Student Voice: Why Every Student Deserves a Quality Education (Video)

League of Education Voters intern MyKaila Young asks students at the University of Washington to share their education journey, what they learned along the way, and why it is important for every student to receive a quality education.

In McCleary v. State of Washington, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that because the state government is not providing sufficient education funding, it is violating the state’s constitution. Further, the Court found that inadequate funding from the state is leading to inequalities and disparities between wealthy and poor school districts, because some districts are only able to raise a fraction of the money through local levies as other districts, despite having a higher local levy tax rate.

The Court has ordered the state to address this issue by increasing education funding and reducing reliance on local levies to pay for teacher salaries and other basic education essentials. Estimates say that complying with the Court’s decision will require the state to spend an additional 1.5 – 2 billion dollars more per year on public education.

Remembering Senator Andy Hill

By Frank Ordway, guest blogger

Senator Andy Hill - League of Education VotersIt is unfortunate that the first time I return to this blog a year after leaving the League of Education Voters is for the purpose of memorializing Andy Hill, though I can think of few people more worthy of praise and remembrance.

LEV, and my, interactions with Andy were momentous for the organization, me personally and the children of Washington state. I remember my first substantive conversation with Andy. He came to a LEV community event shortly after he was elected. We had not endorsed Andy. He arrived, unannounced, right from the soccer field. We got a cup of coffee and went to the back of the room to talk.

His first words were about how he felt there was a lot work we could do together, and was committed to doing so. We had not endorsed Andy, so I was impressed with his maneuver and commitment. We talked about the various challenges confronting the state in general and in education, and where our values aligned. We agreed on a host of things, and disagreed on many as well. But we pledged to work together on the issues where our values aligned.

Andy Hill never wavered from that pledge, and over time we were able to increase the number of items we worked on together. He played an important role in expanding opportunity in early learning, K12 and higher education. One area where we initially disagreed related to the College Bound Scholarship program, but after long talks about the results, he supported the program. Andy was always open to ideas and data.

All too often, the confines of political party membership limit both politicians and advocates. People refuse to work across the aisle; people refuse to give credit to members of parties they oppose, even when they are right. I, and LEV, was able to escape this trap with Andy and get meaningful things done for the students and parents of Washington state in a bi-partisan fashion.

He was the model of quiet, determined leadership. Anchored in his values, he knew the right thing to do for him and was comfortable with his decisions, even when they were not in alignment with his party or advocates like me. I will always remember and be thankful for that attribute.

In my last conversation with Andy, which was regrettably via text, I told him I was praying for him and his family. I also told him to kick cancer’s ass. In addition to thanking me, he said, “That’s my plan.”

He may have lost the battle against cancer. All one can do is control what you can and, where Andy had influence, our state benefited greatly.

We will miss you Andy, but your legacy and approach to public service will be remembered by all of us lucky enough to work with you.

With great admiration and respect,

Frank

Rethinking Our Education System

By the LEV Policy Team

Children standing in front of a chalkboard - League of Education VotersIn the 2017 legislative session, Washington state is poised to make historic investments in basic education. But what will those dollars buy? The current program of “basic education” is not robust enough to meet our “paramount duty” and ensure that all students have the knowledge and skills to compete in today’s economy and participate in our state’s democracy. The upcoming investment provides an unprecedented opportunity to rethink our system of education and the resources and tools at our disposal to provide Washington students with the education promised by our Constitution.

What is required of our educational system will continue to change over time. We need to develop a program of basic education that can evolve based on current and future student needs and a funding mechanism that is flexible enough to support that shifting program. Let’s envision a program of basic education that is aspirational and that creates a new path forward for Washington state. The vision should include best practices, teaching and instruction that closes achievement gaps, supports that allow students to be the best learners, a program that doesn’t start with kindergarten and end with high school, but consists of the full education continuum—early learning through postsecondary.

Ample and equitable funding is necessary to build a robust education system that works for all children. However, money is a tool, not a solution. New dollars should be seen as a tool to improve our system for all students. We believe that this can be done by rethinking how we:

  • compensate teachers and staff
  • leverage funding and human resources according to meet student needs
  • recruit, retain, and train teachers
  • provide additional student supports
  • measure the effectiveness of our investments and improve practice

How should we redefine basic education? Well, we don’t have to look far. There are programs and practices across our state that are working but need the proper investments in order to be sustained and spread to other schools and districts. Over the next few months, we’ll share how money can be used as a tool to fix teacher compensation; recruit, retain, and train qualified teachers; and add necessary student supports that yield positive outcomes and close achievement gaps. We’ll also share stories from around the state on how districts, community-based organizations, and citizens are closing gaps and subsidizing “basic education” with local resources. Asking the paramount question: How can money be used to go beyond our current basic education?

#BeyondBasic

Read Part 2 of our McCleary blog series, Teachers: The Most Important Part of Our Education System

Closing Gaps in Higher Education

SEA_162_blog photoBy Joyce Yee

Seattle Education Access (SEA) is a college access program that helps low-income, non-traditional students aged 16-29 in King County obtain a post-secondary education. SEA is the only college access organization in Washington state, and one of few in the country, that works with out-of-school young people and specializes in serving those who have experienced homelessness, students of color, foster youth, single parents and immigrants.

Over the past five years, SEA has served over 1,000 students: over half have experienced homelessness, 10% have been in foster care, one-third are single parents, 45% are the first generation in their family to finish a high school diploma or GED, 80% are the first generation in their family to attend college, and one third are immigrants, many of whom are undocumented.

SEA’s Education Advocates work with partner organizations throughout King County including nearly every community college, Open Doors (drop out retrieval), and organizations that provide basic needs to low-income youth. At community colleges, SEA staff often work in adult basic education, GED, and High School 21+ programs. High School 21+ serves young people over 21 who are not eligible to attend Open Doors schools. In these competency-based programs, students can earn high school credits through project-based learning or life experiences, rather than by taking assessment tests.

There is a language, culture and shared understanding, expectation and support that middle and upper-middle class families often have about their children going to college. The children of college-educated parents are more than twice as likely to go to college as the children of high school graduates and seven times as likely as those of high school dropouts. Only 5% of Americans ages 25-34 whose parents did not finish high school have a college degree.

Students from low-income backgrounds often do not see themselves as potential college students, so SEA Education Advocates help create a college-going culture at partner sites. When  a student sees their peers going to college, they are more likely to think of themselves as potential college students.

In the first phase, the College Prep program, Education Advocates works one-on-one with students to help them set goals for post-secondary education, put together a career and academic plan, and assist them with overcoming barriers. SEA staff have a vast knowledge of the degree, certificate, apprenticeship, technical/professional, and college programs available to students in King County and how they may fit a student’s life circumstances and earn them a living wage upon graduation. SEA teaches students how to navigate the education system, find a high school completion program to fit their needs, obtain financial aid, compete for private scholarships, make a budget, secure housing, register for classes, choose the right campus and degree program, and effectively access campus services. In addition, they provide tutoring, study guides, and funds for testing fees for the GED and college entrance assessment tests. This phase is typically from 6 months to a year, depending on how much support the student needs and where they are in their education pathway.

The second phase, the College Success program, begins the day a student starts classes, and supports students to stay in school and graduate successfully. Supports include tutoring, mentoring, continued career exploration, and program transfer assistance. SEA gives small scholarships to students, mostly under $350, to help them close budget gaps for books, bus passes, child care and first month’s rent. Ideally, Education Advocates’ support of students tapers off after they finish their first year as students learn the skills to navigate the education and financial aid systems themselves. In the past five years, 84% of SEA’s students have graduated from their program or are still enrolled in good academic standing.

Shouldn’t this be part of basic education?

#BeyondBasic

Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: The Home Stretch

Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education Voters
Chris Korsmo

Friends,

You know that I’m a fan of football and a huge fan of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. His post-game victory speech almost always begins thus: “Do we win the game in the first quarter? (NO!) Do we win it in the second quarter? Do we win the game in the third quarter? No. We win the game in the fourth quarter.” Well folks, as it relates to the legislative session, we are firmly in the throes of the fourth quarter and fast approaching the two-minute warning.

With less than a week to go, much remains to be done. That list includes a fix for our charter schools, wildfires, a supplemental budget and myriad education issues. The one thing that has made it past the finish line is the McCleary task force bill that the Governor signed on Monday – the hope being that the task force satisfies the Supreme Court’s ruling requiring a plan for full funding. You can get more detail about the role of the task force here.  All bill movement and descriptions can be found here.

Speaking of the budget, both budgets have passed their respective chambers (HB 2376 & SB 6246). Significant differences remain regarding the use of the Rainy Day Fund – the House is transferring $318 million from the Rainy Day Fund and the Senate is transferring $0. Required spending is eating up most of the additional revenue, leaving few resources to enhance or expand programs, which further complicates matters. The estimated additional required spending is expected to be approximately $360 million:

  • $235 million – Forest fires and related recovery efforts
  • $124 million – Court mandated healthcare spending and higher than expected healthcare costs

Session is set to expire at midnight Thursday and everyone wants to get out to start the campaign season. A special session isn’t out of the realm of possibility, but doesn’t fall into the realm of the desirable. What is desirable is final action on a handful of bills that made it out of the opposite chamber this week, including:

  • HB 1345 – Defining professional learning for educators
  • HB 1999 – Improving educational outcomes for foster youth
  • SB 6466 – Concerning student services for students with disabilities in higher education.

Here are bills that passed out of opposite chamber, but still have some differences to be worked out before getting to the Governor’s desk:

  • SB 6601 – Washington College Savings Program
  • HB 1682 – Increasing educational outcomes for homeless students

We are still in the thick of it on charter schools. Kids and parents have burned up the concrete turning out in Olympia and most mainstream media are in support of a fix. All attention is turned now to the House where the next action must be taken.

It’s looking less likely that we’ll get the funding fix we need for Career and Technical Education (CTE), unless a rabbit and a hat are part of the final budget negotiations. Which is a shame, because our kids need improved access to CTE – it is the bridge to the world after high school for many.

In other news:

  • The higher education bottleneck is one more indicator of disparity.
  • I’m going to eschew the standard adjectives that often attach themselves to the current front runners for the White House. And instead, give you their education platforms, ideology, and just musings.
  • Ok, RubioCruz, and Sanders, too.
  • It’s not too late to celebrate Seuss’ birthday.

Ok folks, that’s it for the week. But don’t turn away – next week will be past us in a heartbeat and there’s a LOT left to do. Enjoy your weekend, hug your children, and thanks for all you do for Washington’s kids.

Chris and Team LEV

Emphasizing an education continuum

In 2014, after eight long years of work, Washington state updated its high school graduation requirements. The League of Education Voters worked with partners and community members to pass this 24-credit College and Career Ready Diploma.

Now the work begins for many school districts in implementing the new diploma. However, a number of districts are ahead of the game, and some have been for many years.

West Valley High School logoOne such school district is West Valley, in the Yakima area. West Valley began requiring 24 credits for high school graduation beginning in the 2001–2002 school year, when they increased their English language and social studies requirements. The second phase of the transition to a College and Career Ready Diploma happened in the 2006–2007 school year, when the district increased their math and science requirements. In 2013, more than 80 percent of their seniors graduated from high school, and of those who graduated, 67 percent continued onto college. Read More

Statement on the 2015-2017 Budget

After one long legislative session (followed by three special sessions), Governor Inslee signed Washington’s 2015–2017 state budget into law late in the evening on June 30, averting a government shutdown by less than an hour. An unprecedented series of events ultimately delayed sine die until today, but with the true end of our historically long 2015 legislative session at hand, we take a moment to reflect.

What we see in this budget is a more comprehensive investment in education than at any other time in the state’s history. Through their strong investments in public education across the spectrum, early learning through postsecondary, the Legislature has given all Washington’s students more hope for their future.

The 2015 Legislative SessionThe League of Education Voters has long argued that a child’s education should be a continuum with seamless transitions from early learning through higher education. We have worked with partners around the state in pursuit of that vision, including with the Cradle through College Coalition. It is gratifying to see the Legislature following through with strategies and investments that support students at all ages. Read More

Kaysiana and Midheta share their stories

The College Bound Scholarship Program was established by our Legislature eight years ago. College Bound provides scholarships to low-income and foster care students who enroll in middle school, keep their grades up, and stay out of trouble.

More than 212,000 students have signed up, and the program has had a huge impact. Enrollment has shown to positively impact high school academic performance, graduation rates, as well as college going rates and persistence. Of students enrolling in higher education, College Bound students are almost 50 percent more likely to attend a four-year college than low-income students statewide.

We strongly support College Bound and were proud to serve on the state’s College Bound Task Force last year. During the past few years, we have worked with many partners, including the College Success Foundation, Washington State Student Achievement Council, and the Road Map Project, to amplify College Bound’s impact and success and advocate for ongoing state support.

This program changes lives.

We were fortunate to hear the stories of two College Bound students this morning at our annual breakfast. We heard from Kaysiana Hazelwood, a senior at West Seattle High School, and from Midheta Djuderija, a student at the University of Washington.

Below are their incredible stories, told in their own words. Read More

A Way Forward: We can and must do better for Washington’s students

A child’s education should be a continuum with seamless transitions from early learning through postsecondary education. The League of Education Voters (LEV) is pleased to release its vision for an expanded definition of basic education.

Washington’s policymakers have spent much time, money, and intellectual capital trying to overhaul our state’s education funding system—multiple task forces, studies, work groups, legislative efforts—and yet, we lack a plan for ample, equitable, and stable funding. In addition, our definition of “basic education”—what this funding system is supposed to pay for—doesn’t go far enough to prepare our kids for college or career.

A Way Forward: We can and must do better for Washington's students. January 2015
A Way Forward

The Washington State Supreme Court found that the state was violating its constitutional obligation to amply fund basic education in the McCleary v. State of Washington funding case. Lawmakers were given a 2018 deadline to fix how we fund basic education. The passage of Initiative 1351 to lower K–12 class sizes statewide magnifies the intense pressure on the Legislature to determine a viable funding plan for public education. Though the 2018 deadline looms, the Court found the Legislature in “contempt of court” last fall, giving them until the end of the 2015 legislative session to make significant progress on a funding plan. While the funding issues are paramount to the Court, this time frame provides a unique opportunity to reflect on what our kids really need from our public education system to succeed. Read More

This changes everything.

Emma Margraf spoke at today’s State Board of Education meeting and submitted testimony similar to the blog post below.

By Emma Margraf

Last week Jane came in the house with a big envelope in her hand saying, “Mooooommmm….” in a hesitant voice. The envelope was from the college she wants to attend.

I told her that it might just be a mailing, because her application hadn’t been complete for very long. They have a rolling admissions process, so we didn’t know. I watched her open it and read the first few lines of the letter that came in the envelope and then handed it to me looking like she didn’t understand what was happening.

I read the first few lines—they started with, “Congratulations! It is my pleasure to offer you admission…”—and when she saw my face, Jane started jumping up and down.

Six years ago, every school official in Jane’s life would have said this was impossible, and we’ve been told not to hope for it ever since. Read More