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Posts Tagged Activist of the Month

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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Activist of the Month: Elaine Woo

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 May: Elaine Woo. Read about her experience as a strong advocate for science education and fair funding.

League of Education Voters May 2017 Activist of the Month Elaine Woo

May Activist of the Month Elaine Woo

Elaine Woo works with conviction for the children of Washington state. She speaks to legislators in Olympia, visits schools, advocates through phone calls, and recently co-wrote an Op-ed for the Seattle Times.

Elaine became connected with LEV when she received an email about a Lunchtime LEVinar. Soon afterward, she met LEV state field director Kelly Munn at an activist training event, which put Elaine on a path to talking with lawmakers. “I started calling and visiting my legislators as well as writing letters,” she recalls. “It’s great how LEV helps people find a way to have a voice.”

Elaine taught elementary school for 3 years in California before heading to Okinawa to teach for a year with the Department of Defense. She then spent the next 33 years with Seattle Public Schools (SPS), with the exception of a year teaching highly capable education with Seattle Country Day School. Upon returning to Seattle Public Schools, she taught in the Accelerated Progress Program (APP) as well as in the regular classroom for the next 12 years.

After Elaine became the assistant principal at Bryant Elementary in Seattle, she was asked to help parents develop a science program for the school. She says, “Some of the parents told me that every child in Seattle needs a good science education, not just in this school.” Soon afterward, Elaine was approached by Valerie Logan, the wife of noted biologist Dr. LeRoy Hood. Both Logan and Hood took major leadership in helping the Bryant School community and the entire district  apply for a grant from  the National Science Foundation (NSF). With the NSF grant, other grants, and district funds, the professional development program was continually developed and implemented for 16 years providing researched-based professional development for elementary teachers.

Elaine worked as an assistant principal at Bryant and then principal at John Rogers Elementary for about six years before leading the grant efforts for science teacher professional development in the Seattle Public Schools central office. “The experience taught me about change,“ she explains. “There are certain areas where each of us just doesn’t want to change.” She learned that making policies stronger is  difficult but crucial. Elaine adds, “If policies are better and more supportive, then teachers can do better for their students.”

She has a big issue with elementary science, because there is so much pressure to focus on literacy and math that principals and/or teachers in Washington are left to decide whether or not science will be taught. Elaine says, “It’s too late for many students if you wait until middle school for full-year science.” She also likes the concept of ensuring that students can pass a science assessment before leaving high school. Elaine believes that if a biology assessment, for example, is required for graduation, it sends a message to the students that they need to work harder. She says, “Adults find excuses not to include a science test for graduation. People cling to those barriers, maybe because it’s  less work, which is tragic for kids.”

Elaine’s philosophy is that if a teacher has high expectations, participates in research-based professional development, and provides effective support, then students will achieve better. Outside the classroom, our kids need good instruction and support at home, as well. She also weighs in on the McCleary education funding debate. She says, “The accountability portion of McCleary is really hard, but it’s really important.” She notes that there has to be support from superintendents, principals, and parents for raising the bar. “Legislators are walking a fine line,” she explains. “We need to thank them for their hard work.”

On LEV, she says, “The work LEV is doing is fantastic – helping parents and students find information outside of the system.” And when judging her own efforts on behalf of Washington kids, Elaine humbly says, “I don’t do enough, and I’d like to do more.”

Posted in: Activist of the Month, Blog, Funding, STEM, Teacher Prep

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Education Advocate March 2017

ED Advocate, League of Education Voters Newsletter, March

Greetings

Chris Korsmo
Chris Korsmo, CEO

The Washington state legislative session is at its “official” mid-point, as bills introduced in the House and Senate must be passed out of their chamber of origin to have a chance of making it to the Governor’s desk. See the latest on our Bill Tracker. And negotiations to solve the McCleary education funding conundrum have begun in earnest. To play along at home, you can see a side-by-side of fiscal elements of the House, Senate, and Governor’s K-12 funding plans here.

Also, LEV interviewed Senator Hans Zeiger, chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 and Education Committee, on what he sees as priorities for the McCleary solution, and we’re hosting a free Lunchtime LEVinar March 21 on how early learning fits into the education continuum.

Read below for more about our work.

Thanks for all you do for kids. We couldn’t do it without you.

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Chris Korsmo

2017 Washington state Regional Teachers of the Year Kendra Yamamoto and Elizabeth Loftus - League of Education Voters

League of Education Voters 2017 Annual Breakfast

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

Special thanks to our sponsors: Anonymous, Microsoft, Boeing, The Seattle Times, Workhouse Creative, Vulcan Inc., College Success Foundation, ECONorthwest, K&L Gates, and GOBE Design + Production.

State Senator Hans Zeiger - League of Education Voters

Podcast Interview with State Senator Hans Zeiger

League of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman sat down with Hans Zeiger, Chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, to discuss why he decided to run for office, how he transitioned from the House to the Senate, and what he sees as priorities for the McCleary education funding solution. Listen here

Campaign for Student Success - League of Education Voters

Stand up for Washington students with the Campaign for Student Success

LEV joined the Campaign for Student Success, a growing coalition with more than 30 members that is standing up for our kids during this legislative session and compelling our elected leaders to act to ensure a quality education for our students that prepares them for success in school, career and beyond. Now is the time for state legislators to hear from you. You can make a difference in making student-focused policies that create a public education system that works for every Washington kid. Read more

Early Learning LEVinar - League of Education Voters

LEVinar: How Early Learning Fits into the Education Continuum

Research repeatedly confirms that students who attend a high quality early learning program perform far better than those who do not. They are more academically successful, able to persevere through adversity, and more likely to graduate from high school. In our free webinar 3/21 at 12:30pm, learn how early learning fits into the education continuum from our partners at the Children’s Alliance. Register here

Sameth Mell, March 2017 League of Education Voters Activist of the Month

LEV’s Activist of the Month

At the League of Education Voters, we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state. We are pleased to announce our Activist of the Month for March: Sameth Mell.

Learn about Sameth’s work advocating for public education, especially when it comes to equitable funding, housing, and immigrant communities. Read more

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

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

Thank you to everyone who attended LEV’s 7th Annual Parent & Community Training! See presentation slides on school discipline, the student weighted education funding formula, Kent’s Summer Splash Summer Reading Program, and resources for students with special needsRead more

Get Involved

COMING UP

March 30, 2017 | LEV 2017 Annual Breakfast, Sheraton Hotel, Seattle


LUNCHTIME LEVINARS

March 21, 2017 | How Early Learning Fits into the Education Continuum, Online webinar


HELP SUPPORT THE LEAGUE OF EDUCATION VOTERS
| Donate online


League of Education Voters

League of Education Voters
2734 Westlake Ave N
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206.728.6448
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Posted in: Early Learning, Education Advocate, Events, Funding, Legislative session, School Discipline, Side-by-Side Comparisons

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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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Education Advocate January 2017

ED Advocate, League of Education Voters Newsletter, January

Greetings

Chris Korsmo
Chris Korsmo, CEO

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

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

Read below for more about our work.

Finally, I would like to extend a big thank-you to our donors in the fourth quarter of 2016. You make our work possible. Thanks for all you do for kids. We couldn’t do it without you.

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Chris Korsmo

2017 Washington state Regional Teachers of the Year Kendra Yamamoto and Elizabeth Loftus - League of Education Voters

League of Education Voters 2017 Annual Breakfast

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

Governor Jay Inslee - League of Education Voters

Podcast Interview with Governor Jay Inslee

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

Washington state capitol - League of Education Voters

LEV’s 2017 Legislative Agenda

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

Career Connected Learning - League of Education Voters

Career Connected Learning and STEM

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

Student Supports - League of Education Voters

Student Supports, an Integral Component of Basic Education

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

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

LEV’s Activist of the Month

At the League of Education Voters, we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state. We are pleased to announce our Activist of the Month for January: Heather Wallace.Learn about Heather’s work advocating for public education, especially when it comes to early learning. Read more

 

 

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

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

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

Get Involved

COMING UP

January 12, 2017 | South King County 2017 Legislative Preview, Kent Commons, Mill Creek Room, Kent
February 11, 2017 | Access, Equity, & Excellence: Annual Parent and Community Training, Tukwila Community Center, Tukwila

March 30, 2017 | LEV 2017 Annual Breakfast, Sheraton Hotel, Seattle


LUNCHTIME LEVINARS

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


HELP SUPPORT THE LEAGUE OF EDUCATION VOTERS
| Donate online


League of Education Voters

League of Education Voters2734 Westlake Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
206.728.6448
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Posted in: Blog, Career Technical Education, Closing the Gaps, Early Learning, Education Advocate, Funding, Higher Education, Legislative session, LEV News, Podcast, STEM

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Activist of the Month: Heather Wallace

By MyKaila Young, LEV Intern

January League of Education Voters Activist of the Month Heather Wallace

January Activist of the Month Heather Wallace

At the League of Education Voters (LEV), we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state. We are pleased to announce our Activist of the Month for January: Heather Wallace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Education Advocate November 2016

ED Advocate, League of Education Voters Newsletter, November

Greetings

Chris Korsmo
Chris Korsmo, CEO

Election Day is finally upon us! If you haven’t already done so, please remember to vote.

This election season, LEV is collaborating with our inspiring partners to create a better future for every Washington student. 

Read below for more about our work.

Thanks for all you do for kids. We couldn’t do it without you.
Chris Korsmo signature

 

 

Chris Korsmo

Art teacher with students - League of Education Voters

Great Teachers Need Great Preparation

Research consistently shows that teachers have the strongest school-based impact on student performance. The impacts of a highly effective teacher or low-performing teacher can affect students for years to come and influence a student’s likelihood of college attendance and persistence. Our educational system must equip teachers with the skill sets required to meet the needs of a student body that is more diverse each year. Read more

Weighted student formula LEVinar - League of Education Voters

Education Funding Takeaways from California

Governor Jerry Brown proposed a new school finance plan for California in the 2013–2014 budget, called “Local Control Funding Formula.” It increased funding to school districts with a larger number of disadvantaged students by financially weighting those students according to need, simplified current byzantine school finance regulations, and gave school districts more autonomy over finances. Sharonne Navas, Executive Director of the Equity in Education Coalition, will visit California to see firsthand how their new system is working. On November 29, she will present her findings and answer your questions on whether California’s new education funding can work in Washington. Register HERE

League of Education Voters November 2016 Activist of the Month Michele Johnston

Activist of the Month

At the League of Education Voters, we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state. We are pleased to announce our Activist of the Month for November: Michele Johnston. Learn about Michele’s work advocating for public education — especially when it comes to creating an environment where every teacher and student has the autonomy to teach, and learn, the way that works best. Read more
 

Superintendent Randy Dorn - League of Education Voters

OSPI Roles and Responsibilities

One of the most important races in today’s election is for the next state Superintendent of Public Instruction. But what does the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) actually do? Randy Dorn, our current state superintendent, and Gil Mendoza, deputy superintendent, answer your questions about OSPI’s role and work, which levers OSPI has to make changes in education policy, and what the community should expect from OSPI. Watch HERE

Senator Andy Hill - League of Education Voters

Remembering Senator Andy Hill

Frank Ordway, former LEV Director of Government Affairs and current Deputy Director at the Washington State Department of Early Learning, remembers Andy Hill, education champion. Read more

Get Involved

COMING UP

February 11, 2017 | Access, Equity, & Excellence: Annual Parent and Community Training, Tukwila Community Center, Tukwila
March 30, 2017 | LEV 2017 Annual Breakfast, Sheraton Hotel, Seattle


LUNCHTIME LEVINARS

November 29, 2016 | Education Funding Takeaways from California, Online webinar


HELP SUPPORT THE LEAGUE OF EDUCATION VOTERS
| Donate online


League of Education Voters

League of Education Voters2734 Westlake Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
206.728.6448
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Posted in: Activist of the Month, Advocacy and Activism, Blog, Closing the Gaps, Education Advocate, Elections, Funding, LEV News, Teacher Prep

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Activist of the Month: Michele Johnston

By MyKaila Young, LEV Intern

League of Education Voters November Activist of the Month Michele Johnston and her daughter

November Activist of the Month Michele Johnston and her daughter

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 November: Michele Johnston.

Arthur Ashe said, “One important key to success is self-confidence, and the key to self-confidence is preparation.”

Growing up, Michele Johnston received what many would consider to be a decent education. She attended a private Catholic school for primary, was home-schooled in 5th grade, and went on to public junior high and high schools. She attended North Idaho College and earned her degree from Eastern Washington University in microbiology. Reflecting back on her schooling, she remembers it as not being very stimulating. She says, “It was a lot of just teaching to the tests.” The vital missing component was an emphasis on critical and creative thinking. “Socially it was good – I just wasn’t engaged in the academic part.”

The way in which we understand the world is primarily rooted in the way that we are taught to think critically about situations and problems. In turn, these processing and thinking skills help us make decisions that have the potential to impact our life in positive and negative ways. If students are only taught to take a test, then what have they really learned to help them get through the next phase of life? If this piece is missing, how can we expect students to really prosper and grow as lifelong learners and truly be ready to succeed in college and beyond?

Michele’s hope for her six-year-old daughter currently attending charter public school Spokane International Academy (SIA) is that as her daughter progresses in her education through the K-12 system, she will always be excited about learning, not only at school, but throughout her life. The goal of education is to show students how learning is a lifelong skill and experience. “I love SIA,” Michele says. “SIA helped my daughter overcome her shyness, gave her a new confidence to engage with people and advocate for herself, and it has changed how she feels about learning and school.”

Michele believes that every child deserves to have a similar, if not greater, experience with their teachers in a way that helps them transcend any personal barriers that may prevent them from being comfortable and confident enough to learn. As a result, Michele has made over 200 phone calls and sent nearly 200 emails to lawmakers encouraging them to support charter public schools and school choice. She has reached out to Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates Erin Jones and Chris Reykdal, and even did phone banking for Senator Steve Litzow, chair of the Education Committee.

Michele worries that our public school system doesn’t adequately prepare students to earn post-secondary credentials. “We’re sending our young adults to college to pay a university price tag for a high school education,” she says, referring to the need for many students to take remedial classes. “Most students take on a substantial amount of debt in order to stay in college, and it’s not fair for them to spend a year catching up on skills they should have been able to master in high school.”

Michele’s commitment to education is driven by a desire for an innovative system designed to meet the needs of every child. Michele says, “Our current education model was conceived in the industrial age. Since then, we’ve seen huge advances in transportation, electronics, and even phones – but most schools are still operating like they did 100 years ago.” Her vision for a newly designed education system involves an environment where every teacher and student has the autonomy to teach, and learn, the way that works best.

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

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Education Advocate September 2016

ED Advocate, League of Education Voters Newsletter, September

Greetings

Chris Korsmo
Chris Korsmo, CEO

It’s hard to believe it’s back-to-school time already. It feels like just yesterday when our kids wrapped up the school year in June and now we’re back at it again. At least the NFL gets underway tonight.  And I’m ready for some football.

Here at the League of Education Voters, we’re drilling down on the opportunities and implications of the McCleary education funding lawsuit. We’re starting a blog series, so you can know where we’re leaning. Read the first installment here. And we want to know what you’re thinking, as well. This is a journey, so come aboard!

In the meantime, I invite you to read our September newsletter to learn more about our activist of the month, Col. Felix Vargas, and an upcoming free Lunchtime LEVinar on Expanded Learning Opportunities, featuring our partners from School’s Out Washington.

Also, I would like thank everyone who sent in questions for our podcast interviews with state Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) candidates Erin Jones and Chris Reykdal. We will post the interviews by the end of the month and continue to publicize OSPI candidate forums on the LEV website.

Lastly, I’d like to let you know that you can now support the LEV Foundation when you shop online through Amazon Smile. Every time you shop, Amazon will donate 0.5 percent of what you spend to the LEV Foundation. Visit Amazon Smile to learn more today and select LEV Foundation as the charity you support.

Thank you, and thanks for all you do for kids.

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Chris Korsmo

LEV’s Activist of the Month

Felix Vargas is LEV's September Activist of the Month At the League of Education Voters, we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state. We are pleased to announce our Activist of the Month for September: Felix Vargas.

Read more about Col. Vargas’ work advocating for public education—especially when it comes to equity in education around the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Read more

Lunchtime LEVinar: Expanded Learning Opportunities

LEVinar: Expanded Learning OpportunitiesEducation does not stop when the school bell rings. So young people’s access to high-quality expanded learning opportunities—afterschool, in the summer and throughout the year – should grow.

Join Stephanie Lennon and David Beard from School’s Out Washington to learn more about expanded learning, its role in helping students succeed and grow, and how you can help make this happen. This 30-minute Lunchtime LEVinar will take place on Thursday September 22, at 12:30 p.m. Learn more or register

OSPI Candidate Forums

OSPI Candidate ForumsWashington Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates Erin Jones and Chris Reykdal are continuing to speak at forums around the state.

See them September 20 in Tacoma and September 28 in Seattle. Also, watch for LEV-exclusive podcast interviews later this month at educationvoters.org and on LEV’s Facebook and Twitter pages!
Learn more

LEV’s vision for McCleary

LEV's vision for McClearyWhat is required of our educational system will continue to change over time. We need to develop a program of basic education that can evolve based on current and future student needs and a funding mechanism that is flexible enough to support that shifting program. Let’s envision a program of basic education that is aspirational and that creates a new path forward for Washington state. Read more

Get Involved

LUNCHTIME LEVINARS

September 22, 2016 | Expanded Learning Opportunities, Online webinar


HELP SUPPORT THE LEAGUE OF EDUCATION VOTERS
| Donate online


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Posted in: Activist of the Month, Closing the Gaps, Education Advocate, ESSA, Funding

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Activist of the Month: Felix Vargas

League of Education Voters - September 2016 Activist of the Month

September Activist of the Month Col. Felix Vargas

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 September: Felix Vargas.

Retired Colonel Felix Vargas of Pasco, Washington, has taken on the charge of helping the League of Education Voters understand the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) at a local level so that we can ensure that children who need additional support are not denied tutoring services promised by the federal government. Col. Vargas advocates with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and speaks regularly with Senator Patty Murray’s representatives and the local Pasco School District, which has not yet provided in writing the district’s plans for tutoring services.

About a year ago, Col. Vargas met LEV Community Organizer Ruvine Jiménez at a Pasco Citizens for Better Schools forum to support a school levy and he now meets with Ruvine at least once a week. He has since invited Ruvine to participate in two meetings with Congressman Dan Newhouse. These sessions have provided an opportunity to explain to the Congressman why it is important to maintain ESSA funding for the Tri-Cities region. Col. Vargas is working on what ESSA means for the community, such as adding resources for early learning programs like a pre-K learning center, and looking at how schools provide information and how they are evaluated.

Thanks to his work, the Tri-Cities community now has access to senior levels of leadership in government and education. Deputy State Superintendent Gil Mendoza has recently spoken on two occasions to the community on ESSA. Col. Vargas participated in an OSPI candidate forum in July and is helping to organize another similar forum this fall.

Col. Vargas also meets with a Latino parents’ group monthly to discuss why students are under-performing. He explains, “Beyond the obvious factors of language, culture and socioeconomic standing, we believe that the quality of instruction and teaching credentials have to be assessed and weighed as well. Our parents want a 360-degree review.” He listens closely to what the Latino parents say, and then holds quarterly meeting with the Pasco School District’s Parents Advisory Committee.

Col. Vargas is not shy about talking to anyone. He held concurrent careers in the U.S. Government as a military and civilian officer. He served as a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. State Department and as a U.S. Army Reserve officer. Col. Vargas served two tours of duty as an Army Ranger and Special Forces officer in Vietnam. After retiring from the U.S. government, he entered the corporate world, serving as manager of sales and marketing for an American helicopter company in Mexico City, where he sold helicopters to the Mexican government and the private sector.

From 2006 – 2010, Col. Vargas returned to Washington, DC, to champion education and training opportunities for the newest generation of U.S. military veterans returning from wars in the Middle East. He received a White House appointment as member, then chairman, of the U.S. Advisory Committee for Veterans Business Affairs during this time. In April 2010, he accepted an assignment to work with U.S. and international agencies assisting Haiti following the catastrophic earthquake in January 2010. Col. Vargas lived in Haiti for a year.

In 2012, he returned to his hometown of Pasco, Washington, where his focus now is on his community in the Tri-Cities. He hit the ground running, forming the Consejo Latino (Latino Council) to serve as a discussion group on issues of interest to a diverse and dynamic Hispanic community, getting involved in community policing and economic development of Latino businesses.

Two years ago, Col. Vargas added advocacy for voters’ rights, rights for injured agricultural workers, and education. He started reading and learning about the local education landscape. He recalls, “I was surprised to find out that two of our elementary schools have 98 percent Latino students, and the schools overall are 70 percent Latino in the Pasco district. Times sure have changed.” Col. Vargas was the only Latino in his high school graduating class, and the only other Latino(a) in the school at the time was his younger sister.

Education has now become a core issue for Col. Vargas. He recently met with the superintendent of Educational Service District 123 in Pasco to discuss developments and approach in such areas as early learning and bilingual education. He always expects and looks forward to civil and productive conversation. He says, “I will continue to collaborate with community providers and other partners at the State and Federal levels to seek solutions to the many challenges of education for all students. Let’s keep up the drumbeat.”

Posted in: Activist of the Month, Advocacy and Activism, Closing the Gaps, Early Learning, ESSA, School Discipline

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