Youth & Education

Stories about education focused on the Pacific Northwest, with many from KPLU's Youth & Education reporter, Kyle Stokes.

To get to this college classroom, you have to walk past the barbed wire, between a line of armed guards, and through the heavy metal bars. Only then do you arrive at the circle of chairs.

When class starts, half the chairs are filled with so-called "inside students," men and women serving time behind bars. The other half of the seats are occupied by "outside students" — basically, traditional college students.

This coming year, more than 100 universities and colleges around the world will offer Inside-Out classes.

After two weeks on the picket line and several trips to court, teachers in Pasco, Washington, have reached a tentative agreement to end their strike.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle Public Schools negotiators offered to attach a pay increase onto a plan to lengthen the school day for students during talks with the district's striking school employees this weekend, bending to a union demand that has been a stumbling block in talks on a new teacher contract.

Pasco Teachers Union Faces $2,000 Daily Fines For Strike

Sep 11, 2015

There were gasps in the Franklin County Courthouse Friday as a judge imposed daily fines against the teachers' union in Pasco, Washington.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

The full negotiating teams for Seattle Public Schools and the district's striking teachers union will resume talks on a new contract this weekend, bringing the two sides back to the bargaining table for the first time in more than three days.

The announcement Friday afternoon comes after the third full day of a strike that's kept more than 53,000 students out of school since Wednesday and ends a stalemate in the negotiations.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The Seattle teachers strike is now in its third day, and it’s stirring up memories for people who lived through past strikes, especially 35 miles north of Seattle in Marysville, which set a state record for the longest teacher walkout.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Negotiators for both the Seattle teachers union and the school district dug in their heels on Thursday as each side painted the other as unwilling to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a new teacher contract.

The stalemate will once again close Seattle Public Schools on Friday, extending into a third day a teachers strike that's keeping 53,000 students out of classes.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

  Seattle's teachers strike will cancel classes for a second day on Thursday, and it remains unclear when union and district teams will return to negotiations on a new teacher contract.

Both sides expressed a desire to resume talks as teachers walked picket lines in front of school buildings across Seattle, which were closed to the district's 53,000 students on what was supposed to be the first regular day of classes Wednesday.

But union officials disputed Seattle Public Schools spokeswoman Stacy Howard's characterization that "all indicators show negotiations will resume" on Thursday.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle teachers union members will go on strike for the first time since 1985 on Wednesday, a move that cancels what was supposed to be the first regular day of classes for the roughly 53,000 students in Washington's largest school district.

Unable to resolve their differences over how much to pay educators, district proposals to lengthen the school day and a union push to limit standardized testing, union leaders ended negotiations on a new teacher contract without an agreement around 6 p.m. Tuesday night.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

A network of donors will step up if necessary to keep Washington state's nine charter schools open through the school year, a leading charter advocate said Tuesday, even if public dollars stop flowing in the wake of a state Supreme Court decision voiding Washington's charter school law.

Tom Franta, who heads the Washington State Charter Schools Association, said his organization has reached out to a network of something like 50 donors — whom Franta declined to identify — that can help cover the estimated $14 million necessary to cover all nine schools' operating costs through the end of the year.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Despite limited progress at the bargaining table over a long holiday weekend, Seattle Public Schools leaders have urged district families to begin making child care plans for their students in case the district's teachers go on strike this week.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

The Washington Supreme Court has ruled the state's voter-approved charter-school law unconstitutional.

In a 6-3 ruling issued late Friday afternoon, the high court said that charter schools do not qualify as common, public schools and cannot receive public funding.

Teachers in the tiny South Whidbey Island School District are now on strike.

The Washington Education Association says teachers in the four-school district walked out on Thursday. School is set to begin on Tuesday for the district's nearly 1,500 students. But teachers were supposed to be in school on Thursday preparing for the year.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle teachers union leaders and school district officials did not meet for contract talks over the weekend, a union spokesman said, despite significant differences still dividing the two sides in negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The current deal expires late Monday night. Leaders of the Seattle Education Association have called for all 5,000 union members to meet on Thursday to vote on a tentative agreement, if there is one. If there isn't, the teachers could vote to go on strike.

Think of an educational tool and you might picture beloved standbys from our Tools of the Trade series, like the abacus and the wooden block. But educators are increasingly turning to software and websites like Khan Academy, Google Apps and to help them deliver lessons, manage collaboration, do real-time assessments and more.

AP Images

Gov. Jay Inslee said he encouraged state legislative leaders to begin working on a solution to fundamental equity problems in Washington’s system for funding public schools during an hour-long meeting Monday.

The governor's statements come a week after the state Supreme Court took state leaders to task for dragging their feet in complying with the McCleary school funding ruling. Last Thursday, justices urged Inslee to call a special session and announced they would begin fining state government $100,000 every day until lawmakers fulfilled their demands.


New statewide test scores released Monday largely confirm what a sneak peek suggested earlier this summer: Pass rates on the new, tougher assessments have dropped, though by less than many feared. But those results come with an asterisk in one grade.

Washington students outperformed the scores from a national trial run of the Smarter Balanced Assessments last year. That’s in line with preliminary results released in July.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

State lawmakers have fallen short again in their efforts to address fundamental problems with the state's school funding system, Washington state Supreme Court justices ruled Thursday, ordering state government to pay a $100,000 fine every day until those issues are resolved.

It's the latest escalation in the ongoing McCleary school funding case. The court found lawmakers in contempt last September, but opted against handing down penalties until now.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU News

Garfield High School’s embattled choir teacher, Carol Burton, said she expects Seattle Public Schools will fire her for her conduct during a choir trip to New Orleans last March.

Superintendent Larry Nyland has not yet made a decision in the case, a district spokeswoman said Thursday. But after conversations with Seattle Public Schools lawyers, Burton's attorneys have told her to expect to receive a letter of termination from the district as soon as Friday.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Tacoma Public Schools' Rosalind Medina doesn't want to leave the impression she's ungrateful for the multi-million dollar windfall her school district will see from the new state budget, chock full of $1.3 billion in new K-12 funding.

But if news of the budget arrived in Tacoma like a check in the mail, it also arrived with a bill.

Erin Jones Campaign / Washington House Democrats

State Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, announced Thursday he will give up his House seat to run for state schools superintendent in 2016, joining Tacoma school district administrator Erin Jones in the race for Washington's top elected education post.

Current superintendent Randy Dorn has not yet said whether he will run for a third term. A spokesman said Dorn is waiting to see what the state Supreme Court does next in the ongoing McCleary school funding case before making his decision.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Lauding recent increases in state education funding, but ultimately admitting they still have more work to do, state lawmakers have filed an update with the state Supreme Court on their progress toward fulfilling the McCleary school funding mandate.

Now, everyone's wondering what the court will do next.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo

A proposal to completely re-write the No Child Left Behind education law, entrusting state officials and not the feds with more of the responsibility to hold schools accountable, has passed the U.S. Senate by a wide margin Thursday afternoon, 81-17.

In the plodding history of attempts to overhaul the unpopular law, it's a huge step forward — it's the first time the Senate has passed a proposal to reauthorize NCLB since it originally expired in 2007.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU News

Green River College administrators will move ahead with plans to cut two small trade programs — including one led by the president of the faculty union — in an effort, they say, to narrow a budget gap.

But in announcing the closure of the school's auto body and geographic information systems programs late Wednesday, administrators of the Auburn community college also said they would spare the school's carpentry program from cuts.

In a statement, Green River administrators said closing the programs, which were targeted for their high operating costs, will generate roughly one-third of the savings needed to close a budget shortfall originally estimated at $841,000.

Vicki Wagner

Feelings of depression and hopelessness are increasing among Washington State’s teenagers, according to results from the Healthy Youth Survey.

Thirty five percent of 10th graders and 34 percent of 12th graders, the survey found, said they experienced these feelings in the past year. These figures are up slightly from 2012.

Mental health officials say they don't know why this is happening.

Additionally, 10 percent of 10th graders said they attempted suicide is the last year, up from eight percent a few years earlier. Vicki Wagner, the director of the Youth Suicide Prevention Project said most teen suicide attempts happen in the spring and the fall.

Wagner said parents and peers need to act if they notice someone becoming withdrawn.


“Somebody who has been outgoing, who has had a lot of friends, if they start isolating, if they start giving way things, that’s really symptomatic in adolescence," she said. "There’s an awful lot of suicide attempts that can follow a break-up in adolescence, you know, a significant person they were involved with.”


Last year, the Youth Suicide Prevention Project trained more than seven-thousand parents, teachers and students across the state. The trainings focus on the importance of speaking up when someone becomes aware of a teen who might be thinking of taking his or her own life.


More than half of all high school juniors did not take Washington's benchmark standardized tests this spring, according to preliminary data state officials released Thursday.

In fact, so many eleventh graders skipped the Smarter Balanced exams — more than 42,000 in total — that the state’s overall participation rate on the required tests dipped below a minimum level required by federal law.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

A proposal to re-write No Child Left Behind — an unpopular federal education law that now labels practically all schools in Washington state as "failing" — began its tightrope-walk through the full U.S. Senate Tuesday.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who helped shepherd the bipartisan proposal through committee, opened debate on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon by calling on her colleagues to "fix this broken law."

AP Images

Fewer Washington students passed a new, harder statewide standardized test this year — but the exam didn't trip up as many kids as some had feared.

For instance, roughly 58 percent of fifth graders earned "proficient" English scores in their first year taking the new Smarter Balanced tests, according to early results state officials released Thursday. Compare that with 72 percent of last year's fifth graders who passed the state's old benchmark reading exam, the MSP.

John Froschauer / AP Photo

Though it includes new funding for schools, state superintendent Randy Dorn says the budget Washington lawmakers passed falls short of meeting a Supreme Court mandate to increase K-12 spending.

In a statement, Dorn called on the state's high court to "take whatever steps necessary to bring the Legislature back into session as soon as possible" to work out solutions to problems justices ordered them to solve in their 2012 McCleary ruling.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

It's looking less and less likely state lawmakers will drop a graduation requirement currently standing between hundreds of Washington high school seniors and their diplomas.

This year, roughly 2,000 high schoolers passed all the tests they needed to graduate except one: biology. But with time running out in their session, legislators remain deadlocked over a proposal to drop biology as a graduation requirement.