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A Higher Ed Perspective on the House Budget Proposal

By Juliette Schindler Kelly, Director of Government Relations and Advocacy at the College Success Foundation
Guest Blogger

On March 27th, the Washington state House Democrats released their operating budget proposal for the 2017-19 biennium, SHB1067. Generally it was received favorably by the higher education community as supporting our priorities, and as a necessary improvement upon the Senate’s postsecondary funding approach. Additionally, many representing postsecondary in the education advocacy space emphasize the need to support the entire education continuum, from the formative preschool years to post-high school additional credential or degree. The House budget demonstrated an understanding of moving beyond the McCleary mandate to provide genuine learning opportunities for Washington’s youth.

The House budget expands higher ed pathway opportunities, with a focus on preparing Washington students for today’s labor market. Affordability and pathways are key components, although there is still room for enhancements. The approach to addressing the cost barrier for students pursuing postsecondary study is a combination of a tuition freeze (with backfill for the public institutions of higher education so that the loss of funds is not detrimental), with need-based financial aid in the form of bolstering the State Need Grant. Investing in the State Need Grant to give more low-income students access to postsecondary education is a critical component to increasing access for Washington students. Unlike the Senate budget, the House proposal opens the door for 6,000 more of our students to receive a State Need Grant. The goal should be for all 24,000 deserving but unserved students to not have to struggle to find a way to afford college, but this step moves us closer to the goal post.

The budget also displayed an understanding that obstacles exist beyond financial need.  Many students need assistance in the transition to, and persistence within, their postsecondary experience. Low-income, first generation students often need extra navigational assistance in this foreign environment. Many students from diverse and economically-challenged populations attend community and technical colleges, and benefit greatly from student advising and supports. Therefore, it is gratifying to see the proposed increase for community and technical colleges (CTCs) to use Guided Pathways, or a similar model designed to improve student success, to better serve students in this system.

Breaking down barriers to postsecondary opportunities is for naught if the basic needs of a low-income individual prevents him from pursuing further education. The Senate budget proposal diverts Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Work First dollars to support the State Need Grant program, which is counterproductive. The House budget writers are wise to include increased funding to address homelessness and augment the TANF, State Family Assistance, and Refugee Cash Assistance Program grant amounts. These programs help stabilize the families of the very students we seek to provide a greater opportunity for focused learning.

Budgets reflect priorities, and although there is more work to be done, we applaud the House for targeting many of the essential priorities that will help move our state forward, advance our economy and close opportunity gaps. In this spirit, let us all support greater investment in our education system from early learning through higher education so that increased attainment will reap greater prosperity for all Washingtonians.

Posted in: Blog, Funding, Higher Education, Legislative session

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: March Madness

Chris Korsmo

It’s that time – March Madness culminates in the crowning of a champ. Go Dawgs!

The Zags’ road to a championship notwithstanding, then there were three. State budgets that is. A week after the Senate put forward their $43 billion spending plan, the House has issued their $44.9 B budget. The plans differ in a couple of key ways: the obvious difference in size and how to pay for things. With many expecting legislative overtime, the path to agreement is almost always compromise, something that did not go unnoticed by OSPI chief Chris Reykdal. One thing is for sure, our kids need a resolution that helps them succeed. And that doesn’t mean cutting back on out of school programs and supports like the POTUS’ “skinny” budget does. I wonder if the skinny budget isn’t just “hangry.”

One thing not included in the House budget: alternatives to the state exams currently required to graduate. That’s because the House removes the requirement for the tests – and therefore their alternatives. I think you know how I feel. Others agree.

In other news:

  • Changes to the FAFSA – financial aid forms for college – are making life difficult for some.
  • Brookings breaks down the racial disparities in discipline.
  • What do college and preschool have in common? It’s the Benjamins.
  • I think this is kind of harsh. But then I’m not a psychologist.

Before we go, I want to send a huge thank you to all who joined us for the LEV breakfast yesterday. The messages of hope and love for their work came through loud and clear from Teachers of the Year Kendra Yamamoto and Elizabeth Loftus! Many thanks to them for their wonderful insights – and for their leadership in their regions.

And as always, many thanks to you for the work you do to support Washington’s kids!

Chris

 

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Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Early Learning, Funding, Higher Education, School Discipline, Weekly Roundup

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

Chris Korsmo

Happy Friday to you, Friends!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, SNAP!

Lovely, Lively Reads:

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

Chris

 

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

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Chris Korsmo: My Ed Path

Chris Korsmo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

League of Education Voters CEO Chris Korsmo's education path

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

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

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

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

 

#MyEdPath

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

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Activist of the Month: Heidi Bennett

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: Heidi Bennett. Read more about her experience as a strong advocate for K-12 and Higher Education.

Heidi Bennett - League of Education Voters Activist of the Month Feb 2017

February Activist of the Month Heidi Bennett

Heidi Bennett is one of LEV’s most involved and dedicated key activists. She first entered the activism arena when her kids were in preschool, at the turn of the century. Her big question: to send her children to public or private school?

Heidi Googled LEV, and connected with Co-founder Lisa Macfarlane. She has been working with LEV ever since – for about 15 years. Heidi recalls Lisa talking about her own kids, saying, “No matter where you send your kids, all kids deserve a great public school education.”

When Heidi moved from New York to Seattle for a better way of life, she never imagined she would be sacrificing her kids’ education. Joining local PTA and then Seattle Council PTA, she began speaking to PTAs in the Seattle area about how Washington schools compare to those in New York and other states, and how they need to advocate for better schools and better outcomes.

In 2006, Heidi gave her first testimony at a Washington state Senate hearing, emphasizing that we deserve to do better for our kids. She was so persuasive that a key Senator suggested that she do the opening prayer for the Senate.

Heidi’s activism took on a life of its own. She became heavily involved in the push for simple majority for school levies and fought hard for the Basic Ed “It’s Basic” campaign with Governor Chris Gregoire. She’s been the Legislative VP of the Seattle Council PTSA, board member and presenter for the Seattle Schools First levy campaign, and several years as the Regional Legislative Chair for Washington State PTA. She has reached hundreds of parents with her “What’s up with WA State Education” presentations and several years ago delivered over 5,000 postcards to Washington state Legislators and the Governor during WSPTA Focus Day. Heidi has also served on several district task forces/committees for highly capable, capacity, and others.

Lately, Heidi continues to engage and educate parents with education panels and PTA talks on Basic Ed. Her most recent panel last week in North Seattle included both high school issues and state funding, and featured Representative Noel Frame, the Government Relations Director of the Association for Washington School Principals, the Legislative Chair of the Seattle Council PTSA, Seattle School District officials, and the principal of Ballard High School. Heidi has educated hundreds of parents on why they need to advocate.

Heidi’s newest passion is higher education. “We’re getting priced out of higher ed. It costs $80-to-$90,000 to send kids to a Washington state college when you include room and board,” she says. “As wages are flat, even the middle class is getting priced out of a bachelor’s degree at a public, state school.” She put higher education on the state PTA platform two years ago and again last fall. This year, she expanded post-secondary advocacy to include community and technical college (CTC) certificates, while continuing to support the College Bound and State Need grants, and making both 2- and 4-year degrees more accessible. Heidi adds, “We need a regional college in the Seattle area, something that offers comprehensive Bachelor’s degrees without having to spend residential costs, similar to Portland State.”

“I want to see an expansion of career counselors in high school, so all students are aware of the opportunities for both a traditional of 4-year college track and other pathways,” she says. “Kids just don’t know there are job-ready career paths by earning CTC certificates or Associate’s degrees. We need to promote these options too to both students and families, and remove the stigma from alternative paths.”

Heidi grew up on Long Island and is a first-generation college graduate. She finished her degree at night, working full-time. She says, “You can’t do that in Seattle – there are not enough opportunities to earn an affordable degree at night at a less-expensive public college. I understand the challenges.”. Professionally, she cut her teeth in marketing on Madison Avenue, earned her VP title, and then moved to Seattle where she was the Director of Client Services for a downtown agency. She started consulting to focus on family life, and is winding down that chapter.

Heidi’s kids are recent graduates of the Seattle School District. Her daughter graduated from Ballard High School and is now at the University of Victoria. Her son graduated in 2016 through Running Start, and is now a rising senior at the University of Washington.

Noting that 70 percent of all jobs in Washington state will soon require a post-secondary credential, Heidi says, “If we want growth in our economy, we need to increase the current rate of only 31 percent of our 9th graders earning some type of post-secondary attainment to over 70 percent. We need to educate parents and students that not all jobs will require a 4-year degree.” To that end, she began advocating for Career Start, which allows students to earn a career certificate while still in high school, similar to Running Start that focuses on AA degrees. “Kids need to know ALL their options,” ” she says, “And the state needs to make them affordable.”

Posted in: Activist of the Month, Advocacy and Activism, Funding, Higher Education

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Student Voice: Why Every Student Deserves a Quality Education (Video)

League of Education Voters intern MyKaila Young asks students at the University of Washington to share their education journey, what they learned along the way, and why it is important for every student to receive a quality education.

In McCleary v. State of Washington, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that because the state government is not providing sufficient education funding, it is violating the state’s constitution. Further, the Court found that inadequate funding from the state is leading to inequalities and disparities between wealthy and poor school districts, because some districts are only able to raise a fraction of the money through local levies as other districts, despite having a higher local levy tax rate.

The Court has ordered the state to address this issue by increasing education funding and reducing reliance on local levies to pay for teacher salaries and other basic education essentials. Estimates say that complying with the Court’s decision will require the state to spend an additional 1.5 – 2 billion dollars more per year on public education.

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Funding, Higher Education

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LEV Interviews Governor Jay Inslee About His 2017 State Budget

Governor Jay Inslee - League of Education VotersLeague of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman sat down with Governor Jay Inslee 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:


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

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

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

Posted in: Career Technical Education, Closing the Gaps, Early Learning, Funding, Higher Education, Legislative session, Podcast, STEM, Teacher Prep

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Remembering Senator Andy Hill

By Frank Ordway, guest blogger

Senator Andy Hill - League of Education VotersIt is unfortunate that the first time I return to this blog a year after leaving the League of Education Voters is for the purpose of memorializing Andy Hill, though I can think of few people more worthy of praise and remembrance.

LEV, and my, interactions with Andy were momentous for the organization, me personally and the children of Washington state. I remember my first substantive conversation with Andy. He came to a LEV community event shortly after he was elected. We had not endorsed Andy. He arrived, unannounced, right from the soccer field. We got a cup of coffee and went to the back of the room to talk.

His first words were about how he felt there was a lot work we could do together, and was committed to doing so. We had not endorsed Andy, so I was impressed with his maneuver and commitment. We talked about the various challenges confronting the state in general and in education, and where our values aligned. We agreed on a host of things, and disagreed on many as well. But we pledged to work together on the issues where our values aligned.

Andy Hill never wavered from that pledge, and over time we were able to increase the number of items we worked on together. He played an important role in expanding opportunity in early learning, K12 and higher education. One area where we initially disagreed related to the College Bound Scholarship program, but after long talks about the results, he supported the program. Andy was always open to ideas and data.

All too often, the confines of political party membership limit both politicians and advocates. People refuse to work across the aisle; people refuse to give credit to members of parties they oppose, even when they are right. I, and LEV, was able to escape this trap with Andy and get meaningful things done for the students and parents of Washington state in a bi-partisan fashion.

He was the model of quiet, determined leadership. Anchored in his values, he knew the right thing to do for him and was comfortable with his decisions, even when they were not in alignment with his party or advocates like me. I will always remember and be thankful for that attribute.

In my last conversation with Andy, which was regrettably via text, I told him I was praying for him and his family. I also told him to kick cancer’s ass. In addition to thanking me, he said, “That’s my plan.”

He may have lost the battle against cancer. All one can do is control what you can and, where Andy had influence, our state benefited greatly.

We will miss you Andy, but your legacy and approach to public service will be remembered by all of us lucky enough to work with you.

With great admiration and respect,

Frank

Posted in: Blog, Early Learning, Higher Education, Legislative session

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Rethinking Our Education System

By the LEV Policy Team

Children standing in front of a chalkboard - League of Education VotersIn the 2017 legislative session, Washington state is poised to make historic investments in basic education. But what will those dollars buy? The current program of “basic education” is not robust enough to meet our “paramount duty” and ensure that all students have the knowledge and skills to compete in today’s economy and participate in our state’s democracy. The upcoming investment provides an unprecedented opportunity to rethink our system of education and the resources and tools at our disposal to provide Washington students with the education promised by our Constitution.

What 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. The vision should include best practices, teaching and instruction that closes achievement gaps, supports that allow students to be the best learners, a program that doesn’t start with kindergarten and end with high school, but consists of the full education continuum—early learning through postsecondary.

Ample and equitable funding is necessary to build a robust education system that works for all children. However, money is a tool, not a solution. New dollars should be seen as a tool to improve our system for all students. We believe that this can be done by rethinking how we:

  • compensate teachers and staff
  • leverage funding and human resources according to meet student needs
  • recruit, retain, and train teachers
  • provide additional student supports
  • measure the effectiveness of our investments and improve practice

How should we redefine basic education? Well, we don’t have to look far. There are programs and practices across our state that are working but need the proper investments in order to be sustained and spread to other schools and districts. Over the next few months, we’ll share how money can be used as a tool to fix teacher compensation; recruit, retain, and train qualified teachers; and add necessary student supports that yield positive outcomes and close achievement gaps. We’ll also share stories from around the state on how districts, community-based organizations, and citizens are closing gaps and subsidizing “basic education” with local resources. Asking the paramount question: How can money be used to go beyond our current basic education?

#BeyondBasic

Read Part 2 of our McCleary blog series, Teachers: The Most Important Part of Our Education System

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

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Closing Gaps in Higher Education

SEA_162_blog photoBy Joyce Yee

Seattle Education Access (SEA) is a college access program that helps low-income, non-traditional students aged 16-29 in King County obtain a post-secondary education. SEA is the only college access organization in Washington state, and one of few in the country, that works with out-of-school young people and specializes in serving those who have experienced homelessness, students of color, foster youth, single parents and immigrants.

Over the past five years, SEA has served over 1,000 students: over half have experienced homelessness, 10% have been in foster care, one-third are single parents, 45% are the first generation in their family to finish a high school diploma or GED, 80% are the first generation in their family to attend college, and one third are immigrants, many of whom are undocumented.

SEA’s Education Advocates work with partner organizations throughout King County including nearly every community college, Open Doors (drop out retrieval), and organizations that provide basic needs to low-income youth. At community colleges, SEA staff often work in adult basic education, GED, and High School 21+ programs. High School 21+ serves young people over 21 who are not eligible to attend Open Doors schools. In these competency-based programs, students can earn high school credits through project-based learning or life experiences, rather than by taking assessment tests.

There is a language, culture and shared understanding, expectation and support that middle and upper-middle class families often have about their children going to college. The children of college-educated parents are more than twice as likely to go to college as the children of high school graduates and seven times as likely as those of high school dropouts. Only 5% of Americans ages 25-34 whose parents did not finish high school have a college degree.

Students from low-income backgrounds often do not see themselves as potential college students, so SEA Education Advocates help create a college-going culture at partner sites. When  a student sees their peers going to college, they are more likely to think of themselves as potential college students.

In the first phase, the College Prep program, Education Advocates works one-on-one with students to help them set goals for post-secondary education, put together a career and academic plan, and assist them with overcoming barriers. SEA staff have a vast knowledge of the degree, certificate, apprenticeship, technical/professional, and college programs available to students in King County and how they may fit a student’s life circumstances and earn them a living wage upon graduation. SEA teaches students how to navigate the education system, find a high school completion program to fit their needs, obtain financial aid, compete for private scholarships, make a budget, secure housing, register for classes, choose the right campus and degree program, and effectively access campus services. In addition, they provide tutoring, study guides, and funds for testing fees for the GED and college entrance assessment tests. This phase is typically from 6 months to a year, depending on how much support the student needs and where they are in their education pathway.

The second phase, the College Success program, begins the day a student starts classes, and supports students to stay in school and graduate successfully. Supports include tutoring, mentoring, continued career exploration, and program transfer assistance. SEA gives small scholarships to students, mostly under $350, to help them close budget gaps for books, bus passes, child care and first month’s rent. Ideally, Education Advocates’ support of students tapers off after they finish their first year as students learn the skills to navigate the education and financial aid systems themselves. In the past five years, 84% of SEA’s students have graduated from their program or are still enrolled in good academic standing.

Shouldn’t this be part of basic education?

#BeyondBasic

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Higher Education

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