenty-four credits.” I strongly agree and thank you for your leadership.

With the passage of 6552, we have a law that can increase rigor, empower local control and ensure consistency at the state level for high school graduation requirements.

At the League of Education Voters, we believe that every student in Washington state should have access to an excellent public education that provides the opportunity for success. E2SSB 6552 is a step in that direction. But only if implemented well.

Next week, the State Board of Education will vote on proposed rules guiding the implementation of this new law.

We have a number of concerns related to the implementation of the law and the proposed rules that are addressed in detail in the attached document.

Of particular concern to the League of Education Voters is the provision allowing students to waive credits. We have an economic imperative as a state to ensure that students are ready for the next step after high school, whether that is a career or post-secondary education. However, allowing any of the 24 credits to be waived results in less rigor, not more. In addition, high school graduation requirements should be consistent across the state. The proposed rules include significant flexibility for both school districts and for students, which incorporates the extensive discussions leading up to the passage of 6552. The State Board of Education has done exactly what the Legislature authorized them to do and any further changes to E2SSB 6552 should be made through additional legislation.

Thank you again for your work to ensure that each Washington student graduates from high school with a college and career ready diploma and the opportunity for success. Please review the attached addendum for more information about our specific concerns on the updated high school diploma. I welcome hearing from you on this important issue and working together during the 2015 legislative session.

Sincerely,

Chris Korsmo
CEO

Att: On the proposed rules for E2SSB 6552

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Governor signs landmark education reform bill

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a landmark education reform bill, Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2261, today in Olympia.

A broad-based coalition of parents, business leaders, community members and education stakeholders, which includes the League of Education Voters, issued the following news release after the bill signing.

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News Release: May 19, 2009

Governor signs landmark education reform bill

Parents, school advocates applaud beginning of movement to redefine and fully fund “basic education”

OLYMPIA – More than 100 parents and education advocates joined Gov. Chris Gregoire as she signed a landmark education reform bill, Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2261, today in Olympia.

“Today is a historic day for Washington’s children in the midst of challenging times,” said Laura Bay, president of the Washington State PTA.  “Parents and school advocates are deeply concerned about the impact of state budget cuts to schools.  We’re grateful, however, that lawmakers took bold action to protect education funding from devastating cuts in the future by expanding ‘basic education’ to include the tools our children need to succeed in life.”

“The signing of this education reform bill is important to our economy,” said Terry Byington, executive director of TechAmerica Washington.  “The future of our state and nation depends on every child receiving a high-quality education that prepares them for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

“The signing of the education reform bill is, in large part, a testament to the hard work of parent and citizen advocates who worked to achieve positive changes for children and public schools,” said Jen Boutell, parent and Tacoma Stand for Children leader.

At the last minute, the governor vetoed the section on early learning.

“We’re deeply disappointed that the governor chose to veto the section that would have provided early learning for at-risk children,” said Chris Korsmo, executive director of the League of Education Voters.  “We take the governor at her word that she’ll prioritize early learning next session.  This is a top priority of ours and the children of our state.”

A broad-based coalition of parents, business leaders, community members and education stakeholders worked closely with legislators for months to pass ESHB 2261.  The reforms, which begin in 2011 and will be fully implemented by 2018, will:

  • Expand the school day so high school students can take more math, science and world language courses to graduate with 24 credits;
  • Redefine basic education to include all-day kindergarten, highly capable education, transportation and other academic programs and support services students need to succeed in school;
  • Make school funding more transparent for school leaders, lawmakers and parents through the use of a “prototypical schools” model; and
  • Direct the State Board of Education to create an accountability system and intervention measures targeted at challenged schools and districts.

“Our state is now committed to reforms that will prepare every child for college, work and life,” said Cheryl Jones of the Black Education Strategy Roundtable.  “But, the work has just begun.  It’s up to all of us—parents, educators and students—to work closely with our lawmakers to implement these reforms.  Our education system depends on it, and all of our children deserve nothing less.”

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Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe’s open letter to the education community

We’ve posted Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe’s open letter to the education community in full below.

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April 18, 2009

This has been one of the most difficult and bittersweet weeks in my time in our Legislature. We passed House Bill 2261, to redefine Basic Education. I envisioned the day we would all do this together, but to my deep disappointment that did not happen.

Still, it is time to move forward.

The bill the Senate passed last week shines a bright light on how the state funds our schools with an outdated definition of basic education and gives us the tools to know how we must change our funding to better reflect the growing expectations and challenges our schools face. What will be our class size? Does each school have enough teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors and speech therapists to help students excel? And how many administrators does each school need? These are the questions that this legislation will help us answer.

The bill isn’t perfect, but it is our road map to the world-class educational system envisioned by Washington Learns that every one of us deeply wants. We may not be able to solve all the problems facing our educational system today but we must begin. It is time to take this step.

I have heard that this is the wrong bill and the wrong message at the wrong time. I have heard that it is an insult to our hard-working teachers and educators that come to work every day and are committed to providing every child with the opportunity to learn. I want to be clear – teachers are the single most important part of our educational system. This bill is not a commentary in any way about a failure of our teachers. It is a recognition that our teachers deserve better and a recognition that our state’s definition of basic education has failed to keep pace with the evolving expectations of society and has failed our teachers.

So why do we need this bill now, of all times? Because our class size is 46th in the nation. Because our dropout rate is between 20 and 30 percent, and our teacher compensation is 21st in the nation. That is unacceptable. Our students and our educators deserve much more than an education system that was defined 30 years ago. I know that changing an educational system for almost 1 million students and over 2,000 schools takes time. It cannot happen in one legislative session. However, we must not let an inability to make immediate whole-scale change discourage us from making any progress.

We need to fund what we value and we must ensure that our commitment to education is clearly defined. Only by clearly establishing our Constitutional duties now can we hold the state accountable in the future. There are many demands on our limited state resources – health care, family leave, hospitals and nursing homes, to name only a few. As we come out of this recession, and as the economy grows, our educational system needs to be first in line for restoration of cuts and it must remain at the top of the priority list for future investments. In order to provide the system the capacity to accommodate those investments, planning and phase-in must start now. An expanded definition of basic education obligates our state to fully fund the educational system that our teachers, schools, students and communities need today. With this expanded definition in place the state can start the process of preparing the system for future growth.

We also have a unique opportunity right now to try and access additional federal stimulus dollars to help us with initial, one-time investments. This legislation makes us more competitive to receive part of the more than $4 billion that is available for states in the “Race to the Top” grant. These funds are available to states that are making exceptional progress towards educational reform goals such as rigorous college-and-career ready standards, creation of data systems that help foster continuous improvement and a process for providing intensive support for challenged schools. The legislation passed by the Senate includes provisions and a plan for addressing each of these goals in a meaningful way and will hopefully help the state of Washington access this additional federal money.

For all of these reasons I support the important and difficult step we took this week. This legislation is not the end goal, only the beginning. It reflects months of hard work and negotiation with all education stakeholders. The bill passed by the Senate incorporates language from both the Full Funding Coalition’s proposal and recommendations from the Basic Education Task Force. It strives to plot a way forward, with a realistic implementation strategy based on shared responsibility and expectations for the state, school districts and schools. We must continue to embrace a respectful and steady process forward and I pledge that I will be here every step of the way.

We will do this together. This is about the children.

Yours,

Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe
Chair, Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee

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Remarks from education advocates on the passage of ESHB 2261

Education advocates celebrate the passage of the basic education finance reform legislation, ESHB 2261, by a vote of 26 to 23.  Our broad-based coalition includes Washington State PTA, League of Education Voters, State Board of Education, Washington Stand for Children, Washington Roundtable, TechAmerica, Partnership for Learning, Black Education Strategy Roundtable, numerous school boards and superintendents from across the state, and countless others.

Outlined below are quotes from the various coalition members.

Mary Jean Ryan, Chair, State Board of Education

“The State Board of Education strongly commends the Senate for taking this historic action. This is exactly the demonstration of leadership that the children of Washington State deserve. We urge the House to concur with this revised bill. This action will propel us forward. We are now committed and accountable to ensuring all students leave high school, college, or work ready. After too long a wait, Washington’s educational system is once again moving in the right direction.”

Cheryl Jones, Black Education Strategy Roundtable

“This is a great start toward reforming our education system and moving our children into a learning environment that puts their futures as a priority in our state.  As we work together to implement HB 2261, we are encouraged that all children will have access to a quality education and that we will continually work toward closing the achievement gap for minority and low income children.”

Jon Gould, Children’s Alliance and Early Learning Action Alliance

“We applaud the Senate for their historic vote today modernizing the definition of basic education. We thank Senators for including early learning in basic education and recognizing that smart investments in early learning yield positive returns for families and communities across Washington State. In these tough times, this farsighted policy puts early childhood education on a stronger footing for future growth. It’s a great day for children in Washington.”

Chris Korsmo, Executive Director, League of Education Voters

“We’re one step closer to making history for one million public school kids in our state.  These reforms take advantage of the latest evidence-based research to improve academic achievement for children.  Early learning, stronger graduation requirements and a longer school day will better prepare our kids for school and for life.

Including early learning in basic education will mean more children will start school ready to succeed and prevent the achievement gap from occurring.  This is the best investment we can make to improve outcomes for children.”

Shannon Campion, Executive Director, Washington Stand for Children

“This is an historic vote for Washington’s children.  Legislators today demonstrated that even during an economic crisis, we can stay focused on, and make marked progress toward, our vision of a world-class education system for all Washington’s children.”

Jennifer Boutell, Parent, Tacoma Public Schools

“Tacoma desperately needs these reforms.  My hope is that by the time my girls reach high school, the public school system will be able to prepare them for the 21st century economy.”

Terry Byington, Executive Director, TechAmerica

“In future years we’ll look back on this watershed moment and be thankful the Legislature took this stand to support students.”

Laura Bay, President, Washington State PTA

“Today is a great day for the children of Washington.  The Senate’s passage of HB 2261 is an important next step to set the State of Washington on the road toward fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide ample funding for the education of all children.   We are on our way to fulfilling the goal of providing the education system we need to educate our children for success in today’s world.   Many legislators along with a strong coalition of education advocates, including volunteer PTA members from across the state have worked tirelessly in support of this effort.  We applaud the efforts and the courage of those who crafted this legislation and those who have voted for it. 

Having said that, we must all recognize that the fight is not yet won, because the bill now goes back to the House of Representatives for concurrence, and then to the Governor for her approval.  We encourage both the House and the Governor to take swift action because our kids can’t wait.”

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