Kyle Stokes

Youth & Education Reporter

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools for KPLU.

Kyle joined KPLU after nearly three years covering education in Bloomington, Ind., where he helped launch a reporting collaboration between NPR and member station WFIU. His work for that project, called StateImpact Indiana, earned him a National Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), along with recognitions from the Online News Association and Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI).

Kyle earned his degree from the Missouri School of Journalism. He worked in Columbia, Mo., as a producer for NPR member station KBIA and a reporter for NBC affiliate KOMU. He graduated in 2011.

The Minneapolis native is hopelessly devoted to his Minnesota Twins — sorry, M's fans. Try your luck hooking him on the Sounders, though.

Ways To Connect

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Teacher union protests that have rolled through Washington school districts for nearly a month now reached a climactic moment Tuesday as thousands of Seattle teachers walked off the job for a one-day strike, leaving schools in the state's largest district closed.

An estimated 4,000 teachers picketed at eight high schools in the morning before marching more than two miles through downtown Seattle in the afternoon, railing against legislative proposals they say leave them underpaid and overwhelmed in classrooms.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

After expressing doubts about the legality of ongoing teacher walkouts, state Republican lawmakers have scheduled a hearing on a bill that would block the state from paying a striking teacher's salary or benefits during the strikes.

Spokane Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner in a statement said teachers are making political points with children bearing the cost. "These strikes use our children as a political football," said Baumgartner, one of the bill's sponsors.   

The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

A task force is getting ready to make a formal recommendation for whether Seattle Public Schools can shuffle their bell times to let middle- and high schoolers get more sleep — and if they can, present options on how to make the change.

But some members of the task force aren't happy. Advocates who've pushed for years for earlier start times for secondary students say they're concerned district officials have taken the best plan off the table prematurely, and have instead been shopping inferior options around for public comment and review.

AP Images

For years — decades, even — problems with how local property taxes fund public schools have vexed Washington lawmakers.

Now, they may have mere weeks to solve them.

Lawmakers are still hashing out a property tax system overhaul that seeks to end school districts' reliance on local levies to pay expenses the state's supposed to cover. Coming up with a solution was a key demand of the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision.

But lawmakers from both parties didn't file bills addressing the levy issue until mid-April. Kim Justice, senior budget analyst with the left-leaning Washington Budget and Policy Center, says they've been procrastinating.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Two weeks from now, a teacher walkout will have impacted one out of every four of Washington state's 1 million public school students.

That's after Monday's confirmation teachers in Seattle Public Schools would join colleagues in 28 other districts in approving a "one-day strike" to protest state lawmakers' stances on several key education issues.

Kyle Stokes

An investigation into who altered students' answers on state standardized tests at Beacon Hill International School has found three district employees breached protocols designed to protect exam materials from tampering, Seattle Public Schools officials have announced.

But a months-long investigation still hasn't concluded who altered the test materials themselves, a district spokeswoman said.

Seattle Public Schools officials placed two of those employees — Beacon Hill principal Po Tang and ELL teacher Judy Eng — on paid administrative leave Friday. The third who broke the rules, former assistant principal Michele Nishioka, left the district for another job last July.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

On Wednesday, Sedro-Wooley teachers walked off the job for a day. On Thursday, Bainbridge Island and Burlington-Edison teachers plan to do the same.

After that, seven more local teachers unions have approved similar "one-day strikes" as the Washington Legislature convenes a special session to finish a two-year state budget — a pocketbook issue for educators, who say neither political party's spending plans do enough to reverse six years of stagnant wages.

Though the Washington Legislature closed its regular session without reaching a budget, it remains on track to fulfill the state Supreme Court's schools funding mandate, the state's top lawyer said in a legal filing Monday.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson, charged with defending state lawmakers in the ongoing McCleary case, wrote a progress report to the court saying spending proposals from both the state House and Senate include "historic" increases in K-12 education funding.

Now all that's left, Ferguson argued, is to reach a deal in the special session which starts Wednesday.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

For nearly three years, members of the University of Washington's top governing board regularly violated state public meetings laws by discussing official business during private dinners, a King County judge ruled Friday.

The UW Board of Regents discussed official business during 24 of these "dinner meetings," held at the home of the school's president, between January 2012 and September 2014, according to an order from Superior Court Judge Laura Inveen.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Local and federal law enforcement officers in Seattle announced Thursday the arrests of more than 90 suspects in a targeted effort to end street-corner drug deals and related violence in the downtown corridor around Third Avenue & Pine Street.

Seattle Police also announced stepped-up enforcement and outreach efforts in the nine-and-a-half blocks flanking Third & Pine. The swath is marked by the highest concentration of criminal activity in the city, including what Mayor Ed Murray called an "open-air drug market" not far from the city's world-class farmer's market.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle teachers will decide whether they want to walk off the job for one day, likely in early May, to express frustration over the progress of state budget talks in Olympia.

Building leaders for the Seattle Education Association, voted Monday night to recommend the union's 5,000 members join at least eight other local teachers unions in western Washington that have already approved similar "one-day strikes."

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

A U.S. Senate committee advanced a bill to re-write the federal No Child Left Behind Act this week, raising hopes that Congress may finally take action to officially scrap the law's tough, but outdated systems for holding schools across the nation accountable for students' success.

The proposed "Every Child Achieves Act" shifts a lot of federal powers to education officials at the state level. Though national mandates to give students standardized tests every year would remain in place, states could decide for themselves how to use test results to rate schools and determine whether students are on-track for success in college or a career.

David Goldman / AP Photo

Leaders of eight local teachers unions announced plans Friday to hold "one-day strikes" beginning next week in hopes to express frustrations with the progress of state budget talks in Olympia. 

Teachers in the Arlington, Lakewood and Stanwood-Camano districts will walk out on Wednesday, April 22, according to a press release from the Washington Education Association. On Friday, April 24, Ferndale and Bellingham teachers will do the same.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Late last year, Elijah Falk was just another eleventh grader at Seattle's Nathan Hale High School who had never heard of the Smarter Balanced Assessments.

Then a friend told him all about it — that the test was more than eight hours long, required for every high school junior in Washington state but, in the end, mostly unnecessary to earn a diploma.

Falk was shocked.

"The huge amount of testing I've had to go through during my short time as a student— it's taking away from my time in the classroom," Falk said. "That kinda crosses a line where it's not helpful."

John Froschauer / AP Photo

For all the things that divide Washington state lawmakers' competing budget plans, K-12 education spending doesn't appear to be one of them.

Budget proposals from Senate Republicans, House Democrats and from Gov. Jay Inslee have all called for between $1.3 billion and $1.4 billion in new schools spending to satisfy the Washington Supreme Court's McCleary funding decision.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle School Board president Sherry Carr would rather Washington had not entered the charter school game in the first place. But eventually, she says the state's largest district may have to decide whether it wants to play.

Only one Washington school district, Spokane, currently decides whether to allow applicants to start charter schools within its boundaries and oversees their operations once they open; they're the state's only local "charter authorizer" — for now.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

This week, eleventh graders at Seattle's Garfield High School were supposed to start taking a state- and federally-required standardized test of their English skills.

But more than 200 Garfield juniors, who don't need to pass the exams to graduate, are refusing to take Smarter Balanced assessments, forcing school administrators to postpone giving the exams until they could come up with a new testing schedule.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

State legislators are considering injecting "unprecedented" amounts of funding into Washington's early childhood education system, advocates say — but not without first raising the bar for child care providers.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Expedia will relocate its headquarters from its current home in downtown Bellevue to a waterfront campus in Seattle's Interbay neighborhood in late 2018.

Executives for the online travel site announced Thursday they've agreed to pay $228 million to purchase the 40-acre campus currently owned by biotech firm Amgen, which announced its plans to leave Seattle last summer. More than 3,000 employees currently work in Expedia's headquarters.

Paula Wissel / KPLU

We thought it was sacred. We thought it would be there forever. Then, the Borg came.

Plans are underway to "assimilate the Space Needle" with the construction of a mixed-use high-rise on the property the landmark currently occupies, according to a notice posted Wednesday.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

A bid to get back Washington state's waiver from the No Child Left Behind law — and regain for school districts the flexibility to spend $40 million in federal funding that came with that waiver — appears to have hit a dead end in Olympia.

Majority Democrats in the House Education Committee on Thursday blocked a procedural maneuver to force an up-or-down vote on a bill making changes to the state's teacher evaluation system in hopes of convincing federal education officials to give Washington its waiver back.

Joe Wolf / Flickr

Eleventh graders at Seattle's Nathan Hale High School will take a state- and federally-required standardized test after all, an apparent reversal of an earlier decision by staff, students and parents to boycott the exams this year.

"The [Smarter Balanced assessment] is required by the state. Therefore, to comply with Seattle Public Schools directives, students will be tested" in April, Nathan Hale Senate chair Melinda Greene said in an email to parents Thursday.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Technically speaking, Alicia Goodwin knows she's benefiting from one of Washington state's biggest tax exemptions just by checking out at the grocery store. Sales taxes aren't charged on food purchases.

AP

A Washington State House committee will hear a bill requiring student scores on statewide standardized tests to play a role in teachers' evaluations next week, a member of the committee said Tuesday.

But the proposal from Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, aimed at getting back the state's waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law, has gotten a chilly reception among House lawmakers — and the bill's supporters fear they're running out of time.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Editor's Note: We're taking a closer look at Washington's tax system through a week-long series. This is the second installment of “Where’s the Dough? On the Hunt for Washington’s Missing Tax Dollars." Our first installment explored the history of the state's tax system.  

When she was in the legislature, the giant wooden table in Marilyn Rasmussen's kitchen — the one with the lazy susan big enough to comfortably serve the seven kids she raised here — used to swarm with farmers wanting to talk shop.

"This table always had people around it, always talking about ideas. 'What are our problems? How can we solve 'em?'" the former lawmaker, 76, remembered as she warmed her hand over a hot cup of coffee. "Farmers are really good at solving issues."

Evan Vucci / AP Photo

The letter of the law is pretty clear, state schools superintendent Randy Dorn has warned.

If teachers at Seattle's Nathan Hale High School follow through on their promise not to give their eleventh graders a federally-required standardized test, Dorn's office says federal education officials could cut off funding not only for Seattle Public Schools but even for schools across Washington state.

But would the feds actually go so far? Some anti-testing advocates and policy experts doubt it.

Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times

She may be an accomplished public speaker, but Bellevue teacher Kristin Leong says she's still "secretly super introverted." Getting comfortable with public performance, she tells her students, is about "faking it 'til you make it."

But Leong says she starts every year in her middle school humanities classes at the International School in Bellevue with the same promise to her students: 'all of them will be performers this year.'

Joe Wolf / Flickr

This spring, juniors at Seattle's Nathan Hale High School will not sit for a federally-required standardized test, a leadership team of staff, students and parents at the school decided this week.

The staff's refusal to administer Smarter Balanced Assessments to eleventh-graders would make Nathan Hale the latest Seattle school to thumb its nose at a standardized test and would fly in the face of the nation's tough school accountability law, the No Child Left Behind Act.

Eric E Castro / Flickr

As evidence mounts that harsh discipline policies in U.S. schools make students more likely to drop out or even to end up in jail, Washington state has not been able to explain why most students are getting in trouble.

More than half of the suspensions and expulsions handed down in Washington schools were not for drugs, alcohol, weapons or violence, but for "other behavior." The category has been a catch-all for a range of misbehaviors — from talking back in class to cheating on a paper, to sexual harassment.

Sequim School District

After getting a drubbing at the polls in April 2014, when just 44 percent of Sequim voters supported a $154 million school construction bond issue, Kelly Shea says he got the message: "You guys are biting off more than you can chew."

Pages