As I prepare to leave the League after nearly twelve years, I’ve had the chance to reflect on our work, our wins, losses, and what lies ahead. I’m incredibly proud of my service to LEV and the kids we work so hard for. This team is talented, compassionate, and committed to improving the lives of our students and families – in particular, those furthest from opportunity. These past dozen years or so have been a tutorial on the changing needs and assets of Washington’s students, a slow societal and organizational awakening to the inequities we’ve baked into our entire system including the education system, and coming to terms with the need to change strategies to match or stay ahead of changing realities. Like all good living things, we’ve grown and changed, and we think we’re more impactful because of that evolution.
We started out 18 years ago focused on K-12 education funding, with the thinking that if we just put enough resources into the system, everything would be all right. We soon learned that money, while important, isn’t the only resource we need to consider. And we learned that if we start in kindergarten, we’re too late, and that ending at high school doesn’t guarantee much in terms of success for kids and families. Read More
56 percent of Washington’s 3,400 charter public school students come from low-income households, as compared to 42 percent statewide.
60 percent of students identify as students of color, as compared to 46 percent statewide.
15 percent of students receive special education services, as compared to the statewide average of 14 percent.
Today, all these students learned that they can stay in the school of their choice.
Washington’s charter public schools continue to serve higher-than-average percentages of students impacted by inequities.
Today the Washington Supreme Court has given families with students in charter public schools new hope by affirming that their schools will continue to be a valuable part of our state’s public education system.
In our podcast, we interview policymakers, partners, and thought leaders to spotlight education policies, research, and practices so that together we can create a brighter future for every Washington student.
In this latest episode, League of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman sat down with Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal to discuss his office’s statewide survey on funding priorities, how the survey informed his budget ask for the 2019 legislative session, and how we can get involved in making these priorities a reality.
As districts across the state start planning for next school year they will be faced with some unfamiliar choices as they look to allocate $2.5 billion more in state funding next school year than the current school year. The most recent increase in state education funding was directed mostly to increase K-12 staff salaries, including the more than 50,000 teachers across the state. This was a key part of the court’s ruling as the state has underfunded teacher salaries for many years leaving districts to pick up the tab if they wanted to offer teachers a competitive salary.
As districts plan for how the influx of money will be spent in the face of the shifting funding landscape districts and community members will have some difficult questions to consider:
Does the state provide enough for all districts to attract and retain teachers, especially for high-poverty or rural districts?
How will the increased investments impact how districts use their local levy dollars?
How will the educational experience of students be positively impacted with the new investments?
The recent investments and changes made to the K-12 funding system in response to the Washington State Supreme Court McCleary ruling will have long-lasting impacts on our education system. While progress has been made to adequately fund basic education, more work remains to ensure that we equitably fund basic education. League of Education Voters is committed to working with districts and partners to continue to move towards an education system that is funded to provide every student what they need to succeed.
We will be providing a number of resources and series of analyses that will highlight some of the remaining opportunities and work ahead looking towards the 2021 legislative session. These include:
A series of maps that illustrate the impact of House Bill 2242 (2017 legislative session) and Senate Bill 6362 (2018 legislative session) across the state, and the inequities that remain;
A brief on the choices facing districts and the new investments in teacher salaries;
An analysis of the continued challenges in special education funding in preparation for the 2019 session; and
A broader analysis of the impact of HB 2242 and SB 6362 and solutions to explore to address challenges created by regionalization factor and the two-tiered local levy structure, and how we can better target resources to students who have been systemically and historically underserved.
Our longtime CEO Chris Korsmo is leaving League of Education Voters effective November 1st. She is not going far – she will be joining our longtime strategic partners at Strategies 360.
We are extremely grateful for Chris’ leadership through a strong period of growth and transition. She and the LEV team drove critical changes to and billions of dollars in funding for Basic Education and played a leading role in two statewide campaigns – one to make levies a simple majority vote, and the other to bring public charter schools to Washington – all anchored in the education finance system and its role in delivering equitable opportunities to Washington’s students.
Under Chris’ leadership, LEV worked with partners to champion major investments in Early Childhood Education, expand postsecondary access through the College Bound Scholarship and State Need Grant, and begin new and exciting work to reach our students furthest from opportunity.
Chris is most proud of where LEV is now: building critical systems of support so that every student is career and college ready.
We are excited about the work ahead. In the 2019 legislative session and beyond, LEV will focus on early learning, career and college readiness, and working with and on behalf of our students furthest from opportunity.
The Board has begun the process of identifying an interim director and establishing the timeline for the search for the next Chief Executive of LEV. You can reach our Board Chair, Betsy Johnson, at BetsyJ@educationvoters.org and Board Vice Chair, Tom Halverson, at TomH@educationvoters.org.
Thank you for all you’ve done in support of Washington’s kids!
Thanks in part to an incredible partnership with Tilth Alliance, League of Education Voters has continued to promote project-based learning. Since 2002 League of Education Voters has been partnering with South Shore, a Seattle Public Schools PreK-8 school serving around 700 students in Rainier Valley, to fund innovation and create proof points in hopes of spreading effective practices across the state.
Through our partnership with South Shore, since 2009 we have also helped support what has become the Rainier Beach Learning Garden, located behind South Shore, providing project-based learning for several nearby schools, community centers, and daycare programs. While land management and site coordination is now provide by Seattle Parks, the garden’s educational programming is managed by Tilth Alliance, a statewide nonprofit organization focused on organic gardening and urban ecology.
Tilth Alliance specifically utilizes the Rainier Beach Learning Garden as a facet of their mission “to increase access to fresh healthy food for folks in Rainier Valley.” By working with Tilth Alliance, League of Education Voters has continued to impact each South Shore student’s education. Read More
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 July: Jennifer Muroya Thomas. Read about her education journey and the need for more educator supports.
Jennifer Muroya Thomas has been part of our Vision Project, our journey to find Eastern Washington’s vision for what education could be, from the very beginning. She always brought students to our events. She is a member of the Spokane Human Rights Commission, where she runs the education committee. Jennifer cares about students, especially those from communities of color and underserved populations. In particular, she has a strong connection with students who attend Rogers High School, located in a low-income area of Spokane.
Jennifer ran for the Spokane School Board last year. Although she did not win, she learned that running is just as important as winning. She met Spokane Regional Field Director Sandra Jarrard during that time, in March 2017, when Sandra organized a community discussion about diversity in education.
Jennifer’s father served in the Air Force, which meant that she moved around a lot and experienced schools all over the country. “I had teachers I remember and loved, and I had teachers I remember and didn’t love,” she recalls. “Teachers who change the world and do incredible work invest in students’ lives every day – they made indelible marks on my life.” Read More
South Seattle’s Voices of Tomorrow East African Development Center began in September of 2017 and hopes to become the country’s first certified dual language preschool in Somali. Five languages besides English are currently spoken: Somali, Amharic, Oromo, Arabic, and Vietnamese. English appears only on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Somali is spoken on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Honoring Somali culture and language is the center’s primary goal. Director Zam Zam Mohamed says, “There is plenty of opportunity to learn English, but not so many opportunities to learn Somali.” By focusing on Somali, family structures are maintained at home instead of succumbing to challenges faced by many immigrant communities, where children become translators for their parents and devalue their parents’ cultures. Read More
As mentioned in Part One, to help direct our work with our community to create positive change in Washington’s education system, we sent out a survey via email and social media channels in May to learn how Washington community members would like state education funding prioritized. We thank the 737 people, from 71 school districts across the state, who submitted responses.
Our survey first offered respondents an opportunity to rank 16 pre-established funding priorities to make the most difference for students [view results in Part One]. Then respondents had the opportunity to write in other priorities. Over 58% of the respondents added further priorities. Read More