League of Education Voters http://educationvoters.org Building a quality public education system from cradle to career. Fri, 27 Feb 2015 23:13:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: February 20 http://educationvoters.org/2015/02/20/korsmos-weekly-roundup-february-20/ http://educationvoters.org/2015/02/20/korsmos-weekly-roundup-february-20/#comments Sat, 21 Feb 2015 00:00:36 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23937 Well, kids, it’s that time of year. The gnashing-of-teeth-while-twiddling-thumbs time of year. It’s too early to plant. The Grammies and Westminster are already over. And the rush to see all the Oscar nominees is out-weighed by the lack of desire to spend $35 on a movie and a box of popcorn. On the legislative front, it’s much the same. The first cut-off date for the Legislature just passed.

And no one is talking seriously, yet, about possible solutions to the state budget challenges. Namely, how to make public education whole, fund, or repeal the class-size initiative, and solve the transportation mess, all while not really changing the tax structure. (Note: I’m not suggesting that they shouldn’t change the tax structure. Just that, well, they won’t.)

Gnash and twiddle. It feels sort of like watching my 9-year-old clean his room. Yes, sweetie, you really CAN throw away the broken Nerf darts. And the half- chewed gum. You can also re-purpose those too-small-shoes. And neaten those boxes of toys. Or not. So much promise amid the flawed execution.

Something else that my son and the Legislature share is that there is still time. Not infinity. But time. Enough lamenting. As always, you can track the movement—or lack thereof—on education policy here. On with the news. This week, let’s play the half-used-popular-phrase game. You’ll get it.

The Elephant…: This is not a thinly veiled reference to the new Congressional majorities; but is the essential part of the phrase that describes that thing that no one will talk about. Education funding. While the glacial movement in Olympia is painful, it has allowed time to consider other states that’ve faced similar challenges. It also got Rep. Reuven Carlyle thinking. Sadly, it would seem that the one funding issue that had some traction, changing the requirements for passing school bonds to a simple majority, is DOA.

Why, you might ask, would a bill with 45 sponsors, including the chair and ranking members of the House Education Committee, not even make it out of said committee? It’s a good question.

The Messenger….: Don’t like the message? Shoot it. Folks who see the new college and career ready state standards (often referred to as Common Core State Standards) as too challenging are itching to eliminate them. It’s creating something of an unholy alliance between otherwise “liberal” parents and tea party conservatives. No new system is perfect, but eliminating one before it’s really implemented because it’s “too hard?” Seriously.

And let’s not stop there. Why not get rid of the whole system while we’re at it?

The Few…: The bills that made the cut were varied, and many in Oly, this week. Cut-off day was kind to early learning, college access, teacher training, and gap-closing strategies. And that’s just a few of the House bills. For full Senate and House progress, check here. Bills now have a week to make their way through the “money committees,” in order to stay alive. The budget discussions should start in earnest any week now.

No Rest…:

  • Say what? Sometimes it’s how you say it.
  • In the aftermath of President Obama’s call for free college, much has been written about the potential of community college. Meanwhile, his DOE gives a shout-out to a local program to double the number of college grads in South King County. Additional good news—for students, if not the institutions—here, lawmakers are looking to keep tuition flat.
  • Hopefully, ketchup won’t count.

Well, folks, that’s your update for this week. Next stop on the legislative express is funding the bills that passed out of committee—deadlines loom large next week. Stay tuned. As always, thanks for all you do to support Washington’s kids.

Chris (and Team LEV)

P.S. Please join us at our upcoming breakfast on March 26!


Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup is emailed to subscribers weekly and posted on our blog on Fridays during the 2015 legislative session. Sign up to receive Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup via email.

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: February 6 http://educationvoters.org/2015/02/06/korsmos-weekly-roundup-february-6/ http://educationvoters.org/2015/02/06/korsmos-weekly-roundup-february-6/#comments Sat, 07 Feb 2015 00:00:51 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23872 Well campers, that was quite a finish! No, not that. I’m talking about the eighty points put up by Team Ruff in Puppy Bowl Xl! Oh, come on. What’s a girl to do? The Super Bowl pre-game felt like it was three hundred and thirty-seven hours long—or roughly the same length of a Hobbit movie, both of which make me want to watch commercials thinly veiled as puppy shows. Plus, I’m a sucker for a Clumber Spaniel. (By now, you’ve noticed the very soft treatment of the Super Bowl. I’ve lived in the Northwest for nearly eight years now, and the one lesson I’ve learned is that if you want a decent table in this town, or a holiday card or sarcasm-free latte, you don’t rub ‘Hawks devastating Super Bowl loss in their fans’ faces. So I didn’t. Until just then. And even then, gently.)

Enough of the kerfuffery! Lots of action going on in policy-land, and for a just-the-facts-ma’am look at it, check out our legislative tracker. So far, there’s been a fair amount of attention paid to underserved kids, including foster youth, special education students, and low-income kids. This is laudable as the state explores system change to bring more equity to our schools and beyond. In addition to bill action, there is a lot of speculation about resolving McCleary, the Supreme Court decision finding the State to be out of compliance in education funding.

Speaking of the Hobbit, and I just was, did you see this piece wherein someone “in charge” thinks a kid with a Hobbit ring talking about making someone invisible is the equivalent of a terrorist? It’s no wonder teachers want clear guidance on discipline. Onward, ho.

Crowd Sourcing: The past few years have seen steady and significant growth in public school enrollment, from Spokane to Olympia to Seattle, and beyond. Districts are scrambling to find room for everyone—a bit of math made more difficult by the passage of the class-size initiative (I-1351)—and some districts are taking the case for more space to the voters. And that’s where the trouble starts.

It still takes a 60 percent vote to pass bonds necessary to replace or repair aging buildings. A supermajority much felt and understood in the Highline School District, where they saw their election Super Bowl slip from their fingers in November when their school bond lost with 59.27 percent of the vote. If you think Pete Carroll isn’t sleeping after the Super Bowl debacle, imagine being less than 1 percent away from kids getting better schools and failing because the rules make it insanely difficult to win. Highline is re-running their bond measure, and we folks in the community wish them Godspeed, but we also wish they didn’t have to. Apparently 45 members of the House feel the same way. They introduced a bill that will lower the voter threshold for school bonds to a simple majority—just like the levies. It requires a supermajority of the Legislature to vote it out and then a majority of the people to support it, with the former being the bigger hurdle. This one’s just out of the chute, so stay tuned.

Mo Mentum: House Bill 1491, the “Early Start” bill, passed through the House Education Committee this week. The bill focuses on quality in early learning—the key to getting kids ready for the K–12 system, closing gaps, and getting kids off to a great start. New studies show an additional benefit to high-quality early learning—reduced need for special education.

Possimism: What do you call an optimist with a tinge of pessimism? Apparently, a high school student. Worried about the jobs market, high school students would do well to become college students. Or rather, college graduates. They can get some help along the way—and some have to find their way back to high school first—but the rewards are clear.

The Rest:

  • As Boomers age out of teaching, will there be a new pathway to the profession?
  • Texas. That’s all.
  • As the assessment debate expands, it puts a new twist on an old problem
  • Our annual breakfast is coming! This year we focus on higher education with guests WSU President Elson Floyd, Seattle Community Colleges Chancellor Jill Wakefield, and Seattle Times Publisher Frank Blethen.

Finally, please welcome our newest board members. We are thrilled and proud to work alongside them—and you—in pursuit of better outcomes for all of Washington’s kids. Thanks for all you do.

Chris (and Team LEV)

P.S. There will be no Roundup next week. We’re trying not to jinx the legislative session on Friday the 13th! I’ll be back in two weeks, on February 20.


Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup is emailed to subscribers weekly and posted on our blog on Fridays during the 2015 legislative session. Sign up to receive Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup via email.

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League of Education Voters and LEV Foundation welcome new board members http://educationvoters.org/2015/02/05/league-of-education-voters-and-lev-foundation-welcome-new-board-members/ http://educationvoters.org/2015/02/05/league-of-education-voters-and-lev-foundation-welcome-new-board-members/#comments Thu, 05 Feb 2015 18:00:34 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23786 The League of Education Voters and LEV Foundation, two non-partisan Washington organizations working to improve public education, are pleased to announce our newest board members.

The League of Education Voters, a 501(c)4 organization, engages in the political process through lobbying; partners with candidates and elected officials who support our vision for students; and sponsors voter statewide initiatives or litigation as a last resort. New board members are:

  • Vange Ocasio Hochheimer, Assistant Professor of Economics at Whitworth University
  • Betsy Johnson, former Microsoft executive and Bellevue School Board Member
  • Bill Shaw, Partner at K&L Gates

LEV Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization, provides strategic, accurate, and timely information to citizens, educators, policymakers, and the media; highlights research-driven educational practices that prepare all students to reach their full potential; and advocates for reforms and revenue to implement the research-based practices in Washington. New board members are:

  • Former State Rep. Renee Radcliff Sinclair, recently led strategic initiatives for Apple, Inc.
  • Larry Wright, Chief Operating Officer, College Success Foundation

More information about all LEV board members can be found at educationvoters.org.

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Activist of the Month: Emma Margraf http://educationvoters.org/2015/02/03/activist-of-the-month-emma-margraf/ http://educationvoters.org/2015/02/03/activist-of-the-month-emma-margraf/#comments Tue, 03 Feb 2015 18:00:57 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23799 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 February: Emma Margraf. Read more about Emma’s experience as a foster parent who advocated for her foster daughter even when told by everyone around her to simply expect less.

Emma MargrafEmma Margraf became a foster parent nearly seven years ago. You may have read her guest blog posts on our website over the years about her foster daughter Jane and their experiences through the school system. As you might imagine, Jane and Emma both had an uphill battle to success. As Emma writes in her most recent blog, “Fewer than two out of five foster kids graduate from high school in Washington—let alone go to college.”

Jane had her work cut out for her, but so did Emma. Emma says that dealing with the education system was much more complicated than expected. She was new to the world of foster care and “didn’t speak the language of the system.” While she had help from a case manager to help “translate,” Emma says that new issues with the system constantly cropped up and every issue had cascading consequences that were new to her.

And Jane was suspended weekly—or even more frequently—in her first year with Emma. Although the school didn’t notice, it didn’t take long for Emma to realize what was happening. Jane, who loved to read but struggled with math, would act out in her math class, get sent to the suspension room, and be allowed to read whatever book she happened to have with her—usually Harry Potter.

After years of working on political campaigns, Emma says that her response to obstacles has never been “Ok.” So, she set out looking for alternatives to the school Jane was attending.

Emma was able to raise funds for Jane’s tuition to a local Waldorf school (where Emma’s mother had once taught) and was able to send Jane there for one year. When Jane returned to public school the next year, her reading level was seven grades higher than it had been the year before. She tested out of two of the four IEP standards.

As a result, Jane warranted less attention from the school, which prompted Emma to write in a blog post called “Welcome to the middle”: “I just can’t live with the prospect of Jane getting stuck in mediocrity. Every child deserves more.”

One of Jane’s goals from the beginning was to graduate from high school and have a life better than her parents had, so Emma set out to get her past mediocrity. Jane attended a private school for two years of her high school experience, and she returned to a public alternative high school for her last year of high school.

And in late December, Jane received an envelope from her first-choice college—a letter of acceptance. Writing about Jane’s college acceptance in her January 8 blog post, Emma says, “Six years ago, every school official in Jane’s life would have said this was impossible, and we’ve been told not to hope for it ever since.”

Emma testified about Jane’s experiences in Washington public school to the State Board of Education at their January meeting. She spoke about the importance of academic rigor. She told the State Board that one of the biggest problems with the public school system is that expectations are so low for students—like Jane—who are capable of doing so much more.

LEV State Field Director Kelly Munn says that State Board responded well to her testimony, and several board members spoke with her afterward.

Emma has been told many times over the years how “lucky” Jane was to have her, but Emma says that’s the wrong word to use. “All I’m offering Jane is what all kids should get.”

One of just 36 percent of Washington foster youth to graduate from high school, Jane will enter Evergreen State College this fall as a freshman.

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Democracy in Action http://educationvoters.org/2015/02/02/democracy-in-action/ http://educationvoters.org/2015/02/02/democracy-in-action/#comments Mon, 02 Feb 2015 22:30:59 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23805 League of Education Voters Community Organizer Ruvine Jiménez traveled to Washington, DC, to attend a US Senate Education Committee hearing and speak with her legislators with two eastern Washington education advocates, Quontica Sparks and Gabriel Portugal. Below is Ruvine’s account of her trip.

Senator Patty Murray with the travelers from Washington. From left: Quontica Sparks, Ruvine Jiménez, Sen. Murray, and Gabriel Portugal.

Senator Patty Murray with the travelers from Washington. From left: Quontica Sparks, Ruvine Jiménez, Sen. Murray, and Gabriel Portugal.

I am so appreciative for the opportunity to visit Washington, DC, and attend a U.S. Senate Education Committee hearing on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization, as well as speak to our senators, representatives, and their legislative aides. I enjoyed hearing from Senator Murray about her hopes for all Washington kids and speaking with Representative Newhouse, who hails from Sunnyside, Washington.

In addition, I was grateful to have been accompanied by such great community leaders from eastern Washington. We were given the opportunity to stand up and testify on behalf of all children. But most importantly, I was grateful for the opportunity to explain why accountability, fair and reliable assessments, and equal access to high-quality public education is important for all kids.

Representative Dan Newhouse with the travelers from Washington. From left: Gabriel Portugal, Rep. Newhouse, Quontica Sparks, and Ruvine Jiménez.

Representative Dan Newhouse with the travelers from Washington. From left: Gabriel Portugal, Rep. Newhouse, Quontica Sparks, and Ruvine Jiménez.

My own grandson experienced trauma at the age of three—a time when children’s brains are rapidly growing. I already feel like I have failed my oldest daughter, who is 34 and has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). It was not until I started to work for my local school district that I learned about ADD and the special education department. By that time, my daughter was already struggling in middle school. No one ever mentioned to me or considered that she might have a learning disorder until I had her tested.

Thanks to my work with the Department of Early Learning and supporting childcare providers, I learned about developmental guidelines and benchmarks. So, I could tell that my grandson was meeting his developmental benchmarks up until the traumatic experience. I became concerned with his cognitive skills when he turned four, and I began making a concerted effort to make sure his development was progressing as it should.

My grandson attended Headstart beginning at age four, attended all-day kindergarten at age 5, and then transitioned to a different school at age six for first grade.

He is doing much better socially and emotionally now as a second grader. Nonetheless, when he starts third grade, it is imperative that he be tested so that we can request additional supports through the special education department if needed.

I am deeply concerned not just for my own grandchildren but for all children. They are our future leaders.

The legislators and legislative aides were receptive to our message that accountability, fair and reliable assessments, and equal access to high-quality education is important for all kids.

When we left Representative Newhouse’s office, we walked outside to see tens of thousands of people marching down the National Mall, and the first thought that came to me was that this is democracy in action. I am humbled to be a part of it.

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: January 30 http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/30/korsmos-weekly-roundup-january-30/ http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/30/korsmos-weekly-roundup-january-30/#comments Sat, 31 Jan 2015 00:00:28 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23791 Well, two weeks’ worth of hype, including a ball-deflation flap, exes jawing about breaking bones, and a media day circus, is coming to a close. For my peeps here in Washington, it’s all about those ‘Hawks and defining dynasty. With my team out of the running, I was left to ponder bigger questions. Like, if the Seahawks were part of our State Legislature or administrative offices, what positions would they hold?

Let’s dispense with Coach Carroll quickly—he wouldn’t be in government. He’d be running a start-up that turns motivational speeches into chewing gum flavored to taste like “success,” “team,” “fun,” and “the 12s.” Russell Wilson is an easy choice to run the Department of Transportation. (You can’t swing a dirty sweat sock in this town without hitting one of his airline or auto dealership billboards.) Kam Chancellor would be a great Insurance Commissioner, because when he hits you, you’re reminded that you need insurance. Michael Bennett would Chair the House (sex) Education Committee. (Marshawn Lynch can join him as the Ranking Member of this committee.) The ‘Hawks’ orator-in-chief, Richard Sherman, makes a perfect fit in the Attorney General’s office.

On to the Ed News: You can always find the latest on education legislation here. And a piece on our priorities here.

Testing, Testing: There’s a fight brewing over testing, both here and in the other Washington. How much, when, what, and why, are among the questions of the day. In the midst of the tumult, it’s useful to remember the principles behind testing. Why do we test? Well, lots of answers there, but at its best, the assessment system determines whether kids are learning the standards, are at the appropriate learning target, whether there are gaps, and over time, whether those gaps are closing. The current brouhaha is one part frustration over how much time they take, one part worry about kids not graduating, and two or three parts distraction. (Speaking of distractions, someone might want to tell this political committee that the 1980s called and they want their mediocrity back? Ooops. Someone did!)

Don’t Put Baby in a Corner: And don’t expel them, either. After much reflection on how we discipline kids, the evidence points to intervention—being upstream from the “offending act”—as the most productive way to keep kids on track and out of trouble. Recent changes to discipline policies have provided an opportunity to go beyond just student behavior in the moment. New proposals on restraint and isolation for special-ed students seem long overdue.

You Want it When? Yesterday: You may think that Early Learning is the “new” black, or orange, or new anything. But its roots are deep and historic here in the US. Thankfully, early learning continues to get its fair amount of attention—consider the hearings this week in Olympia. Part of what makes early learning effective is attention to quality, starting with major attention to social-emotional learning. Another contributing element to quality is less well-discussed, but no less important: pay. If we want to continue to pay early learning instructors less than parking lot attendants, we ought not get too far in front of ourselves on quality.

Higher and Higher: Some folks in Oly want to create a new funding stream for higher education. This is a welcome alternative to changing current grants and scholarships into loan programs, which is also being floated. What else might the Legislature do to help community college students succeed? Just a few ideas.


That’s it for this week, kids. Enjoy your Super Bowl and go ‘Hawks (they make me say that). As always, thanks for all you do in support of Washington’s kids!

Chris and Team LEV

P.S. Join me on March 26 at our annual breakfast. (They also make me say that.)

Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup is emailed to subscribers weekly and posted on our blog on Fridays during the 2015 legislative session. Sign up to receive Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup via email.

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: January 23 http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/23/korsmos-weekly-roundup-january-23/ http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/23/korsmos-weekly-roundup-january-23/#comments Sat, 24 Jan 2015 00:00:11 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23740 Ok. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. My Packers are not going to the Super Bowl. You might think I’d like to just avoid the topic and move on—you’re right. But what I learned about conflict and loss a long time ago is that moving on without reflection doesn’t teach you anything. So, let’s learn something—and use sports metaphors!

What Happens Early Sets the Tone: I could have named this “seven is more than three,” but it doesn’t completely work here. (And it didn’t work Sunday either. First quarter. Fourth and goal from the one. This is the opportunity to define who you are and will be. It did.) It is fourth and goal for our three- and four-year-olds. Time to call the play, and it’s a no brainer—leave the field goal unit on the sideline and go all in.

Here’s why: New data from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) highlight findings from the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (or WaKids). The data show that in literacy, kids largely start kindergarten where they should—nearly 80 percent exhibit skills like rhyming, recognition and naming of up to 10 letters, and recall of familiar stories. But they also show that gaps already exist between ethnic and economic groupings—and overall math proficiency for everyone hovers just over 50 percent. This all but makes the case for high-quality early learning being an essential part of a strong start. This week, both chambers introduced the Early Start Act, which builds an integrated system of early learning and provides incentives for a diverse group of providers to improve the quality—and close gaps. Next week, the Senate Education Committee will hear the bill Monday while the House will take it up on Wednesday.

Win all Three Phases of the Game, You Win the Game: In football, this means offense, defense, and special teams. In education, we’ve kept all three phases separate for way too long. And all the huge fuss over K–12 notwithstanding, it’s a continuum.

The Separation is in the Preparation: Russell Wilson loves to say this. He’s not wrong. Whether we’re talking about the supports we provide for homeless kids, professional learning for teachers, offering college credit in high school, or free college tuition, preparation separates. Speaking of preparation, you can preparate yourself this weekend at our Parent and Community Training at Highline College. Governor Inslee will provide remarks and Senator Bruce Dammeier will also stop in.

It Ain’t Over ’til it’s Over: For me, football is over. But for Initiative 1351, the class-size initiative, the party is just getting started. Governor Inslee wants the Legislature to amend it. But with the large price tag dangling precipitously over their heads, a growing body in the Legislature wants to change the entire initiative process to prevent such costly—unfunded—mandates in the future.

The Rest:

Well, team, that’s it for this week. Use the seven days between now and next time to leave it all on the field. Separate by preparating. Deflate a ball or two. Win one for the Gipper. Just do it. Because sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes… it rains.

Thanks for all you do on behalf of Washington’s kids. We couldn’t do it without you.

Chris and Team LEV

Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup is emailed to subscribers weekly and posted on our blog on Fridays during the 2015 legislative session. Sign up to receive Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup via email.

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An early start to success http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/21/an-early-start-to-success/ http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/21/an-early-start-to-success/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 22:03:31 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23732

Access to high-quality early education has been life changing for our daughter, Eva Rose.

A teacher helps her young student with work.That’s how Seattle parent Jessica Colinares describes her daughter’s experience in preschool. Eva’s success—thanks to her access to high-quality early learning—isn’t extraordinary; rather, it’s the norm.

Support has been growing for quality early childhood education throughout Washington state—and across the country.

Many studies show that children in high-quality early learning programs are more prepared for kindergarten, more likely to graduate high school, healthier, more likely to be employed, and report higher income. They are also less likely to repeat grades, be placed in special education, be involved in the juvenile justice system, and commit crimes as adults. High-quality early learning is one of the best ways to close the opportunity and achievement gaps, which are already present by the beginning of kindergarten. Much of high-quality early learning focuses on the social and emotional learning that is so vital throughout a child’s life.

Early learning benefits add up to savings for school districts, taxpayers, and the state. In some cases, school districts save approximately $3,700 for each low-income child or child with risk factors who receives early learning. There is an additional $1,000 of savings per child in costs outside of school like healthcare, drug prevention, and criminal justice.

Children furthest from opportunity who do not have access to high-quality early learning experiences are 40 percent more likely to repeat a grade, 29 percent more likely to drop out of school, 41 percent more likely to be placed in special education, 60 percent more likely to never attend college, 33 percent more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, and 42 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime, all of which require costly state resources.

In Washington, the Early Start Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation recently introduced in both the House of Representatives (HB 1491) and the Senate (SB 5452), would ensure that all children get the great start they need in life. In particular, the Early Start Act would:

  • Help parents find high-quality care and learning opportunities to suit their kids
  • Promote high-quality early learning and parent choice
  • Prepare more kids for kindergarten

In short, the Early Start Act has the potential to give all students the kind of start that Eva had, according to Jessica: “We can see the difference academically—she started kindergarten a reader, with a strong handle on numbers 1 to 100, and doing basic calculations like adding and subtracting. But just as important, she developed in preschool a confidence and love for school that fuels her curiosity and helps her thrive in kindergarten.”

Learn more about the importance of early childhood education through the Early Learning Action Alliance.

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: January 16 http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/16/korsmos-weekly-roundup-january-16/ http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/16/korsmos-weekly-roundup-january-16/#comments Sat, 17 Jan 2015 00:00:35 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23720 It’s baaaaack. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into your inbox, here come your cheeky reflections on the news from Oly and beyond.

Much has happened since last we spoke. The Legislature is being held in contempt by the Supreme Court—pending meaningful investments in “basic education,” and a plan to implement those investments. The elections have colored Washington a shade more purple than blue, and an improving economy has Washington voters thinking that education is the issue of the day. Will that spell good news for those of us wanting to see smart investments in the education continuum? Will Early Learning be the new Netflix series? Will the cheese be mightier than the hawk?? These and other questions will resolve themselves over the next few months.

But first, a look at the big themes of the session. (You can track the details here, where we describe the bills of note and what’s going on with them.)

Necessary but not sufficient: With all due respect to the K–12 system, the growing consensus is that if we are really going to prepare students to be meaningful contributors to our democracy and society, a high school diploma isn’t enough. Our view is that “basic education” is a continuum beginning early on—pre-k at the latest—and extending into higher education. We are not alone.

You say you want a revolution: According to some, our tax system (Yes, that WAS the opaque reference to the Revolution. Bonus points for those of you still with me. There WILL be prizes at the end. I swear. Really.) is kinda outta whack. Some would say it’s the worst in the country. While Senate Republicans don’t want to go gently into that taxing night, taxes will be front and center.

Sharing is caring: The closely divided Legislature provides some unique opportunities for shared leadership. Bi-partisan leadership may feel like a legacy from the past, but if we are going to see results our kids need and the Court is demanding this session, policy leaders will have to reach across the aisle to get the job done.

Trends to watch out for: Testing, testing. Free college isn’t just the President’s “thing.” It’s our thing. Early Learning WILL be the new Netflix series.


Well, kids, that’s it for this first week of the session. Join us again next week when I wax on about my Packers going to the Super Bowl. And the first time a bill gets “Roached.”

As always, thanks for all you do on behalf of Washington’s kids—however old they might be. We couldn’t do it without you.

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A Way Forward: We can and must do better for Washington’s students http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/12/a-way-forward-we-can-and-must-do-better-for-washingtons-students/ http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/12/a-way-forward-we-can-and-must-do-better-for-washingtons-students/#comments Mon, 12 Jan 2015 22:00:23 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23668 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.

While we have made progress in improving the K–12 system, we have not changed the way we think about what a basic education entails. A child’s education should be a continuum with seamless transitions. Our state’s approach to providing that education is hamstrung by silos, bureaucratic fights, politics, and battles pitting different parts of that child’s education against each other.

The League of Education Voters (LEV) endorsed the re-definition of basic education developed by our Legislature in 2009 (it includes smaller class size, full-day kindergarten, transportation, materials, and supplies) upon which McCleary is based, but we also advocated, based on our leadership and support for Initiatives 728 and 884, that the definition should include early learning and higher education.

A new definition of basic education must address one of the critical and more pernicious challenges we face statewide: a growing achievement gap between low-income kids, kids of color, and English Language Learners; and their white, more affluent counterparts. Too many kids, particularly low-income kids, arrive at kindergarten already behind. At the other end of the education spectrum, all data point to the need for a postsecondary degree or certificate in preparation for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

We know there is no single policy solution that will close the opportunity and achievement gaps for Washington students.

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

For the League of Education Voters, this requires a new definition of basic education, which includes early learning, strategic investments in teacher compensation and professional learning, and at least two years of postsecondary education for each Washington student.

We can and must do better for Washington’s students.

A Way Forward: Executive Summary

A Way Forward: Executive Summary

LEV’s vision for an expanded definition of basic education is aspirational, yet achievable, and will spark change in our state’s investment in the public education system. This vision ensures all students in Washington have access to a high-quality public education required by our state’s Constitution.

Our vision is available to download in its entirety. An executive summary is also available.

Washington state has the people, resources, and 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. During 2015, the League of Education Voters is engaging policymakers, community members, parents, and educators across the state to discuss our vision for a high-quality public education system from cradle to career.

We invite you to join us.

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