Now that the state budget negotiations have finally crossed the goal line, I am happy to report that our legislature has made a huge investment in K-12 education! Thanks to your advocacy and support, schools with historically underserved students will get much-needed additional help. Read more about the legislature’s solution to the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision in this blog by Daniel Zavala, LEV’s director of policy and government relations. Be a part of this landmark moment! Help ensure that the McCleary decision is implemented to benefit every Washington student by making your gift today.
Also, LEV interviewed Washington state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal about his long-term vision for K-12 education. And we’re hosting a free Lunchtime LEVinar July 20 on how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and complex trauma impacts student learning.
Read below for more about our work.
Thanks for all you do for kids. We couldn’t do it without you.
By Daniel Zavala, LEV Director of Policy and Government Relations
In what was quite literally years in the making, the Legislature has at long last presented and passed a K-12 funding solution. And, perhaps surprisingly in today’s political climate, it was passed with strong bipartisan support. Before I get into the details of the solution, let me spend some time talking about how we got to where we are… and it starts with a 2007 lawsuit called McCleary. The lawsuit was largely based on the inequities across districts resulting from disproportionate use and allocation of local levy money. Basically, the plaintiffs argued the state was not amply paying for basic education, something that is a paramount duty of the state. Fast forward to 2012… and the Washington Supreme Court agreed. Forward another few years, a couple of court orders, imposed sanctions on the legislature, and we arrive at the 2017 Legislative Session – the last regular session to address the court order to address the McCleary decision. What was left after the last 5 years was the need to continue progress on funding K-3 class size reduction and teacher compensation.
Well. What to say? No. Really. What is there to say? We aren’t going to talk about politics in the other Washington lest we start looking for an all-too-early excuse for room temperature chardonnay. And there’s not been a ton of progress – not public anyway – on the state budget. Fret not! It’s never a bad time to get smarter about education funding. (Put down that chardonnay! Learning is fun!)
They Call Me McCleary: First, you can catch yourself up on where things stand in the negotiations over ed funding – often shorthanded by the name of the court case the state is responding to: McCleary. Don’t miss the fight over the “Staff Mix” in the budget debate or you’ll never get the full story on how we build and perpetuate inequitable funding systems. If you’re going to understand ed funding, it’s good to know where the money goes. And, lest you forget, the people that make up the bulk of the system’s budget have thoughts on how the money should be used.
While we wrestle this issue to the ground and then some other states are working to solve the same problem.
As the Washington legislature continues to hammer out a solution to funding schools in our state, now is a great time to honor our teachers through Teacher Appreciation Week. If you are able, please join me in celebrating the adults who care for our kids.
Tomorrow is GiveBIG day. Thanks to a matching grant, every dollar you donate to the LEV Foundation will be doubled, up to $5000. The League of Education Voters collaborates with communities across the state to listen, collect, and amplify stories from educators, parents, students, and community members to support legislators in making informed decisions about public education. Please support LEV’s work with your donation today to ensure the voices of our community are heard by legislators. Thank you!
Read below for more about our work.
Thanks for all you do for kids. We couldn’t do it without you.
Where does Ann Rivers see common ground for McCleary?
Ann Rivers, Co-Chair of the Education Funding Task Force and member of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee discusses why she decided to run for office, where she sees common ground for a McCleary education funding solution, and her favorite classroom accomplishment when she was a middle school teacher.Listen now
Improving education in Washington
What’s the best way to improve education in Washington? Inside Olympia gets perspectives from Chris Korsmo, League of Education Voters CEO and Washington Education Association President Kim Mead. Watch now
It’s time to #GiveBIG!
#GiveBIG is a day for all of us to come together and stand up for what we believe in. Tomorrow we need YOU to stand up for education and #GiveBIG to LEV Foundation! Thanks to a generous supporter, your donation will be doubled with a matching gift. Help us hit the $5,000 matching challenge goal with your gift today! The best part? You don’t have to wait! Schedule your donation now
Teachers and support staff at Boston Harbor Elementary in Olympia were the lucky recipients of donuts from Hot Revolution Donuts. Hot Revolution Donuts is a mobile food business with a simple mission: to serve the most delicious, highest quality mini donuts directly to you in the Seattle area. Frank Ordway, Assistant Director of Government and Community Relations at the Washington State Department of Early Learning, won the raffle prize of donuts for his favorite school of choice at this year’s LEV Annual Breakfast.Congrats!
New podcast with House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan
House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, member of the Appropriations Committee and member of the Education Funding Task Force, to discusses how parents, teachers and the community can get involved in a McCleary education funding solution, why teachers are so important, and what he would tell someone who is considering a run for public office. Listen now
Many of you are watching closely and know that Sunday, April 23rd was the last day of legislative session, the legislature is now in special session. We would like to encourage lawmakers to collaborate in order to work out a solution that puts equitable funding into K-12 public education.
The Campaign for Student Success believes our education system should:
Provide students the opportunity to earn credits for college while still in high school.
Ensure that dollars follow your student to the classroom – whether they’re spent for English language learners, advanced placement or special education – not on bureaucracy.
Help remove barriers in getting to school for kids who are in poverty, who are homeless, or who face other challenges that increase their risk of falling behind.
Prepare all kids to graduate from high school prepared for careers or college based on their interest and talent.
We need your help in the following two ways:
Make a visit to your legislator in your district.
Make phone calls to key legislators in leadership positions, either on the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee and/or budget committees.
If you can do either of the following, please contact the LEV organizer in your local area:
Where all metaphors for things that take longer than planned – again – are pulled out. The legislative session is wrapping up without a budget agreement, which means lawmakers will be called back into special session. For some this is Groundhog Day. For others it’s Mad Magazine. Still others envision a multi-year advent calendar of legislative treasures. And of course, there are the inevitable sports event references. For you Dragnet fans from the Wayback Machine, we even have a “just the facts, ma’am” approach to the effort. However the story gets covered, the plain and simple truth of the matter is that education funding – resolving the over-reliance on local levies while also making targeted investments to improve outcomes – is the major sticking point. Legislators will adjourn over the weekend with much work left to do – let’s hope they aren’t making a deal more difficult on the way out.
If they’re looking for guidance, the Superintendents of Education Service District 189 have some suggestions worth considering. While they’re at it, let’s build in more transparency into the system so that it doesn’t take a massive investment from Steve Ballmer to actually follow the money.
Meanwhile, you can track all that is – or isn’t – happening here on our bill tracker. And hear from one of the 8 legislators working to craft an education compromise, Senator Ann Rivers, here.
In other news:
I’ve marched for a lot of things. But never did I think we’d have to do it for science.
Marchers, leave that plastic water bottle on the shelf and fill a reusable…
By Jennifer Jennings-Shaffer, Early Learning Policy Director at the Children’s Alliance
Early learning is the foundation of the education continuum; it supports a child’s progress in school and in life. The House and Senate budget proposals each address early learning—but differ markedly in their approach to three key areas of interest to education advocates. Here’s how:
First, both budgets recognize the value of access to high quality pre-kindergarten. The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) is quality pre-kindergarten for income-eligible children who all too often face barriers to success in K-12. When poverty and other barriers tip the scales of child development toward the negative, ECEAP tips them back toward a good education, a good job, and a good life. Eligible families earn less than 110 percent of the federal poverty line—for a family of four, that is less than $26,730 per year. Despite delivering proven results in academic achievement, lawmakers fund ECEAP for fewer than half of our state’s eligible families—leaving approximately 23,000 children eligible but unserved. This is a missed opportunity.
The Senate budget proposes to provide access to ECEAP for an additional 1,200 children and increase the rate paid per ECEAP slot to more accurately support our early-childhood educators. The House budget proposes to provide access to an additional 2,043 children and also increases the slot rate. The House budget builds upon the proposal from the Senate; it is good progress toward ensuring that children who stand to gain the most from access to high quality pre-kindergarten get it.
Second, neither budget proposal responds to the crisis we see in child care, where lawmakers are giving working families inadequate support to meet rising costs. Washington is already one of the least affordable states in the country for families to find child care. The rates paid to center-based child care providers serving tens of thousands of children in the Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) program are far below the nationally recommended benchmark of 75 percent of market rate. When lawmakers try to offer assistance at these inadequate rates, child care providers face a difficult choice: serve families at a loss, stop serving them, or pass the cost on to (often only slightly) more affluent families to make up the difference. Lawmakers need to respond by raising rates for Working Connections Child Care paid to center-based providers. Neither the House nor the Senate budget adequately addresses this issue. The Senate budget includes $8.1 million for rate increases and the House budget includes $20.3 million. Advocates estimate that $40 million is the minimum investment necessary to protect access to child care.
Beyond failing to adequately address child care rates, the Senate budget includes deep cuts to child care access and quality. The Senate budget proposes a cut of -$31.9 million in access to WCCC. This cut includes eliminating 12-month authorizations for families and decreasing the number of families who can be enrolled in the program. If enacted, these cuts would mean that enrolled families could lose care in the middle of the year due to minor changes in their circumstances. Families who need and qualify for care would find themselves on a waitlist. Additionally, the Senate budget proposes to cut the Early Achievers program by $16.6 million. Early Achievers supports child care providers to improve their quality. These cuts put the brakes on our steady progress to ensure that Washington kids enter kindergarten ready to learn.
Third, evidence-based home visiting programs and paid family leave are both proven strategies for supporting parents as their child’s first and most important teacher. Both the House and Senate budgets protect access to home visiting services but only the House budget includes funding to implement paid family leave. Quality time at home with one’s newest family members is associated with improved maternal and infant health outcomes and increased employee retention. State and local governments across the country are increasingly implementing this smart policy.
We all have a stake in making sure that ALL our kids get a great start. As the House, the Senate and Governor Jay Inslee prepare to finalize a two-year state budget, we are calling on lawmakers to sustain and enhance their early learning investments. Children’s brains develop more rapidly in the first five years of life than at any other time. We cannot hope to close the achievement gap in K-12 if we ignore the early years.
On March 27th, the Washington state House Democrats released their operating budget proposal for the 2017-19 biennium, SHB1067. Generally it was received favorably by the higher education community as supporting our priorities, and as a necessary improvement upon the Senate’s postsecondary funding approach. Additionally, many representing postsecondary in the education advocacy space emphasize the need to support the entire education continuum, from the formative preschool years to post-high school additional credential or degree. The House budget demonstrated an understanding of moving beyond the McCleary mandate to provide genuine learning opportunities for Washington’s youth.
The House budget expands higher ed pathway opportunities, with a focus on preparing Washington students for today’s labor market. Affordability and pathways are key components, although there is still room for enhancements. The approach to addressing the cost barrier for students pursuing postsecondary study is a combination of a tuition freeze (with backfill for the public institutions of higher education so that the loss of funds is not detrimental), with need-based financial aid in the form of bolstering the State Need Grant. Investing in the State Need Grant to give more low-income students access to postsecondary education is a critical component to increasing access for Washington students. Unlike the Senate budget, the House proposal opens the door for 6,000 more of our students to receive a State Need Grant. The goal should be for all 24,000 deserving but unserved students to not have to struggle to find a way to afford college, but this step moves us closer to the goal post.
The budget also displayed an understanding that obstacles exist beyond financial need. Many students need assistance in the transition to, and persistence within, their postsecondary experience. Low-income, first generation students often need extra navigational assistance in this foreign environment. Many students from diverse and economically-challenged populations attend community and technical colleges, and benefit greatly from student advising and supports. Therefore, it is gratifying to see the proposed increase for community and technical colleges (CTCs) to use Guided Pathways, or a similar model designed to improve student success, to better serve students in this system.
Breaking down barriers to postsecondary opportunities is for naught if the basic needs of a low-income individual prevents him from pursuing further education. The Senate budget proposal diverts Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Work First dollars to support the State Need Grant program, which is counterproductive. The House budget writers are wise to include increased funding to address homelessness and augment the TANF, State Family Assistance, and Refugee Cash Assistance Program grant amounts. These programs help stabilize the families of the very students we seek to provide a greater opportunity for focused learning.
Budgets reflect priorities, and although there is more work to be done, we applaud the House for targeting many of the essential priorities that will help move our state forward, advance our economy and close opportunity gaps. In this spirit, let us all support greater investment in our education system from early learning through higher education so that increased attainment will reap greater prosperity for all Washingtonians.
It’s that time – March Madness culminates in the crowning of a champ. Go Dawgs!
The Zags’ road to a championship notwithstanding, then there were three. State budgets that is. A week after the Senate put forward their $43 billion spending plan, the House has issued their $44.9 B budget. The plans differ in a couple of key ways: the obvious difference in size and how to pay for things. With many expecting legislative overtime, the path to agreement is almost always compromise, something that did not go unnoticed by OSPI chief Chris Reykdal. One thing is for sure, our kids need a resolution that helps them succeed. And that doesn’t mean cutting back on out of school programs and supports like the POTUS’ “skinny” budget does. I wonder if the skinny budget isn’t just “hangry.”
One thing not included in the House budget: alternatives to the state exams currently required to graduate. That’s because the House removes the requirement for the tests – and therefore their alternatives. I think you know how I feel. Others agree.
In other news:
Changes to the FAFSA – financial aid forms for college – are making life difficult for some.
Before we go, I want to send a huge thank you to all who joined us for the LEV breakfast yesterday. The messages of hope and love for their work came through loud and clear from Teachers of the Year Kendra Yamamoto and Elizabeth Loftus! Many thanks to them for their wonderful insights – and for their leadership in their regions.
And as always, many thanks to you for the work you do to support Washington’s kids!
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If you’re playing along at home, we are two weeks past the midway point of the legislative session. You can keep score here. Let’s dive right in.
If You Spend it They Will Come: If it’s true what Oscar Wilde (and with slight revisions, P.T. Barnum) said, “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about,” then Senate Republicans should feel great about their budget coverage. You cannot swing a dirty sweat sock in this town without breathless headlines and clever turns of phrase. With a $1.8 billion increase to K-12 education, Senate Republicans have said they are fully funding “basic education,” the point of the McCleary decision and subsequent rulings by the Supreme Court. The budget gives further legs to the Senate’s education plan released earlier this session with levy reform playing a leading role in the “how to pay for it” discussion. We can all agree that there’s also a price when we don’t pay…
This opening budget salvo did come at a price to higher education, early learning, housing and food assistance – cuts we hope are restored (and then some) when final negotiation are under way. And at the time of this writing it looks like Republican senators are open to those conversations. With the Senate budget out, we expect the House to put their plan forward next week. Both chambers would do well to invite this journalist to the negotiating party.
Rigorous Rigor: Last week I had a little soapbox moment about the attempts to roll back high school graduation requirements. This week, there’s more evidence that raising expectations (and supports) raises outcomes. Sometimes you gotta ask yourself whether it’s funny when you’re the butt of the joke.
De Minimizing the De Minimis: You may have noticed the Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch was engaged in multiple rounds of Senate confirmation hearings this week. A funny thing happened on the way to the marble arch. The U.S. Supreme Court – they of the even numbered variety for over a year now – managed a unanimous decision. On special education. Overturning a case from the 10th Circuit from which Gorsuch hails. I’m not one who typically exalts the writings of Chief Justice Roberts, but do not miss this:
“When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing ‘merely more than de minimis’ progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all,” wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who wrote the 16-page opinion. “For children with disabilities, receiving instruction that aims so low would be tantamount to ‘sitting idly… awaiting the time when they were old enough to “drop out.” ’ ”
When I reflect back on my education, it becomes clear pretty quickly that there was not one big “aha” moment. I didn’t just wake up one morning and was suddenly enlightened about everything on the face of the earth. And we haven’t yet figured out how to download information directly into our brains, like Carrie Anne Moss suddenly learning how to fly that helicopter. Everything I learned built on what I had learned previously. Graduation requirements at my high school were aligned to college-going. While rigorous, those requirements allowed for the arts. Seven years of marching band made me who I am today. All the stories about band camp are true.
This is why our vision at the League of Education Voters is for every student in Washington state to have access to an excellent public education – from early learning through higher education – that provides the opportunity for success. And this is why LEV is a proud member of the Cradle Through College Coalition.
To that end, during the 2017 legislative session, LEV is advocating for:
Additional funding for increased access and participation in high-quality early learning programs across the state
A system that attracts, retains, and supports qualified and effective educators, which includes teachers, para-educators and principals, while addressing needs for equitable access to quality instruction
Programs and funding targeted toward students who need it most, providing both academic and non-academic supports for students to improve outcomes and make progress in closing the opportunity and achievement gaps
An accountability system that provides transparency for families on school budgets and student outcomes, measures student and school success meaningfully, and provides effective state- and district-level supports for struggling schools
Additional funding to serve all students eligible for the State Need Grant
Here’s what we know about our kids: They all have assets. Every one of them has talent. They are not widgets. They want to know that what they’re learning has meaning. And they want you to know their names. For all the difficulty we ascribe to changing education policy, it’s really pretty simple:
Foundational skills that transfer with them to careers
Access to information about possible career choices
Applied learning or relevance
And adults who care about them
Speaking of caring adults, none of my success would have been possible without great teachers. Research consistently shows that a great teacher has the single biggest impact on whether a student will succeed. I know this from personal experience, and I thought you might appreciate these photos from my education path:
Spring Day at Beloit College was a huge day of fun. There were no classes, and air band contests were the order of the day. Guess which band we were and who I was? I believe the year was 1983. I’m holding a toilet brush, in case you’re curious. For the record, the brush was brand-new.
I couldn’t have made it to Beloit without support from my favorite teacher, Sue Remley. I had her twice for math in high school and she took me under her wing. I could tell she was paying attention, which is why I did not want to let her down.
Her expectation for me was a motivating factor in applying to and going to college, because she let me know when the SATs and ACTs were. She even asked me who I was sending them to. She had 150 kids a day, in six or seven classes. And she knew everybody. I wasn’t the only person she was talking to. I wasn’t the super special kid. Everybody was super special. And that was cool.
Wouldn’t it be great if every student had a story about a favorite teacher, and every student had access to great teachers from early learning through higher education to help them along their education path? Call your legislators and encourage them to support the full education continuum at 1-800-562-6000. If you need help finding your legislators, just click here.