News, Announcements, & Updates

The Bill that Will Reduce Extreme Forms of Discipline for our Youngest Learners

House Bill 2767 would limit the suspension and expulsion of kids in Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade. If you think suspending or expelling a 5 year old sounds crazy, we’re with you, but you should know, it’s happening in Washington, and it’s happening a lot.

In Spokane, elementary school students make up the bulk of suspensions. Eighty-six kindergartners were suspended a total of 225 times in 2017 in Spokane Public Schools. And out of all district suspensions, 88% were students who qualify for free and reduced lunch even though those students make up 56% of student population.

It is time we recognize that removing 5 and 6 year olds from a classroom for running in the halls or being “willfully disobedient” is extreme discipline and does not help our student thrive.

We are penalizing kids for being kids.

And of course, Kids of color are disproportionately targeted by Washington schools’ intolerance to the normal activities of early elementary students. Black and brown children are getting a message that they are “criminal” at an early age, setting them up for failure later on.

HB 2767  might actually say it best:

Research indicates that school expulsion and suspension practices are associated with negative educational and life outcomes. Suspension and expulsion remove children from learning environments where they can develop social-emotional, behavioral, and academic skills, and they set children on a negative path early in their school education. Nationwide, students of color and students with disabilities are more likely to be suspended or expelled, exacerbating opportunity gaps. The legislature intends to eliminate the developmentally inappropriate use of suspension and expulsion as a response to behavior for children in grades kindergarten through two, and to encourage schools and districts to adopt evidence-based practices to support students in meeting behavioral expectations.

 

Breaking Down Breakfast After the Bell

We all know that when kids are hungry, they’re not ready to learn. Kids from low-income communities and food insecure families are at a disadvantage academically because they’re unable to get the nutrients they need. In order to ensure that our kids can reach their full potential, we need to make sure that a rumbling tummy does not get in the way of their education.

Washington Kids Ready to Learn Act, or more colloquially known as Breakfast After the Bell, will provide breakfast to students in high needs schools, as well as adequate time to eat the breakfast. The Act also eliminates “co-pays” for students that qualify for reduced price lunch, increasing access to accessible food options, and promotes farm-to-school programs to ensure our kids real, healthy food.

Breakfast After the Bell has passed the House Committee on Education, House Committee on Appropriations, and the Rules Committee – meaning WA State House of Representatives has passed their version of the bill in full! But as of now, it is stuck in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, waiting to move forward.

School Funding is not a Car Payment

Piggy bank on books

The narrative around school funding needs to change: saying we’ve “already done enough” is how to talk about a car payment, not about our kids’ education. According to this logic, if we fulfill McCleary, whether it be now or next year, then we don’t need to think about funding education ever again. Or at least until there’s another Supreme Court case forcing us too.

But education is not a one time payment every few years. Supporting our kids with the resources they need to thrive is an ongoing commitment. If we want to grow an excellent education system that serves each and every child in Washington, we should be excited about regularly investing in the success of our kids.

This is not a radical idea. We regularly fund the criminal justice system (and imprison people of color at alarming rates). As a state, we should be consistently investing in our priorities, and word has it, education is still the number one priority for Washington voters (while giving money to jails somehow did not make the list).

While some may be questioning whether to invest $1 billion into education to fulfill McCleary in a timely fashion, we say we need this and more. Yes to $1 billion to cover teacher’s salaries next year. Yes to $550 million to the Learning Assistance Program (a pool of funds that exclusively helps students scoring below grade level). Yes to investing in our kids.

The bottom-line: investing in our kids’ futures does not have an end date. 

Repeal the Ban on Rent Regulation to Help Students Succeed

We applaud Representative Macri for committing to introduce legislation to repeal the ban on rent regulation. Housing costs represent the biggest economic burden people, especially people of color, women, people with disabilities, and people with low-income, face every month. Because of the steep rent increases many families face, we are in the midst of an unprecedented housing crisis, with thousands of families facing homelessness. The percentage of students in the Seattle school district without a permanent address has doubled in the past five years – with as many as 20% of the student body struggling with homelessness at some schools.

Both Tacoma and Seattle have declared homelessness states of emergencies, but the current ban on rent regulation prevents municipalities from developing creative solutions to our housing affordability crisis. Landlord lobbying associations have weaponized the current statute to fight a wide variety of tenant protections, such as suing the City of Seattle over the Move-in Fee Reform Legislation. We need to ensure our communities have the ability to address the housing crisis in whatever ways they see fit.

The unregulated private rental market does not work for families. High rents force many families to move frequently, impacting education outcomes of children, especially children of color. Children are more likely to thrive in a consistent school community, where they have access to the resources and support they need. Moving around can set kids way back in terms of academic achievement and community and teacher support.

Housing instability is a huge barrier for students to overcome, and remedying the housing crisis would allow more children, in particular children of color, to have the opportunities they need to reach their full potential. Representative Macri’s push to remove the ban on rent regulation is the first step to ensuring that our communities are just, affordable, and thriving.

What McCleary Means Now

All in all, the Equity in Education Coalition is pleased that the Washington State Supreme Court will retain jurisdiction over the McCleary case. Though the state is moving towards fully funding education, it is clear to us that they are falling short of building a just and thriving Washington.

To us, fully funding education entails securing opportunities for the growth and success of each and every child in Washington. This necessarily means caring for all of our children from cradle to career.

Since 1) the State did not fulfill its obligation to fully fund education by 2018 and 2) the Court decided to maintain their 2018 deadline, the state must come up with $1 billion in revenue by the start of the next school year. The problem is that Washington does not have an equitable way to increase revenue.

Because of our upside down tax code, we fear that that the revenue needed to fund education will be poached from social services that our kids rely on. If we cut food subsidies, affordable housing, healthcare, and other programs our kids rely on, then we are not supporting the education of all children, but actually preventing some of our children from learning.

Bottom-line: funding the state’s education plan should not depend on cutting social services that allow our kids to learn. Funding education should not widen Washington’s opportunity gap.  

Now more than ever, it is important for us to find other sources of revenue, specifically sources that do not inexcusably burden low income communities and communities of color. It is high time corporations and billionaires pay their fair share of taxes, for outdated tax loopholes to close, and the state to fix our regressive tax code.

For EEC’s full statement, On McCleary: Fix Tax Code to Fully Fund Education

Reforming Discipline

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction recently proposed new adjustments to student discipline rules. Their proposal is a significant start to stopping disproportionate disciplinary action among students of color; students from non-English speaking families; students from low income communities; and students with special needs.

However, there are certain modifications EEC as well as 60 other organizations –  which include civil rights organizations, legal services providers, education advocates, social service providers, and disability rights organizations – think OSPI should implement.

The new student discipline rules should:

  • Require Alternative to Suspension and Expulsion
  • Engage Parents in Discipline in a Culturally Appropriate Manner and Ensuring Language Access
  • Collect Data on Informal Exclusion
  • Ensure Instruction in Education Services and Facilitating Parent Input
  • Limit Overly Coercive Behavior Agreements
  • Reconcile Definitions of Corporal Punishment with Restraint and Isolation Laws
  • Increase Focus on Reducing Disparities for Students with Disabilities

For more check out  our summary, and/or the full letter: Discipline Rules Letter to OSPI

#WAElex

Happy Election Day! Today is one of EEC’s favorite days of the year. It is a time to reflect on our values, choose our representatives, and direct the vision of our communities. It is the power of the people magnified, institutionalized, and celebrated. And though sometimes it seems blasé (especially to those accustomed to the privilege of being heard) it is far from. Civil rights leaders can assure you that our inalienable rights had to be forcefully, relentlessly, and unfairly wrestled from the grips of those in power (ahem, white men).

Only 52 years ago did black and brown folks truly secure voting rights. Fifty-two years. There are turtles older than that. 74 years ago Chinese immigrants were first given the right to vote, even though every voting white man, both now and then, is and was an immigrant. And if denying access to democracy really was about being an immigrant then why did it take 198 years of American statehood to permit Native Americans, who have lived on this land for thousands of years, the right to vote?

Needless to say, today we’re thinking about all the People of Color and White Allies who will soon be entering public office, and the great responsibility they have to undo a legacy of racism. Here in Washington we know that every child, regardless of where they grew up or what they look like, deserves a fair chance to reach their full potential. But kids of color face barriers to opportunities that we must address. To representatives, both new and old, please secure children’s access to equal opportunity: invest in our students, our families, and our communities.

 

Washington Capitol Building

EEC Files “Friend of the Court” Brief in McCleary Case

EEC filed an amicus brief late Wednesday night, urging the Washington State Supreme Court to retain jurisdiction in the McCleary case by detailing how lack of school funding disproportionately hurts kids of color. We teamed up with the Washington Budget and Policy Center to demonstrate that the opportunity gap in Washington will worsen under the legislature’s plans. In conjunction with our legal action, the McCleary and Venema families, teacher’s unions, a coalition of school districts, advocates of children with disabilities, the NAACP, and Washington’s Paramount Duty filed three other “friend of the court” briefs imploring the courts to hold the state legislature accountable to Washington students.

Here’s an excerpt from a Seattle Times’ article that explains all four briefs (full article, here). To read the amicus brief in full: BRIEF OF AMICI CURIAE 

Amicus Brief from Seattle Times

 

Legislature Update – Last Day of Regular Session

The last day of regular session for the 2017 Washington State Legislature is Sunday, April 23rd. As Senate Republicans and House Democrats have yet to begin serious negotiations over their respective budget proposals, closing a budget deal prior to the end of session is unlikely. Both parties have expressed concern and questioned whether the other’s proposal is realistic, given that the tax and revenue bills accompanying the both plans have not been passed. Therefore, at least one, if not more, special session(s) is in the forecast for the 2017 Legislature, as lawmakers struggle to find common ground over how to fully fund the state’s basic education program and comply with the state’s Supreme Court McCleary Ruling.

WA State Budget and Funding Proposals

Both the Senate Republicans and the House Democrats have released their budget proposals for the 2017-19 biennium. While both parties are confident that their respective budgets will fully fund K-12 education and comply with the 2012 McCleary ruling, the House and the Senate take radically different approaches as to how that will be achieved.

The House plan gradually reduces existing local levies to pay for education and introduces an estimated $3 billion dollars of new revenue in the form of new taxes. The Senate plan eliminates those levies for 2019, caps them at lower rate of 10% beginning in 2020, and implements a new statewide property tax at the rate of $1.55/1,000 of accessed property value.

At the school level, the Senate plan calls for a restructuring of how funds are distributed with a new per-pupil funding model while the House plan leaves the existing prototypical school student staffing model in place. The minimum state basic per pupil guarantee in the Senate plan is $9,200 per student for the 18/19 school year and $10,200 for the 19/20 with additional allocations for students that are homeless, in poverty, and/or in CTE, SPED, or TBIP programs. The House Democrats argue that changes in the existing funding model is not necessary given that the state’s K-12 education system simply has not been fully funded in the past.

The Senate plan also throws out voter approved Initiative 1351 pertaining to class size reductions, while the House plan delays implementation for two years. The Senate plan calls for cuts in Early Learning, Higher Education, and social services, must notably the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Both proposals do agree, however, on increasing minimum starting teacher pay to $45,000.

You can find the Senate budget proposal here and the House plan here. The governor’s proposal can also be found here.

The EEC’s Perspective on the Budget Proposals

The EEC is supportive of the Senate’s concept of transitioning into a more student-centered model, but has numerous concerns about the Senate’s proposal as a whole. Click here to view EEC’s take on the initial release of Senate Bill 5067.

The EEC has also released a policy memo on House Bill 1843, acknowledging efforts to make significant investments in Highly Capable Programs, Career and Technical Education, and the Learning Assistance Program, albeit over time. View an analysis of House Bill 1843 and our concerns here.