Blog

Washington Supreme Court sides with kids and schools, strikes down I-1053

In a decision released today, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that I-1053, the law that requires a two-thirds majority to pass revenue in the legislature, is unconstitutional. This ruling is a huge win for kids and schools.

LEV and its partners challenged the law in court because it hamstrung our legislators’ efforts to uphold their paramount duty to invest in the quality public schools our children need to succeed in life.  Our kids suffered at the hands of a small minority of legislators who could veto any new revenue options for education.

This decision comes at the perfect time–our legislators are working right now to develop a plan to fully fund K-12 education. This ruling puts all options on the table. We all want what is best for our students, but year after year, thanks in part to Initiative 1053, the legislature has not provided the funding to pay for basic resources need to educate our students.

We hope today’s Supreme Court ruling provides the tools and opportunity for the legislature to craft a funding plan that ensures that there is ample, equitable, and stable funding for education.

Washington citizens have consistently supported initiatives that would make it difficult to raise taxes, including I-1185, an initiative similar to I-1053 that passed this fall. We believe today’s ruling applies to I-1185 as well.

While voters believe that taxes should be difficult to raise,  it does not mean they believe it should be impossible. When voters can see their money well-spent, they come out strongly in favor of providing for their schools. Earlier this month, voters in school districts across the state committed more than $1.7 billion to their local schools through school levies. Further, during the past two years, local voters have approved $4.3 billion in local levy funding. The levies were approved with a large majority–an average 63 percent of the vote–in 204 school districts across the state.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling is another step in the right direction to making sure all of our state’s students have access to an excellent education that is amply, equitably and stably funded.

Posted in: LEV News

Leave a Comment (1) →

Washington voters pass $1.7 billion in taxes for education

More than 50 local school boards put their school’s funding into the hands of the voters during last Tuesday’s election and voters responded with overwhelming support. Voters approved all but one local levy across the state, committing $1.7 billion in taxes to their schools.

“Voters passed these taxes because they know the money is going directly to helping kids,” said Chris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education Voters. “Voters stepped up for their local schools, and it’s time we stepped up for schools across the state.”

Although a frequent theme of last year’s governor’s race and this year’s legislative session is that voters will not support revenue to pay for education, local election results stand in stark contrast to that narrative.

In many districts, local levies make up 25 percent or more of the total operating costs of their schools. These local dollars often pay for necessary school costs like staff salaries, textbooks, or a sixth period in school—a far cry from the “extras” they were originally intended to provide.

In January 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in McCleary v. Washington that the state was not meeting its constitutionally mandated duty to fully fund basic education. The court ordered the Legislature to overhaul how education is funded in the state by 2018.

Update: Election results finalized Feb. 26 show that two levies, not one, failed to pass in their districts, resulting in a 96 percent levy passage rate overall. In addition to the Battle Ground Maintenance and Operations Levy, the La Center Capital Levy did not pass. School boards across the state requested $1.8 billion in local levies and local voters granted $1.7 billion.

Posted in: LEV News

Leave a Comment (0) →

Founder of Post-Prison Education Program testifies in favor of SSB 5244 to transform school discipline

This is the written testimony of Ari Kohn, the founder and president of the Post-Prison Education Program. Ari testified in favor of SSB 5244 to transform school discipline on February 12, 2013. 

Members of the Senate Ways &Means Committee:

I’m Ari Kohn; founder and president of the Post-Prison Education Program, a non-profit organization that works to dramatically reduce recidivism by harnessing the power of education and meeting the legitimate needs of former prisoners. The Post-Prison Education Program provides access to education and unwavering support through wrap-around services including tuition, housing, groceries, daycare and intensive mentoring.

For the seven years we’ve existed, our non-profit has worked only with adult prisoners who have the most difficult cases: serious mental illness, addiction, and long lists of felony convictions are some of the issues we address. Yet, our recidivism rate is less than two percent. Ninety-eight percent of the adults we serve successfully transition into productive lives, often pursuing and finishing college degrees in the process. They succeed because we invest.

On the other hand, today the Department of Corrections lists a 46% re-admission rate.  It’s almost comical; after talking in terms of “recidivism” since 1999 they have switched and now talk about “readmission.”  Regardless of which term you use, the fact is for every two people who walk out of a Washington State prison today you can bet that one of them is going back (46%).  The way we’ve overcome that statistic and found success is by investing in people.

We don’t care what it takes, we urge you to invest now, invest in these young kids today, because we know if you wait until adulthood to address the issues many prisoners struggle with, costs grow exponentially. Our program uses the small budget we have with maximum impact. We deliver the services and resources former prisoners need – including counseling, tutoring, tuition, daycare, books and software, in-patient care and basic life needs such as food and housing – because we know our investment will pay off in saved lives, reunited and strengthened families, generally with lives worth living.

The one thing we believe above all others in regard to these young kids is invest now – invest, invest, invest.  It will pay off (even in the short term).  I have noticed that people are taken aback by the costs associated with keeping more kids in school, but we have seen over and over again that the cost to implement a preventative infrastructure is nowhere near the tremendously high costs associated with helping adult prisoners attempt to successfully re-enter our communities.

In almost all cases we’ve found that if you invest in people they will respond positively and in a way that leads to saved families and safer communities.  In closing, I can only emphasize to you that kicking kids out of school at the drop of the hat, as is being done throughout the state, is as far a cry from investing in somebody as you can get.  If doing so is allowed to continue, we will all pay a very high price, and continue to see very sad results.

Posted in: Advocacy and Activism

Leave a Comment (1) →

Seattle Public Schools honors LEV-South Shore partnership

At the school board meeting on February 6th, Seattle Public Schools honored the partnership between the League of Education Voters Foundation and South Shore School in south Seattle. South Shore Principal Keisha Scarlett, LEV CEO Chris Korsmo, and LEV Board Member Chris Larson were there to accept the honor.

While being recognized, LEV CEO Chris Korsmo said, “[South Shore] is a great lesson about investing in our earliest learners [and] prioritizing our scarce resources…we’ve accomplished a lot over our 3 years.” Many of the school board members agreed. Director Martin-Morris said that whenever he travels and meets with people in the education field he always brings up South Shore, stating, “Thank you for creating a model that I know a lot of people are looking at nationally.” Director Carr sees great potential in the South Shore model as well, stating, “We have a terrific opportunity [to take] what we’ve learned and leverage that and replicate. It’s a good opportunity for us to do more.” Director DeBell added, “[South Shore] demonstrates how all children can learn given the right circumstances.”

Read more about the LEV-South Shore partnership here.

Posted in: LEV News

Leave a Comment (0) →

How a bill becomes a law

The clouds have grayed, there’s a chill in the air, and you’ve started layering like nobody’s business. This can only mean one thing: The 2013 Legislative Session is underway! It’s that special time of year when bills are introduced, caucuses are formed, and laws are made (or not). It is true democracy in action!

But how does a bill become a law, anyway?

  • First, a legislator from the House or the Senate offers a bill. Legislators begin working on the idea and language for bills before the session begins. Bills can start being dropped into the hopper (submitted) as soon as the legislative session begins in January and have until Cutoff Day to be dropped. Similar bills can be introduced in both the House and the Senate.
  • After a bill is introduced, it is decided which committee should hear the bill. Once in committee, it has its first reading. The chair of the committee decides if and when a bill will be allowed a public hearing. The public hearing is where members of the public can express their support for or opposition to a bill to committee members. The committee chair also decides if the bill will be read in Executive Session and put to a vote in the committee. If the votes are in the bill’s favor, it goes to the Rules Committee, where leadership decides if a bill meets the legal criteria to move on in the process.
  • If all goes well in the Rules Committee, the bill goes to the floor for a roll call vote.
  • Depending on which chamber the bill originated from (the House or the Senate) it is then sent to the other chamber and must go through the process again. If the House or the Senate want to tweak the bill, it is first sent to a conference committee and then back to the House or Senate to have amendments approved.
  • If the majority of legislators vote in favor of the bill, it is sent to the governor’s office to be signed. The governor may decide to sign the bill, veto sections of it, or veto the bill all together.
  • Once the governor signs the bill, it becomes a law.

It is important to note that although this is the ideal procedure for a bill to become a law, there are many exceptions and paths a bill can take along the way. Some alternate routes include rewriting the bill and attaching to a separate bill as an amendment or “carryover” which allows the issue to be taken up again in a subsequent session.

Posted in: Legislative session

Leave a Comment (0) →

We Need Common Sense Discipline

andaiye-qaasimThis blog post was written by LEV Organizer Andaiye Qaasim

Every year, tens of thousands of students across Washington state are suspended and expelled. We can only speculate how these numbers translate into loss of classroom time, failed courses, and decreased graduation rates. Let alone the damage done to a student’s psyche, self-esteem or confidence. Thankfully, this situation is about to change.

Yesterday, the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee reviewed four different bills on discipline. This long awaited movement in the Washington state legislature is the result of the unceasing advocacy from various community groups, parents, non-profit organizations, and policy makers. The list of supporters for this cause included the Kent Black Action Commission, WA Appleseed, TeamChild, the Maxine Mimms Academy, and the League of Education Voters just to name a few.

As a community organizer I have heard several community members express their frustration with the way discipline is carried out in schools. When we analyze disproportionality in school discipline we begin to realize that it’s not just about ineffective policies, bogged down bureaucrats, and “unintentional” consequences. Many of us ask about equity, cultural competence, inclusion, student dignity, and the constitutional right to an education. These conversations are forcing people in Washington state to finally explore the pernicious inequity in our schools.

As we delve deeper into this issue we also begin to explore some key questions such as “How is it possible for education to level the playing field, when the field in education has yet to be level?” “How can we possibly argue that public education is accessible to all, but still engage in discriminatory practices?” “What does equity in education really mean?”

It was evident in the spirit, hearts and stories all who testified yesterday that transforming school discipline and reclaiming Washington state students is going to take more than well thought out policies. The policy will provide the infrastructure, but the people must provide the implementation. An equitable implementation of school discipline will require a cultural shift—one that is intentional and uncompromising.

We are hopefully beginning to see this cultural shift in the way we go about the practice of public education and create a system that does not continually exclude students, but one that unconditionally accepts and incorporates all students into a learning community. I sincerely hope that we are finally able to have these conversations without being afraid of the words ‘racism,’ ‘inequity,’ ‘low-income,’ and ‘cultural competence.’

Yesterday was a monumental day for Washington state, and we will all hold our breath while the Senate decides the fate of the four discipline bills that were heard. We thank our legislators for the taking up this issue. We hope that they may be filled with the same righteous indignation of Martin Luther King, this week and the next, as they deliberate over their decision, and thus over the lives of tens of thousands of children in Washington. We look forward to change and band together in solidarity with communities across Washington state, ready to take up the fight.

Join us in the movement.

Posted in: School Discipline

Leave a Comment (2) →

"Houston, we have a problem."

Last week, LEV’s CEO Chris Korsmo gave a “TED Talk” at the Seattle Chamber of Commerce Regional Leadership Conference. Below is an excerpt from her talk:

Over the past few years there has been a lot of attention paid to education and how we as a nation are doing compared to others. Some of us have been down right freaked out by the decline in results and the fact that this generation will be the first in our nation’s history to be less educated than our parents. Some have called for  a “sputnik moment”  like when we chased the Russians into space and beat them to the moon. We need to find that uniting mission that kicks us in the pants and gets us moving.

I’d argue that we need an Apollo moment.  Apollo 13 to be precise.

In one of the more intense moments of film Apollo 13, a group of engineers and designers and others in the pocket protector set sit in a room wringing their hands about how to save the men aboard the ship.  The work is focused on figuring out how to restore electricity and stay powered up to get the space capsule back into earth’s orbit. But they discovered something more urgent; the men are literally dying from lack of oxygen.  The engineer need to build a filter that fits a certain size and shape, to remove CO2 from the air, so the men can breathe. The catch? They can only use what’s on board the ship.

So a box of odds and ends is dumped on the table  At first there’s a bit of geek  grousing – we can’t possibly, and how do you expect us to, blah, blah. But they get down to work. They’re focused,  there’s no blame, and the team solves the problem. The crew is saved.

I think of this scene whenever I hear of a school or district that has dumped its box upside down to solve an urgent need. Like in Bridgeport, a rural and mostly low income school district primarily serving Latino students that managed to get 100% of their kids to graduate from high school – and that got all of their graduating seniors  – 100% of them – accepted into college. Or in Federal Way where Advanced Placement is the default for kids who pass their state tests. They don’t opt in – they have to opt out, with their parents. Or the investment in early literacy in Auburn, that has their third graders knocking it out of the park in reading. These school leaders addressed the urgent while simultaneously looking at the bigger system issues.

These districts didn’t wait for Washington Supreme Court decision or a check from a wealthy benefactor. They just got busy working the problem.

We need more of that.

Let’s take the Apollo approach on a different issue; When I moved here in 2007, the state board of education was debating graduation requirements and how to get kids college and career ready. Despite passing new requirements at least twice, we’re still talking about it. In the five years that this conversation has ebbed and flowed, we’ve lost 60,000 kids to dropping out, we’ve seen college remediation climb, and our economy’s demand for more rigorous job preparation spike.   In other words, while we did nothing to address the urgent, the system got worse.

If we had an Apollo moment on this topic, we’d start by taking one urgent step – something done while we’re fixing the ship. How about, making sure all kids get algebra in 8th grade? If kids are proficient in Algebra before they leave in middle school, implementing more rigorous math requirements in high school wouldn’t seem so hard. And then maybe upping the ante for high school graduation wouldn’t seem impossible.

We have the box on the table. And the kids are in the capsule. The question is; What are we going to do about it?


Posted in: LEV News

Leave a Comment (4) →

Jeffrey Charbonneau named teacher of the year

In a special ceremony at the EMP, State Superintendent Randy Dorn named Zillah High School science teacher Jeffrey Charbonneau Washington’s 2013 Teacher of the Year.

Jeffrey Charbonneau is a National Board Certified Teacher and has been teaching at Zillah High School for eleven years. During his tenure at the school, Mr. Charbonneu has been an integral part of creating STEM courses, allowing students to earn college credit. He also created a Robotics Challenge and a Hiking Club and serves as an advisor to several student clubs, including yearbook.

In a statement to the press, Zillah High School Principal Mike Torres said, “I am fortunate to have Jeff as an instructor at Zillah High School. But I am even more fortunate to have him as a teacher for my own children. Both my son and daughter have taken classes from Jeff and they have expressed that he is the type of teacher every student deserves to have. He is innovative, enthusiastic, challenging and motivating. He takes a personal interest in every student. As a parent, I see how Jeff has motivated my children, not only to learn the content, but also to become advocates for learning in general. It is what makes him a standout.”

Congratulations to Mr. Charbonneau and all of the nominees!

Find out more here.

Posted in: Teachers

Leave a Comment (1) →

Celebrating Connected Educator Month

It’s August 2nd which means we are two days in to Connected Educator Month. Created by the Department of Education, Connected Educator Month celebrates “educators at all levels, from all disciplines, moving towards a fully connected and collaborative profession…”. The New York Times is honoring the occasion by asking 33 educators the following questions:

1. What is one important thing you’ve learned from someone in your Personal Learning Network (P.L.N.), however you define that network?
2. What one person, group or organization would you recommend every educator add to his or her P.L.N.?

Here are a few of the responses:

Carolyn Ross | Hightstown High School

Reader Idea: Personal Inquiry Projects With The Learning Network

1. My first year as a high school English teacher, I had a colleague who encouraged me to consider daily dilemmas and stressors through a simple lens: “Is this the hill you want to die on?” I owe my propensity to pick my battles (with students, colleagues, administrators and my inner demons) to this mantra.

2. The newest addition to my Google Reader is the NCLE SmartBrief. Twice a week, NCLE compiles an education brief: news stories, resources, blog posts I would otherwise have missed and fresh teaching ideas (like using e-mail spam to teach persuasive writing).

Stephanie L. Meyer | Wisconsin Public Schools

Reflections on the Third Annual Found Poem Contest

1. One thing I’ve learned from the authors of novels that I’ve taught, including Laila Lalami (“Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits”), Sarah McCoy (“The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico”) and Brando Skyhorse (“The Madonnas of Echo Park”) is that they really do want to hear high school students’ reactions to and questions about their books. They will usually write the students back whether by snail mail or e-mail.

2. All educators should be familiar with Toondoo.com, a Web site that allows students to create comic strips. I usually assign students different scenes from a particular book, print the scenes out and have the kids try to put them in chronological order, among other things.

Heather Barikmo | LaGuardia Community College

Reader Idea | ‘One in Eight Million’ for English Language Learners

1. Tumblr, as a whole, has been invaluable to me as an educator. The platform really lends itself to visual communication, and I believe language educators in the digital age can really benefit from bringing infographics and similar multimodal texts into their teaching.

2. I get so many ideas from ReadWriteThink.

More responses can be found here.

Posted in: Teachers

Leave a Comment (0) →

Introducing our two Rainier Scholars interns: Brenda & Dawit

Brenda and Dawit are joining LEV from the Rainier Scholars program as summer interns. Here’s what they had they say about choosing to intern with LEV, what they like to do in their spare time, and much more.

Brenda Mancilla-Martinez: I graduated last month from University Prep, a 6-12 private school. I will be attending the University of Washington this fall. GO DAWGS!

Dawit Workie: I go to St. Michael’s University School, a boarding school in Victoria, B.C.

1.Why did you choose LEV for an internship?

Brenda: Throughout my high school career I have participated in several law and business summer programs like the Just the Beginning Foundation (University of Washington) and the Future of the Law Institute and Albers Summer Business School (Seattle University). After participating in these programs, I realized that I wanted to be a lawyer, but I do not know what specific field I want to take yet. Earlier in May, I filled out an application for an internship through Rainier Scholars. One of my interests has always been education given that Rainier Scholars is a program that targets students who are the most underrepresented in college campuses.

I’ve had my own share of problems with the education system that we have. When I was in Head Start as a pre-schooler, English was my second language, and I didn’t know it well. I went through Kindergarten and 1st grade barely understanding what I was being taught; I got in trouble a lot with my teachers because I wasn’t following directions but they failed to realize that I just didn’t understand them. It wasn’t until I got in trouble multiple times that my school realized that I needed to be in the ESL program. I was in ESL until 3rd grade when I asked to be put in the normal class because I felt that I no longer needed to be helped with my English skills.

In 5th grade I joined Rainier Scholars, who helped me get into the Spectrum program at Washington Middle School and ended up going to University Prep for high school. I chose LEV because I can relate to the many kids in Washington State that feel that they are not being paid enough attention in school and that feel that they won’t make it past high school because I always thought school was really hard. I want to learn what organizations such as LEV do to advocate for education and how the government plays a key role in the decisions that are made.

Dawit: I chose LEV for a summer internship because helping raise awareness and advocate for public school education in my opinion is a very important topic. Education is what decides ones future; it can have such a significant impact on an individual. Everyone can have a successful and have a happy future if they are educated. Education also decides the future of our nation, how well we educate the future generation is what essentially decides the fate of our country. I have been to both public and private schools so I understand the differences, and in what ways public school education can improve.

2. What do you like to do in your free time?

Brenda: I watch all the Christian Bale Batman movies at least one a week (I’m a huge fan), I hang out with my friends, spend time with my family, search for the latest information about my favorite band, One Direction (British boy band), text, listen to music, and volunteer as a Spanish translator at Rainier Scholars.

Dawit: In my free time I like to be active, which includes going to the gym, playing basketball, or going for a run. I also like to spend time with the family and hang out with friends.

3. Favorite high school moment?

Brenda: We turned the lunchroom into a club as our senior prank.

Dawit: My favorite high school moment was when I was on a rugby tour in Argentina. We traveled to Iguazu falls, on the border of Brazil, which was an unforgettable experience. My favorite moment was when I was leaning on a bridge watching the waterfall with my friends as the water sprayed back at us. It was an amazing moment that I could have never experienced living in Seattle.

4. What do you hope to do when you’re older?

Brenda: I hope to work for the UN as an international human rights lawyer; I’d love to be stationed in different cities around the world. That may change though as I do not know what specific field I want to work in as a lawyer.

Dawit: When I’m older I hope to go into sports medicine. I’ve played many sports throughout my life and have a huge passion for them. At the same time, I’ve always been interested in biology and medicine. So one I day I hope to combine my two interests and go into the field of sports medicine.

5. One thing you hope to accomplish this summer?

Brenda: To ride Seattle’s “Great Wheel” when it opens to the public on June 29th!

Dawit: One thing I hope to accomplish this summer is to spend a lot of quality time with my family. I go to a boarding school so I don’t get to see them much throughout the year. So this summer whenever I have free time I hope to spend it with all my family and make up for the lost time.

Here’s what Brenda and Dawit had to say about Rainier Scholars.

Rainier Scholars is an 11-year academic journey that requires a great deal of commitment, patience, and hard work. The program is devoted to helping underrepresented young people push themselves to reach their full potentials and ultimately graduate from university. Students apply for Rainier Scholars in the fifth-grade. If you are chosen, six weeks of your summer are spent in a classroom, and during your school year you have extra accelerated school every Saturday and Wednesday. That’s all topped off by another six weeks of summer school! During all that hard work, we learn the three pillars of Rainier Scholars: Perseverance, Integrity, and Courage.
So is all that work worth it? After graduation you are provided with numerous opportunities, and countless new friends. Simply, it was definitely worth it. In the end, we are breaking down barriers by attending colleges around the country and proving that students of color can not only attend a four-year university but graduate as well. Cohort 1 will be seniors in college this year and will be the first to finish the 11-year program.

Go here for more information about Rainier Scholars program.

 

Posted in: LEV News

Leave a Comment (0) →
Page 26 of 33 «...10202425262728...»