Podcast – The Washington state Legislative Youth Advisory Council

Priyanka Mukhara (L) and Kellen Hoard (R)

In our Putting Students First 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 episode, League of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman connects with two students from the Washington state Legislative Youth Advisory Council (LYAC) about LYAC’s history, how LYAC operates, LYAC’s impact on education policy, and what they would change if they were in charge of the state’s education system. Priyanka Mukhara is a First-Year Councilmember and Kellen Hoard is a Second-Year Councilmember and the Chair of LYAC.

The Washington state Legislative Youth Advisory Council (LYAC) is codified in law as the official youth advisory body to the state legislature, and its activities are wide-ranging. Throughout the year, 14-to-18-year-old student members of the council actively lobby legislators, testify in committee, advise various government agencies, host events around the state, collaborate with nearly 200 community organizations, and much more.  LYAC also spends much time conversing with young people in every corner of Washington about their priorities in order to be a more effective advocate to the legislature.

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Mental Health from the Perspective of BIPOC Student Activists

By The Root of Our Youth Tara Duong, Diya Kumar, Diya Anoop, Phia Endicott, Marlo Duong, Malavika Santhosh, Zana Stewart, and Molly Reagan
Guest Bloggers


Clockwise from top left: Tara Duong, Diya Kumar, Diya Anoop, Molly Reagan, Zana Stewart, Malavika Santhosh, Marlo Duong, and Phia Endicott

Without tangible mental health support, students—especially BIPOC—have been left to fend for ourselves throughout remote learning. In an attempt to remedy the emotional damage caused by the abrupt closing of schools, the recent switch to hybrid learning has ironically been handled in the same haphazard manner, with the causes of these mental complications remaining unaddressed.

Our education system teaches students that academic success holds greater value than our health. We’re in a position where we must suppress our mental and emotional needs to survive. When the pandemic hit, we suddenly had the time and space to express ourselves freely, leading us to recognize the severity of our struggles and the damages imposed by the education system.

While the school environment has its faults, isolation has made the management of mental health and academic success increasingly difficult. Numerous elements of in-person school cannot be recreated online, such as connecting and collaborating with peers, and effective communication with teachers. There is little to no opportunity for teamwork, a skill we’ve been conditioned to depend on since primary school. We were taken out of an environment rich in support and dropped into seclusion. Read More

LEVinar Recap: The Fair Start for Kids Act

By Lizzeth Mancilla
Engagement and Policy Intern


Early learning matters for our families, our businesses, and our future. Children, families, and early childhood professionals are celebrating the signing of the Fair Start for Kids Act and its historic investments in early learning. These strong investments in child care, quality pre-K, and other birth-to-5 services will help ensure that all children are thriving — and help Washington get back to work. 

In this webinar, Washington state Representative Tana Senn and Senator Claire Wilson, prime sponsors of the Fair Start for Kids Act, along with early childhood education providers Luc Jasmin III from Parkview Early Learning Center in Spokane and Susan Yang from the Denise Louie Education Center in Seattle, explained how the newly signed omnibus legislation takes strong steps to address affordability, access, and the economic crisis. They also answered your questions.

What is in the final version of the Fair Start for Kids Act?

Here are some key components of the Fair Start for Kids Act, Senate Bill 5237: Read More

Washington Game Changers Podcast – Seattle Leader Tim Burgess

Washington Game Changers with Lauri Hennessey features leaders who give back to our community, drive innovative solutions, and inspire others in making our state more equitable and just. This podcast is a one-on-one conversation with these powerful leaders in a time when we need to hear about more good in the world.

In this episode, League of Education Voters CEO Lauri Hennessey interviews Tim Burgess, who has been a policy officer, a nonprofit manager, an advertising executive, a Seattle City Councilmember, and the Mayor of Seattle. Lauri and Tim talk about his own observations about racial equity while he was a police officer in West Seattle, his passion for early learning, and why he fiercely believes in public service.



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Advocacy Profile: Dr. Suzann Girtz of the Spokane Advisory Council

By Kenji Linane-Booey, Spokane Regional Field Director


Dr. Suzann Girtz, a professor in the School of Education at Gonzaga University and Spokane Advisory Council member, brought advocacy into the classroom this year with her class, “Policy and Advocacy.” Through the spring semester, her students spent time learning the ins and outs of the legislative process in Washington state and how to advocate for issues they feel passionate about.

This class harnesses the power of language and engagement with communities through the lenses of inquiry and advocacy with a focus on action to bend the arc of the universe to become more moral and just. In it, we learn the basis for types of advocacy, advocacy planning, and how to take action based on your plan. Dr. Girtz says, “Throughout we ask you to imagine the possible and consider your role in the world.” Read More

Partners in Action – The Spokane Future Teachers of Color Consortium

By Maria Esther Zamora, English Language Development teacher at Spokane Virtual Academy
Guest Blogger


How can we reduce the disparity between the number of students of color in our community versus the educators of color across the K-12 and higher education systems? This has been the question that I have posted to colleagues, administrators, and community leaders when having courageous conversations.

I have been a proud educator of color in Spokane for 26 years. I am a first-generation immigrant from Mexico, who has worked in various educational systems, from being a professor at Graduate School and University level to now being in the K-12 public education system. I had to reinvent myself when I moved to this area, learn English, and go back to graduate school to get my Teaching Certification credential while raising my family and working full time. It was a difficult endeavor, but not as challenging as to survive in a predominantly white professional field. I have persevered through all kinds of barriers to achieve my most important professional goal, which has been to inspire my students to believe in the power of education to achieve freedom.

I have always felt that there is no better way to transcend than to teach what you know, which is how to maintain your cultural values and contribute to building a multicultural community that embraces minorities in this noble professional field. As a mother of bicultural children and an advocate for immigrants and refuge students and families, I have believed that it is imperative to have more role models and educators that look like us. Furthermore, I have seen the greatness that comes from demonstrating our excellent standards and work ethics to collaborate hand in hand to educate our community. Read More

2021 Washington state Legislative Session Wrap-Up

By League of Education Voters Policy Team


We knew the 2021 Legislative Session was going to be different than past years and present some not-so-happy surprises along the way. The remote nature of the session created some significant challenges in shepherding legislation through the process and understanding why some legislation hit unexpected roadblocks along the way. In the face of these difficulties, some significant pieces of legislation have made their way out of the legislature and onto the Governor’s desk.

In response to the remote session and some of the economic concerns that were present at the onset of the session, fewer bills were introduced this year than most budget years in preparation for the challenges of a remote session during a pandemic. Despite the challenges of 2021, two historic pieces of legislation were able to make it through the legislature and onto the governor’s desk including the Fair Start for Kids Act (Senate Bill 5237), which substantially expands access to high-quality early learning and childcare, and the passage of a Capital Gains Tax (Senate Bill 5096), which will generate up to $500 million per year in additional funding to support education and early learning. Both of these must still be signed by Gov. Inslee to become law, but the Capital Gains Tax is expected to face legal challenges once it gets signed into law.

We are also happy to report that a few other key bills were passed and funded by the legislature, including: Read More

Recap: Washington state Teachers of the Year on Reimagining Education after COVID

By Lizzeth Mancilla
Engagement and Policy Intern


As we enter the final quarter of this historic and challenging school year, students, families, and educators across Washington are navigating remote, hybrid, and modified in-person learning environments. But what should education look like when all schools reopen?

In this webinar, Washington state Teachers of the Year Brooke Brown (2021), Amy Campbell (2020), Robert Hand (2019), Mandy Manning (2018, and the 2018 National Teacher of the Year), Camille Jones (2017), Nate Bowling (2016), and Lyon Terry (2015) shared what they are hearing from students, families, and colleagues in their community on how the 2020-21 school year is going, how they recommend reimagining education based on what they have learned from teaching during the COVID pandemic, and answered your questions.
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Recap: The Role of K-12 Schools in Addressing Racially Motivated Violence

By Lizzeth Mancilla
Engagement and Policy Intern


From police violence around the country to the marked increase in attacks on members of the Asian American Pacific Islander community, we are continuing to see disturbing examples of racially motivated violence in the news. Over the past year, social movements have been thrust into the national spotlight, with youth at the forefront of the conversation. Recent incidents are impacting them in multiple ways, but how should K-12 schools respond? 

In this webinar, we assembled a statewide panel of students, educators, and a community organizer to discuss the impacts of racially motivated violence and how schools can best support students on a daily basis. They also answered your questions. 

Our panelists included: 

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Podcast – The Educators of Color Leadership Community

From Top Left: Brooke Brown, Stephanie Gallardo, Tamasha Emedi, Denise Daniels, Brad Brown, Eileen Yoshina

In our Putting Students First 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 episode, League of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman hosts a panel discussion about the Puget Sound Educational Service District’s successful Educators of Color Leadership Community (ECLC), in which panelists address why educator diversity is so important, what the barriers are to recruitment and retention of teachers of color, how the Educators of Color Leadership Community supports teachers of color, and how we can scale the ECLC’s work to support teachers of color across Washington state.

We were honored to interview:

Brooke Brown, 2021 Washington state Teacher of the Year and Regional Teacher of the Year from Puget Sound Educational Service District 121, who teaches English and Ethnic Studies at Washington High School in the Franklin Pierce School District

Stephanie Gallardo, who teaches social studies at Foster High School in the Tukwila School District

Tamasha Emedi, Assistant Principal at Hazel Valley Elementary School in Highline Public Schools

Denise Daniels, Director of Recruitment, Retention and Workforce Development in the Auburn School District and President of the Kent School District Board of Directors

Brad Brown, Executive Director of Kindergarten through Post-Secondary at the Puget Sound Educational Service District

Eileen Yoshina, Director of Equity in Education at the Puget Sound Educational Service District, who facilitates the Educators of Color Leadership Community

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