Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: The First Bill Cutoff is Upon Us

Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education Voters
Chris Korsmo

It’s that time of year. Yes, there’s that football game. And the groundhog has done his thing. And the Iowa caucuses are thankfully in the rear view. But it’s the legislative calendar that has my attention. This week marks the first of many legislative deadlines. It’s the cut-off date for bills to be moved from the policy committee in their house of origin. In other words, let’s say you just told your kid to clean their room and they’re stalling. So you go to that all time parent favorite, the countdown. “You better get started on that room by the time I count to three or….” This cut off is roughly the equivalent of hitting “one” on the one to three countdown. They’re in the room assessing the damage. The real work hasn’t really started yet, but the wheels are turning and you can put your empty threat on hold.

Let’s check the progress:

  • On the charter school fix, the Senate has passed a bill over to the House where a group of legislators are working on a compromise they hope will move both sides to closure. Looks like a hearing on charters will take place in the House on February 19.
  • There’s all kinds of hot mess going on with assessments. Last year’s bill morphed into something unintelligible. And passed. The version that was originally introduced last year was also brought back under a new number and, just to make things interesting, a separate bill de-linking the statewide science exams from graduation requirements was also introduced. Take comfort, we’re not the only ones struggling with this issue.
  • Bills to close the achievement and opportunity gaps moved in both chambers. Representative Santos’ bill HB 1541  passed out of the House on a party line vote of 50 – 47, while Senator Litzow’s bill SB 6244 was exec’ed out of Committee.
  • Two of the Early Learning Action Alliance’s priority bills 6598 and 2716 passed out of their policy committees. Both expand Working Connections Child Care to provide continuity of care to vulnerable children.
  • SB 6408 focused on additional training to para-educators passed out of the Senate Ed Committee.
  • The “plan to plan” for McCleary SB 6195 and HB 2366 are both alive, with the Senate version getting out of committee and the House bill passing through the chamber. The sticking point remains the over-reliance on local levies – made stickier by the fact that it’s hard to know what local levies are used for.
  • On the higher ed front, folks are tripping all over themselves to provide free community college. The House version passed out of Committee with amendments.
  • There’s more, a whole lot of it, and you can find the aforementioned more in our bill tracker, here. Remember, dear ones, that just because a bill doesn’t make the deadline doesn’t mean the issue is absolutely, totally and completely dead. Bills turn into amendments, amendments turn into budget provisos, and rules become guidelines. So, stay tuned.

As lots of good (and some not so good) ideas are making their way through the legislature, newly released data out on homelessness reminds us that we need to continue to be creative and committed to ALL of our kids. With nearly 35,000 homeless kids in Washington, we’re going to need to double down on finding solutions for all our kids to be served. Still, there’s no dearth of folks getting in line to lead the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Other good reads:

  • What’s that degree worth? And for those of you with a statistics degree, trythis.
  • Social Emotional Learning (SEL) practice extends beyond the school day.
  • Even though we don’t want to count the state science tests, new views ofSaturn could inspire our re-thinking on the importance of science.

Ok, kids, that’s it for today. Have a wonderful weekend. Here’s hoping the Super Bowl ads live up to the hype.  And happy Lunar New Year.

 

Chris

Why a Charter School Opponent became a Charter School Parent

By Melissa Pailthorp, guest blogger

Melissa Pailthorp

Almost precisely one year ago, my daughter announced that she would not attend the traditional public high school we’d secured for her, rather, she wanted to attend Sierra Summit Public School, one of our state’s first charter schools.  I had voted no twice on charters.  I am generally pro-labor.  I’m adamant and actively committed to strengthening public schools through work on the levies campaign and serving on our other school’s PTSA board.  My daughter would be giving up one of our city’s destination public high schools with its strong academics, robust extra-curriculars and an amazing music program.  I think she’d probably thrive at that school.  She wanted a smaller institution and had found the inadvertent segregation of her middle school offensive and unfair, even if it worked okay for her.  I applauded her sense of justice, but still wasn’t sure that her inclination toward this choice was a good thing.

As we dug in, I learned a lot.  All charters in Washington must choose all students by blind lottery to allow opportunity for all.   All charters in Washington must be operated by nonprofit organizations.  They are not by definition anti-union (Washington’s charter law prevents this and Green Dot schools, the parent entity of Destiny School in Tacoma, are unionized).  They pay competitive salaries.  The pioneering educational leaders behind these schools are some of the state’s most committed, accomplished and well-regarded public school educators in the field.  Authorized charters have specific and aggressive accountability for student progress governed by their contract and consistent with state standards.  Moreover, the school my daughter chose had a proven model that worked for an incredible range of kids across seven different locations in California, evidenced by four-year college acceptance rates of more than 94% year on year.   Project-based and self-driven learning guide the curriculum, not the technology that helps deliver the content, although that technology enables both scale and teaching to individual kids as well as amazing collaboration between teachers across campuses.  My kid could attend a school where all kids – regardless of where they were when they came in the door – would be learning together in ways appropriate to each.  My kid would benefit hugely from truly and deeply engaging in the most diverse student body she’s ever encountered.  Having lived in south Seattle most of my life, both watching and participating in the multitude of efforts and machinations to improve struggling, segregated schools, I decided I was comfortable with – and proud of – my daughter’s decision to give Summit a go.

Fast forward one year and we find ourselves ensconced in a battle I never imagined would be part of our experience – and which I cannot help but support.  My advocacy is compelled by the constant refrain from political leaders across the spectrum who pledge their focus and devotion to closing the achievement gap, yet we continue to lead the nation in the disparities in our schools, impacting kids today.  It’s inspired by incredible academic growth now of many of my daughter’s peers who have never felt successful in school, and their caring families showing their commitment to these schools, while some decision makers defer action given the need to eventually (maybe next session) find the solution(s) to McCleary.  I’m appalled that instead of embracing and learning from the pedagogical models that are yielding early, incredible progress with the amazing spectrum of kids at these schools on a financial model that is feasible at public funding levels, we’re at risk of leaving a solution for charters on the legislative table.  We need broadly accessible, scaleable ways to successfully educate all our kids well, with consistency and coherence for families…so how can we not support these efforts?!!

It’s not fair to ask the kids and parents who simply want this option, one that works for their kids today, to endure status quo and wait for the day when things will be better – unless you’re willing to put your kid in the same situation as theirs.  I’m not.

2016 Parent & Community Training Highlights

Thank you to everyone who attended our 2016 Parent and Community Training!  We couldn’t have done it without you.

Check out the slides here by Duncan Taylor, who led a workshop called The Dollar Dance on education funding.

See LEV Field Director Kelly Munn’s Advocacy 101 presentation here.

LEV Senior Policy Analyst Jolenta Coleman’s excellent Financial Aid 101 slides are here.

View the Education Funding presentation slides from LEV Senior Policy Analyst Julia Warth and Policy Analyst Jake Vela here.

We will add more presentation slides as soon as we get them.  In the meantime, here are a few photos:

Jene Jones of LEV Government Relations, Dave Gering of the Manufacturing Industry Council, Thomas Mosby of Highline Public Schools Career Pathways and Partnerships, Chance Gower of Highline Public Schools Career Technical Education, and Highline CTE student Kyla, who is taking dental assistant classes
Beyond High School: A Panel on Career Technical Education featuring Jene Jones of LEV Government Relations, Dave Gering of the Manufacturing Industry Council, Thomas Mosby of Highline Public Schools Career Pathways and Partnerships, Chance Gower of Highline Public Schools Career Technical Education, and Highline CTE student Kyla, who is taking dental assistant classes

 

Robin Tatsuda, Program Supervisor of the Arc of King County's Parent to Parent Support program, leads a worshop on how to advocate for your special needs child
Robin Tatsuda, Program Supervisor of the Arc of King County’s Parent to Parent Support program, leads a workshop on how to advocate for your special needs child

 

Senator Joe Fain (center) is joined by parents and students from Excel and Rainier Prep charter schools for a roundtable on how charter schools have impacted their lives
Senator Joe Fain (center) is joined by parents and students from Excel and Rainier Prep charter schools for a roundtable on how charter schools have impacted their lives

 

Parent Organizing Groups panel featuring LEV Field Director Kelly Munn with parent organizers Margarita, BJ and Fatima
Parent Organizing Groups panel featuring LEV Field Director Kelly Munn with parent organizers Margarita, BJ and Fatima

 

Financial Aid 101 workshop presented by LEV senior policy analyst Jolenta Coleman
Financial Aid 101 workshop presented by LEV senior policy analyst Jolenta Coleman

 

Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: Charters pass the Senate but no McCleary Deal

By Chris Korsmo

Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education Voters

Friends,

For those of you keeping count, it’s Oly Short Session, day number 10. Fifty days left to find a charter schools fix, prevent cutbacks to Career and Technical Education, address educational inequities and not talk about the elephant in the room, McCleary. But those aren’t the only education issues under consideration. You can find more on the bills introduced so far here.

The session is young, and so was a group of advocates who found themselves on the wrong end of a question normally reserved for parents. Behind closed doors. The content got a little, er, personal this week when a Washington legislator asked a group of teens whether they were virgins. It’s not quite as bad as Presidential hopeful Ben Carson telling a group of school kids to point at the “dumbest kid in the room” but it’s not exactly HIPPA compliant, either.

Charter News: The Senate took up SB 6194, addressing the charter school funding issues, this week. The bill passed out of the chamber on a 27-20 vote, and now moves over to the House. Thanks to Senators Mullet and Litzow for their leadership on the bill and for all who voted to support this effort to keep our charter schools alive and well.

McCleary News: This past week, State Budget Director David Schumacher said out loud what many have thought: no McCleary deal this year. While work is ongoing, including the recommendation for another legislative task force, a final deal isn’t imminent for two significant reasons. First, this isn’t a budget year. A kind of big deal if you’re going to be allocating money in the billions of dollars. Second, it’s an election year, making tax votes pretty tough. It would seem that not many years are great for tax votes… unless you’re voting to limit taxes. Which, as it turns out, is often unconstitutional.

Higher Ed News: A new focus on affordability seems to be the spotlight as a new House bill would make two years of college “accessible and affordable” by paying for community/technical college, and another attempt to make textbooks more affordable. Meanwhile, a new report highlights some success among Washington Community College students who transfer to four year schools completing their degrees. And the college admittance process gets a fresh look.

You can’t chalk it all up to STEM policy, but here’s some news that required STEM degrees:

  • Stephen Hawking scares the living daylights out of us.
  • Look! Up in the sky. It’s a new planet. And five old ones.
  • Dating a computer software engineer? Stop going Dutch.
  • Speaking of software engineers and other tech-based professions, Houston, we have a problem.

There’s more. Oh, so much more. But that’s all the time your intrepid writer has today. Thanks for all you do on behalf of our kids!

Education Advocate January 2016

Greetings

Chris Korsmo
Chris Korsmo, CEO

Happy New Year! I hope your holidays were full of good cheer (and football). Now that 2016 has arrived, it’s full steam ahead into this short but important legislative session. Read our legislative priorities on our website.

I will begin my Weekly Roundup email series tomorrow—sign up via our website to receive those emails.  And do mark your calendar for the morning of March 31.  This year’s annual breakfast focuses on helping students find their personal pathways to career-ready success beyond K-12.  To register, contact Development Manager Jackie Schultz.

Finally, I would like to extend a big thank-you to all of our 2015 donors. You make our work possible. Thanks for all you do for kids. We couldn’t do it without you.
Chris Korsmo signature

 

 

Chris Korsmo

Save the Date for our Annual Breakfast

Save the date for our 2015 Annual Breakfast: March 26, 2015, at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel.Our 2016 Annual Breakfast, to support the LEV Foundation, will be held Thursday, March 31, at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel.

Join us for a conversation about the skills gap in education with Mike Sotelo, Founder of Consolidar, Plaza Bank and other business ventures, and Will Sarrett, Director of NewTech Skills Center-Spokane. Moderated by Colleen McAleer, President of the Washington Business Alliance. Learn more

Puget Sound Parent & Community Training

Access, Equity, & ExcellencePlease join us at our annual Puget Sound Parent & Community Training. The 2016 training will take place on January 23 at Highline College.

In Last year’s legislative session, elected officials directed over one billion dollars towards K-12 funding.

Where did the billion dollars go? How can you find out?  Panel topics will include:

The importance of career and technical education in meeting the needs of Washington businesses, The status of charter schools in Washington state, Education funding and update on McCleary, Advocacy for families of children with special needs (in English and Spanish),

Financial Aid 101, And a lunchtime panel on parent organizing in King County.

Learn more or register

Celebrating our donors

Thank you!Donations are made to the League of Education Voters (LEV) and the LEV Foundation by individuals, groups, and businesses throughout the community. These generous donations from those who believe in high-quality public education allow us to ensure measurable progress toward LEV’s vision that every student in Washington state has access to an excellent public education that provides the opportunity for success.

We’d like to take a moment to celebrate our supporters who donated to LEV or the LEV Foundation between July 1 and December 31 of last year. Thank you!

Get Involved

COMING UP

January 23, 2016 | Access, Equity, & Excellence: Annual Parent and Community Training, Highline College, Des Moines
March 31, 2016 | 2016 Annual Breakfast, Sheraton Hotel, Seattle


GIVE TO THE LEAGUE OF EDUCATION VOTERS
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What to expect this 2016 Legislative Session

By Jene Jones, Government Relations

Jene Jones

There is general bi-partisan agreement on 2 things: 60 days to adjournment, in order to raise money and campaign for elections starting on day 61, and there will be budget adjustments for wildfire costs last summer and some caseload increases for social services this year. Beyond that, priorities differ.

The Senate is coming out strong saying there will be a Charter patch that funds the existing Charter schools which converted to ALE, Private, and Homeschool models mid this year, in order for them to continue to serve students who started in those schools in the fall. The family voice has been loud; students have been telling their stories of how their learning needs are being met, they feel like they belong, have choice, and are succeeding at their public Charter schools.

There is a McCleary bill that will obligate the state to fully take on compensation for staff at the state level by the end of the 2017 session. In order to show progress toward the court deadlines, the bill will probably pass this session. The funding for this however, is not a part of the prescribed plan. With 60% of voters telling the legislature they want 2/3 votes in both the House and the Senate to raise taxes through Eyman’s initiative 1366 which passed in November, even in the Legislative districts of 20 Democrat members in the House, tax increases for McCleary will be a tough vote to bring to the floor. In addition, if lawmakers do nothing with I-1366 (asking for a 2/3rds vote in House & Senate to raise taxes), starting on April 15, 2016 sales tax will lower by 1%, and the state will lose a billion dollars every year to the general fund, which funds education. (I-1366 is being legally challenged.) As perspective: The transportation package which passed last year did not have 2/3 vote in the House. 2/3rds votes are hard in a legislature with: 73 Rs, 73 Ds, and one D that caucuses with the Rs.

Policy for education will include other robust discussions in 2016: 1. Individualizing student pathways and addressing the Skills Gap through Career Tech coursework in Junior High and High Schools, and 2. Assessment and if it should remain linked to graduation requirements (HB 2214). For schools: How do you use the assessment results to meet the learning needs of your students, and assure all graduates are career/college ready?

Let’s focus 2016 on students. Student needs. Student outcomes. Student choice.

Supreme Court Leaves Kids in Limbo

The Washington State Supreme Court issued a devastating ruling late on Friday afternoon, prior to a 3-day weekend and after charter schools had already started their year, declaring the way the state funds public charter schools unconstitutional.

The ruling puts the immediate future of over 1200 students in jeopardy. In addition to public charter schools, the ruling may impact tribal compact schools, Running Start, and other programs that do not fit into the Court’s narrow view of what can be funded with education dollars. Many strategies aimed at addressing the state’s achievement and opportunity gaps are at risk.

The parents with children in these schools, and the advocates who support them, will continue to work to ensure these schools stay open now and into the future.

  • Teams of supporters are reviewing the Court ruling and preparing a legal response.
  • Options for keeping these schools open are being explored.
  • Advocates are asking the Governor and legislators to act immediately to rectify the situation.

You can help by contacting your legislator and asking them to support a technical fix to ensure public charter schools are funded and other investments aimed at closing gaps continue now and into the future.

Activist of the Month: Ambassadors of Lakeview Achieving Success

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: a student group called the Ambassadors of Lakeview Achieving Success, or ALAS. Read more about ALAS’ work to engage their community.

Students from Ambassadors of Lakeview Achieving Success (ALAS)

Students from Ambassadors of Lakeview Achieving Success (ALAS)

Maite Cruz testified for the first time ever this summer at the State Board of Education meeting in July. A rising tenth grader, Maite says she was “unbelievably nervous” but was determined to speak up about the importance of setting graduation requirements at a college-ready level (a level ‘3’ cut score) for Smarter Balanced assessments. She learned about the opportunity to testify after meeting League of Education Voters Community Organizer Ruvine Jiménez at aPasco Discovery Coalition meeting.

In her testimony, Maite asked the board: “If our own state doesn’t have confidence that we can achieve a ‘3,’ how will we ever have confidence in ourselves that we can succeed?” The State Board ultimately voted to set the cut score mid-way between a ‘2’ and a ‘3,’ but Maite’s testimony moved them. Later that same evening, Maite had the opportunity to sit next to Board Chair Isabel Muñoz-Colón at dinner, who expressed her gratitude for Maite’s testimony.

Along with Maite, her friend Diana Alonso also testified. Both Maite and Diana are members of a student organization, Ambassadors of Lakeview Achieving Success (ALAS). ALAS formed about four years ago, and Maite says her older brother was one of the founding members when he was in high school. The goal of the group is to grow community engagement in education and cultural events.

When they initially formed the group, ALAS members didn’t want to have any leadership roles—they wanted all of the members to have an equal voice. That turned into one of their “biggest challenges,” says Maite, because it made it much more difficult to stay organized. They ultimately changed their mind and created various roles within the group, with Maite taking on the role of president.

ALAS holds multiple events throughout the year, and one of their biggest events is a week-long summer camp for students in grade K–6. The camp is offered in English and Spanish and is organized entirely by the fifteen teenagers comprising ALAS. This year, ALAS enlisted the help of student teachers from Washington State University’s Tri-Cities campus, and they provided curriculum for the week.

Each day of the summer camp had a theme. One day, for example, was “Volcano Day,” and the students learned about, and made their own, volcanoes. Students attended the camp, which included lunch and snacks throughout the day, at no cost. This year was the third year of offering a camp; last year’s camp was covered in the Tri-City Herald.

Going forward, Maite says ALAS wants to make a more concerted effort to engage all members of the community, in addition to students. They recently held a community “café event” for 16 families that both parents and students attended. The parents loved the event and enjoyed discussing community-wide concerns and issues. The Pasco School Board President attended the event, as well, and responded positively to the community voice.

ALAS is also planning an event in September in honor of Mexican Independence Day, and they are partnering with a health organization in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

And Maite? She says she’s not sure what she wants to do after high school yet, but she does know that she really wants to help out her community and give back to them in the same way that they have supported her.

Thank you to our advocates and activists

Thank youThe work that we do to improve public education is only possible thanks to the support of our activists and advocates—the parents, community members, students, and teachers who stand up and speak up. In order to recognize the difficult work that so many of our supporters do on behalf of all Washington students, the League of Education Voters began spotlighting the work of our “activists of the month” in late 2013.

Our activists of the month were selected for going above and beyond in their work for Washington students—in organizing, in testimony, in advocacy, and more. Before we break for the summer, we wanted to draw your attention to these activists once more. Read More

The 2013 legislative session: It’s a wrap

In what has become unfortunately common in Washington, the 2013 legislative session went into overtime. An agreement on a two-year budget was reached with less than 24 hours to spare to avoid a shutdown of state government. While significant hurdles remain as we strive to ensure our public education system is amply, equitably and sustainably funded, measurable progress was made during the extended 2013 session.

The legislature and the Governor were faced with competing requirements and political trends. Our state’s constitution required increased investment in K-12 education. And while I-1053 was ultimately ruled unconstitutional, the voters of Washington state have consistently sent a strong message that any tax increases must have 2/3 majority support in the legislature. The legislators were charged with increasing investment in K12, without broad based revenue increases, and avoiding cuts to other areas of education or essential social services.

On that score you have to say the session was a mild success. As a state, we expanded investment in early learning, brought a modicum of stability to the Working Connections Child Care program, increased investment in K-12 with an intense focus on the opportunity gap, and stopped the crippling cuts to higher education. We did all of this without cannibalizing essential social services. While it took longer than was needed, the outcome reflected the values of the voters who sent the legislators to Olympia to represent them.

In addition to the budget items, significant bipartisan efforts on education policy were passed (See LEV 2013 legislative accomplishments). Legislation related to addressing customer service issues in child care, supports for persistently failing schools, literacy, STEM education, gathering and reporting of discipline data, and assessment reforms all passed with significant bipartisan support.

As we move forward, LEV will continue to work with parents, members of both parties, and members of the education community to address the continuing challenge of providing ample, equitable and stable funding and ensuring those dollars are invested effectively to ensure that every student in Washington state receives an excellent public education that provides the opportunity for success.