League of Education Voters Foundation engages in our work in multiple ways — soliciting feedback from communities across Washington state about their needs, researching best practice and impact of existing policies, providing robust and nuanced information to the public and decision-makers about the issues most impacting students in our system, and working with partners and communities to push for change.
Across all of our policy issue areas in 2019 – 20, showcased in the following pages, we endeavor to create systems that serve and support students furthest from opportunity and most impacted by systems that do not recognize or are not designed to address their needs. Throughout this report, you will see these approaches in our community work, research, and policy advocacy — whether it’s through advocating a restructure of our funding systems, increasing access to programs, or rethinking how we design school. In order to do this work authentically and effectively, we are also embarking on our own internal organizational journey around racial equity, how we engage and walk alongside and with communities and families, and our role in making institutional changes.
Read the full report: League of Education Voters Foundation Annual Report 2019-2020 (PDF)
Response to COVID-19
COVID-19 has illuminated many areas of inequity in our educational system. Not every student has the same access to devices and internet. Not every family is provided the support to enable their student’s learning. Not every student is provided the supports they need to access their education. But families and community leaders in conversations around educational equity have long known that our schools are not equitable. COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to have critical conversations and develop solutions together.
In the weeks after COVID-19 school closures began, League of Education Voters quickly reprioritized our work to gather critical resources for our community, present informative webinars, participate in statewide workgroups, convene partners, and engage in advocacy efforts.
On our COVID-19 Resources page, we gathered information on services being provided in the 295 school districts across Washington, as well as resources available in communities to help students and families through this difficult time – including meal services, distance learning resources, school guidance from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), college and scholarship supports, mental health supports, internet and technology resources, child care, and employment resources.
• State Superintendent Chris Reykdal
• Superintendents from school districts across Washington state
• Washington state Teachers of the Year
• Mental health experts and school counselors
• Trish Millines Dziko of Technology Access Foundation (TAF)
• Statewide early learning providers and advocates
• Parent educators from the Yakima Valley — our first Spanish language webinar
• South Shore PreK-8 in Seattle and The Community School in Spokane
We also brought together partners to advocate for transparency and authentic stakeholder and family engagement in school reopening conversations and use of federal CARES Act funds to ensure that the guidance and planning centers the needs of the students and families most impacted by the crisis. Our efforts included individual and joint letters to OSPI, collective meetings with the Superintendent and his cabinet, and working with community-based organizations to inform their constituents about the federal stimulus funds and opportunity for district-level advocacy.
This work was only possible because of the leadership and partnership of organizations that serve and represent the communities and families most impacted by the crisis and who are underserved by our current systems. We are continuing work supporting and collaborating with our partners to reimagine our education system, as the crisis has laid bare the need for a new vision for how schools serve and center students.
Sufficient and Effective Resources for Every Student Receiving Special Education Services
Our current system of providing programming to the 155,000 Washington students requiring special education services is insufficient in both the funding and outcomes for students. Washington lags behind other states in graduation and rates of inclusion for our students with disabilities, all of whom are capable of advancing in their learning. For the 2020 legislative session, LEV and partners continued working in the Investing in Student Potential coalition to create comprehensive changes to the funding structures for special education, creating equity for students in small local education agencies (school districts, charter public schools, and tribal compact schools), reducing stigma, and educating and supporting legislators to provide services that promote inclusion and transition.
In the summer and fall of 2019, the Investing in Student Potential coalition held eight regional listening sessions around the state to create a new vision for special education in Washington. These sessions informed the coalition’s legislative agenda and three-year plan for helping that vision become a reality. In 2020, we advocated for a state funding system that provides sufficient funds for students with disabilities, improving how we support and prepare educators to better meet the needs of students with disabilities, as well as increasing the accessibility and transparency of information on special education funding, spending, and data (i.e. improved reporting of student outcome data disaggregated by race and/or disability type to better understand how students are being served).
At the beginning of the 2020 legislative session, there seemed to be significant momentum in continuing to address the shortfalls and challenges in special education funding and services in our K-12 schools. Throughout the session, League of Education Voters and partners in the Investing in Student Potential coalition advocated to include the lifting of the 13.5% cap on funded enrollment, as well as an increase to the multiplier in the funding formula. Ultimately, no bills made it through the final stages to passage, which resulted in no additional funding for special education services, outside of a small increase ($1.9 million) in Safety Net funds, which provides districts meeting the criteria with additional funds to meet higher than expected costs for providing a program of special education.
To support our advocacy efforts, LEV worked with statewide media on stories advocating for lifting the funding cap on special education enrollment and published podcasts featuring 2020 Washington state Teacher of the Year Amy Campbell, a special education teacher in the Camas School District. The Investing in Student Potential Advocacy Day brought nearly 200 parents and students from across the state to meet with legislators. During the 2020 session, LEV supporters contributed by sending over 17,600 emails to legislators — the highest engagement of any of our issue areas.
Supportive and Safe Learning Environments for Every Student in K-12 Schools
Students learn most effectively when their schools feel safe, inclusive, supportive, and respectful. Creating positive school climates and providing student supports (caring adults with specialized skills and access to targeted resources that meet students where they are) can mitigate the impacts of trauma, mental health needs, and other non-academic factors that affect a student’s ability to engage in learning. These are instrumental in closing opportunity and achievement gaps and improving student outcomes.
In the 2020 legislative session, we advocated for increased support staff such as nurses, counselors, and social workers, training for school staff in social emotional learning (SEL) and addressing trauma, and increased access to student mental health services. In 2020, we advocated for increasing capacity in schools and districts to successfully implement specific strategies to address these needs. We supported protocols and benchmarks that, when fully implemented, will assure that students receive wrap-around supports.
LEV also continued to promote broad public awareness of opportunities to improve school climates through podcasts on Implicit Racial Bias, Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), and Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS). Through our field work, we supported the Every Student Counts Alliance (ESCA), a group of advocates, parents, and community leaders seeking to reform school discipline in Spokane, and convened parent training sessions and roundtables where students met with local legislators in the Tri-Cities area. During the 2020 session, LEV supporters contributed to our school climate advocacy efforts by sending over 7,000 emails to legislators.
The legislature debated a number of different approaches to better support students in K-12 schools in the 2020 session. In the budget, the legislature made a significant investment in student supports by funding additional counselors for high-poverty elementary schools and investing in the development of a family engagement framework. The legislature also provided the Washington State Governor’s Office of the Education Ombuds (OEO), which provides training and outreach to support education equity and provides collaborative conflict resolution with the K-12 education system, with an additional $100,000 in funding to expand their efforts. OEO will also be provided with $50,000 to develop a plan to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion among families with school-aged children.
Upon signing and in response to the looming budget implications of the COVID-19 crisis, the Governor vetoed the investment in additional counselors for high-poverty schools and additional paraeducator training that was included in the budget that passed the legislature.
Equitable Levy and Local Effort Assistance Structures Targeted to Student Needs
The changes made to the K-12 funding system in recent years increased the role district property value plays in education funding and reaffirmed inequities in the local levy system — directing more funding to high-property value districts rather than high-need districts. This impacts the types of programming and opportunities students have access to. LEV is committed to creating an equitable funding system that targets resources based on student needs.
In 2020, the legislature provided an additional one-time amount of $45.8 million in Local Effort Assistance (LEA) to help districts cope with higher than anticipated assessed property values for calendar year 2020. The higher than expected property values made impacted districts eligible for less LEA support than had been expected when award amounts were budgeted for 2020. This does not change the LEA formula and is not expected to continue in future years. No changes were made to how much local revenue districts can raise through the local levy system — though a couple of bills were introduced that would have increased the allowable amount — and none of the proposals would have addressed the continued inequities in our local levy and LEA systems when considering student needs.
Because we believe communities deserve and need full information about how education is funded, LEV utilized interactive maps, produced a Local Levy FAQ, and hosted educational webinars to educate policymakers and communities around Washington on the impact of the funding changes and continued inequities. We also argued our case in media submissions.
High-Quality Early Childhood Education for Every Early Learner
The 2020 legislative session brought both small gains and visionary groundwork to Washington’s early learning landscape. Both the House and Senate produced omnibus early learning bills that staked out monumental and essential changes to childcare across the state, focusing especially on expanding the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), Working Connections Child Care (WCCC), accessibility in childcare, and supporting struggling providers. Although neither bill made it to the Governor’s desk this session, with each one requiring investments in the billions from the state, they helped forge pathways for other legislation and investments for this session and sessions to come.
Most notably, the House and Senate agreed to dedicate nearly $39 million to the ECEAP and WCCC programs to increase subsidy rates for childcare. Other gains this session included increased support and urgency around some of Washington’s most underserved populations of young children. After much debate, the legislature passed House Bill 2456 and its accompanying almost $2 million investment, which will provide a 12-month grace period of childcare subsidies through WCCC for families experiencing homelessness. In addition to adding $6 million in funding to help smooth the WCCC copay cliff (when copays suddenly rise due to an increase in family income), lawmakers also agreed to waive one year of childcare copayments for teen parents pursuing a high school degree. The legislature also established a complex needs fund with $2.2 million to support ECEAP providers serving children with special needs, and we also saw them make investments in more dual-language programs, supports to rural communities, scholarships for young professionals seeking licensure or Early Achievers milestones, and community-based pathways for providers with the passing of House Bill 2556.
Upon signing the budget, the Governor vetoed the $6 million to smooth the Working Connection Childcare copay cliff, eliminated the reimbursement rate increase for ECEAP, and vetoed the dual-language grant program. However, ECEAP funding for programs serving students with disabilities was preserved.
To support our early childhood education advocacy efforts, LEV hosted our October 2019 Seattle Luncheon with the theme “Why Investing in Ages 0-8 Is a Game Changer” that featured Governor Jay Inslee, 2020 Washington state Teacher of the Year Amy Campbell, and keynote speaker Marquita Davis, the Deputy Director of Early Learning — U.S. Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. LEV also presented a webinar featuring State Representative Tana Senn, Chair of the House Human Services and Early Learning Committee, and hosted a podcast interview with Marquita Davis, Deputy Director of Early Learning — U.S. Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. During the 2020 session, LEV early childhood learning supporters sent nearly 5,900 emails to legislators calling out the importance of early education and family support.
South Shore PreK-8
League of Education Voters is able to see advocacy in action through its partnership with the Opportunities for Education Foundation. This partnership provides a grant to South Shore PreK-8, a Seattle Public Schools Choice school in Seattle’s Rainier Valley. South Shore PreK-8 continues to be one of the most diverse schools in the state: 45% of the students are Black, 20% are Asian, 13% are two or more races, 11% are White, 10% are Latinx, 1% are Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and .3% are Native American. One-fifth of the students are English Language Learners, 65% are low income, 8% are experiencing homelessness, and 15% are students with disabilities.
The focus for the 2019-2020 school year was to increase student growth in both English/Language Arts and Math. Assessment scores in 2018-2019 showed that South Shore PreK-8 students were below the Washington state student growth average of 50% for both English/Language Arts and Math. In English/Language arts, 48% of students’ skills were growing, where only 42% of students saw an improvement in their test scores in Math for the year 2018-2019.
English Language Arts
The Opportunities for Education Foundation Grant supported the hiring of a Literacy Coach. The role of the literacy coach is to work with teachers, instructional assistants, and students to increase competency in English Language Arts.
In the Spring of 2018, the school implemented the SIPPS (Systematic Instruction in Phoneme Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words) program for its K-5 students, and beginning fall 2019, fully implemented it throughout the school. The goal of the SIPPS program is to target the specific needs of each student and work to increase fluency through phonemic instruction, spelling, and sight word recognition. Students break apart into groups based on skill level and work with trained instructional assistants to increase their skills. Students are periodically tested and instruction is modified to their new level. The Literacy Coach closely monitors students to ensure they are progressing through the program.
In order to increase student comprehension and fluency in math, the school brought on a Math Coach. One aspect of her role is to work with teachers to improve their delivery of math concepts to students. Part of the Math Coach’s professional development is to work with the University of Washington’s Center for Educational Leadership. The goal of this partnership is for teachers to develop a shared vision for complex instruction, particularly with attention to student competencies and status with classroom teachers. They then can develop strategies to plan for an inquiry-driven, strengths-based coaching based on observation. She works with teachers as a model teacher, as instructional support in the classroom, and as a coach who offers concrete feedback to improve delivery of math concepts.
COVID-19 and Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS)
The Opportunities for Education Foundation Grant also continued to support the MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports) program during the 2019-2020 school year which was instrumental in continuing to support students during the COVID-19 school closure. The Multi-Tiered System of Supports allowed for continued engagement of students by:
• Closure: The Administration did not wait for direction from the district before it began reaching out to students and families. They began almost immediately and were able to connect with families.
• Identifying who may be at risk: Throughout the school year, the support team met regularly to identify students who were struggling either emotionally or academically prior to the closure so were able to pivot to supporting them remotely.
• Identifying possible issues: They identified the root cause of the struggle during the Wellness Meetings and already knew what issues may appear with the COVID-19 closure.
• Development of Relationships: Because South Shore began interventions at the time of issues becoming identified, they were able to build relationships with families. They had developed strong lines of communication with the families of their most at-risk students early on.
• Contact: There were multiple contact points for parents and extended family members because of the relationships built.
Because of COVID-19, education is changing. The Multi-Tiered System of Supports that South Shore has put in place will continue to support students and families as they go forward into an educational system that has shifted on its axis. League of Education Voters will continue to partner with South Shore PreK-8 in order to provide support going forward.
Read the full report: League of Education Voters Foundation Annual Report 2019-2020 (PDF)
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