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A Way Forward: We can and must do better for Washington’s students

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. (more…)

Posted in: Career and College Ready Diploma, Closing the Gaps, Early Learning, Featured, Funding, Higher Education, LEV News, Uncategorized

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2014 elections re-affirm the importance of compromise, bipartisanship

Frank Ordway

Frank Ordway, Government Relations Director at the League of Education Voters

The 2014 election results are all but certified, so we now have a better idea about the political landscape going into the 2015 legislative session. The second elephant in the room—after McCleary, that is—may be Initiative 1351 (and how we’re going to pay for it), but what the election results reflect, more than anything, is how critical a bipartisan approach will be in the coming legislative session.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate’s majority parties’ holds are slim in their respective chambers, and all parties will need to have a high level of discipline to get very much done during this critical session.

The overarching question, of course, is how we are going to pay for education funding. Initiative 1351 has redefined “basic education,” and the four-year balanced budget legislation requires that the Legislature find funding for McCleary and I-1351 through the next four years—amounting to nearly $7 billion above and beyond current education funding levels.

How do you find that kind of money? Well, the current revenue structure won’t get us there. So, we either need to restructure how revenue (read: taxes) is collected in the state or cut other programs.

If we look to history, we see that legislation with bipartisan support tends to be the strongest and most likely to succeed. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Elections, Featured, Funding, Legislative session, LEV News

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Statement from Chris Korsmo on I-1351

While the Initiative 1351 votes are still trickling in, it’s clear that what everyone thought was a slam dunk is looking more like a shot from mid-court.

From pre-election polling we know that the more voters learned about I-1351, the more concerns they had.

This fall voters heard from diverse groups—including the Children’s Alliance, Association of Washington School Principals, and every major editorial board across the state—all opposing I-1351.

Reasons for opposition included concerns about the price tag, the impact the initiative would have on other important state-supported social service programs, and the potential to preclude state’s ability to make investments in other proven education strategies, such as early learning and college readiness.

We were told by all the pundits that 1351 would win and win big. That doesn’t appear to be the case.

Win or lose, these margins aren’t indicative of the kind of voter mandate that is going to shake things up heading in the 2015 legislative session.

Instead, the results leave the door wide open for a conversation about the best next steps to create an ample, equitable, and stable plan to fund our public schools and ensure each and every student in our state with the opportunity for success.

Posted in: Blog, Funding, LEV News, Press Releases & Statements

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

Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education Voters

Chris Korsmo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Funding, Press Releases & Statements

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