It’s so good to be back with you! After a three month sabbatical, I’m renewed and refreshed, ready to hit the ground running.
Sadly it’s hard to know where to begin when so much promise, talent and opportunity came to an end – again – in a school in Florida. Another mass shooting, another school, another day of horror and grief. I have a sixth grader and a spouse who’s an elementary school principal. I know this is my worst fear. I also know this has to stop. I feel like my head will explode if one more person says we need a national conversation about gun violence. It feels like we have that conversation many times a year – after another incidence of gun violence. Thoughts and prayers? Pray for the courage it takes to do the right thing. And think when you fill out your ballot.
As for what we can do for kids, if we are serious about our kids’ mental, physical and social well-being, there are some school staffing ratios that should look dramatically different. Among other things.
Local levy elections were held across Washington state on February 13, 2018. Here is a list of districts whose school enrichment levies are currently passing:
By League of Education Voters Policy Team
Students learn most effectively when their school feels safe, inclusive, supportive, and respectful. (1)
Closing opportunity and achievement gaps and improving student outcomes relies on our ability to create positive school climates for every student.
Creating positive school climates and providing student supports can mitigate the impact of trauma (2), mental health needs (3), and other non-academic factors that affect a student’s ability to engage in learning (4). Washington state has embarked upon some critical work to create positive school climates. The Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee (EOGOAC) spearheaded a number of reforms, most recently with the passage of HB 1541 that continued student discipline reform and created the Washington Integrated Student Supports Protocol (5). The state also convened a workgroup to develop benchmarks for Social-Emotional Learning (6) for district use. We can enhance these and other efforts to deliver services to students and enable districts and schools to create welcoming and supportive environments for every student.
By Ruben Balderas
Ruben is a senior at Walla Walla High School, and recently secured a job as a Walla Walla Public Schools afterschool tutor. Throughout his afterschool journey, Ruben has acquired a number of real-world skills, and has made many friends and professional contacts along the way.
Afterschool is very important to me for many different reasons. It has taught me many different things, including computer programs, videography and cinematography skills, communicating with other people. My program has also helped me develop different strategies around critical thinking, problem solving, analyzing, planning, brainstorming, time and stress management, and leadership. All of these skills learned in afterschool can also be used in a real-world work environment; for me, that would be something in the field of animation or concept art. In both of these fields, it is essential to be able to work and communicate within a team structure in order to produce the best content for the job.
By League of Education Voters Policy Team
Low-income kids get the least exposure to family reading time, weekend day trips, preschool, summer camp, and after-school programming – adding up to a 6,000 hour learning gap by 6th grade.(1)
High-quality expanded learning opportunities, such as after-school and summer programs, correlate with decreased academic gaps, improved behavior and social-emotional skills, fewer school absences, and lower dropout for all student groups. (2) High-quality apprenticeships and internships for high schoolers help students connect their schooling to important workforce skills. (3)
The Washington Legislature made initial investments in the Expanded Learning Opportunities Quality Initiative, which provides professional development, technical assistance, and a quality measurement system to ensure that programs offered to Washington youth are high-quality and effective. An additional $2.25M investment to expand the ELO Quality Initiative can increase the number of programs able to participate by 330— and increase access to high-quality programs for more than 11,000 students across the state.
At 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 Education Advocate of the Month for February: Brenda Yepez. Read about her advocacy for English Language Learners.
February Education Advocate of the Month Brenda Yepez
Brenda Yepez is one of the founders of a student group called the Ambassadors of Lakeview Achieving Success (ALAS), which began her advocacy journey. Brenda attended our Tri-Cities Student Legislative Roundtable in December, where students spoke with legislators about their community work, and she testified at the State Board of Education January meeting to ask for additional supports for English Language Learner (ELL) students. In addition to advocating for the Dream Act in Washington D.C., Brenda herself is a DACA student attending the Washington State University Richland campus.
She became involved with League of Education Voters through Ruvine Jiménez, our Tri-Cities community organizer. Brenda recalls, “By the time I met Ruvine, I was a member of the ALAS community group, and I am now in my fifth year with them. I started as a high school student and now I’m in college, so I’m a mentor.” At last month’s State Board of Education meeting, Brenda shared ideas of what she and her peers thought about education, specifically the new 24-credit high school graduation requirement. “Ruvine asked me to talk about my experience and thoughts as a college student, being engaged with ALAS. They’re high schoolers and some are about to graduate,” she says. “I described how I went through high school and what changes I saw.”
Across Washington state on February 13, communities will vote on local levies to continue funding for enrichment programs and capital projects at district schools in a special election. Here are frequently asked questions about those levies.
1. What is a local levy?
a. A local property tax passed by voters of a school district that generates tax revenue for local school districts. All money generated by school district levies goes directly to the school district to pay for enhancements to the state funded basic education. By voting for a local levy, voters are voting for an additional property tax in their district.
2. How many school districts have a local school levy?
a. 287 of the 295 school districts had a local levy in school year 2016-17
3. What is basic education?
a. Basic education is the educational program that the state is responsible for funding.
i. The state Legislature defines the program of basic education and is required by the constitution to amply fund it. The state defined program of basic education is the minimum that districts are required to provide students—districts may offer additional programming and services with local funds. Currently, the program of basic education includes the number of hours and days of school that districts must offer, academic standards, and specialized instruction for students qualifying for special education, English Language support, and below or above standard academically.
4. What restrictions are placed on the use of levy money? (more…)
By League of Education Voters Policy Team
The passage of House Bill 2242 in 2017 will inject an additional $7 billion in state funding into our K-12 system.
In order to determine whether the new investments are distributed equitably and improve student outcomes, we will need more robust means to track school spending and results. We will also need to examine the new structures and mechanisms put into place to ensure they do not recreate inequities in our funding system.
Opportunity: New mechanisms to track spending are created in both HB 2242 and in the new federal ESSA legislation.
The Legislature made significant changes to the K-12 education funding structures in 2017—infusing more than $7 billion in state money into the system over four years through HB 2242. As the fiscal impacts of these changes become clearer, legislators proposed a range of adjustments to address concerns that districts have voiced around HB 2242.
As the legislature looks to make changes to their plan to fully fund education, League of Education Voters feels it is important that the changes should be focused on:
Direct investments based on student need. Any changes to the funding system should drive resources to districts based on the needs of their student populations.
Eliminate disparities between districts. Modifications made to the structures put in place in HB 2242 should address unintended impacts that created (and recreated) inequities between high-property value/low-poverty districts and low-property value/high-poverty districts.
Attracting & retaining educators. State funding formulas should ensure that districts across the state are provided enough resources to attract and retain a diverse educator workforce.
Increase transparency in funding system. Increased access to data on spending and student outcomes is essential to ensure the effectiveness and equity of the new systems and structures put into place.
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By Kami Smith
“What is ECEAP?” This is the question that I have been asked countless times and I still get so excited to answer it. While the boring, generic answer would be Washington state’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, I never respond with this because to me, the name does not do the program justice. I would find it more aptly named if it were called A Family’s Second Chance, or just simply Opportunity Early Learning, because that’s what the program has meant for me and my family.
ECEAP is an early learning program offered to impoverished or vulnerable families with 3- and 4-year-olds. My family came to the program just two weeks after I was treated for severe anxiety and depression, and I wasn’t feeling like a successful parent at the time. I thought the least I could do was enroll my kids in a preschool where they could play with other kids, and maybe do an art project that I would not have to clean up after. I never could have imagined how this program would not only nurture and enrich my children’s lives, but mine as well.