Youth & Education

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

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

On a day when frenzied holiday shoppers will pay a significant sum in state sales taxes, a group of teachers is organizing a protest near the Redmond campus of a corporation that they wish paid more taxes: Microsoft.

The teachers' planned the Black Friday protest to urge state lawmakers to put corporate tax breaks, not social services, on the chopping block in their effort to find at least $2.5 billion in new funding for schools.

"Many of the families of our students can't afford the Christmas gifts they want to buy unless they go to those sales on Black Friday. They are going to be paying a lot of sales tax on Black Friday," said protest organizer and Renton teacher Julianna Dauble. "We chose it to highlight [the fact] Microsoft will not be paying taxes on Black Friday."

This January, Washington State University plans to ask lawmakers for permission to open a medical school in Spokane.

The question is whether the University of Washington will oppose that effort. It currently runs the state’s only school for doctor of medicine degrees.

Seth Weinig

State child welfare workers have outlined plans to implement new training and data management practices, hoping to finally push Washington's foster care system into full compliance with a decade-old legal agreement.

But state officials also say they'll realistically need nearly $7.8 million more from lawmakers' next two-year budget to hire back the staff they need to meet all 21 benchmarks for improving foster care laid out in the 2004 settlement of the Braam v. Washington case.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

City officials and Seattle Public Schools educators "share the responsibility" for Seattle children's academic performance, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said in a speech to assembled municipal and school district leaders Monday night.

And, Murray added after his remarks at the State of the District event, city officials ought to "become more integrated" and "collaborative" in efforts with Seattle Public Schools leaders to close a stubborn achievement gap between white kids and students of color.

"We can collaborate together," Murray said in his speech. "We can produce game-changing, transformational results. We can do it without fears about control or governance, or turf. This is about our children. This is about closing an opportunity gap. This isn’t about turf."

Colin Archer / AP Photo

Students receiving special education services in Washington public schools are less likely than their peers to graduate from high school and more likely to end up suspended or expelled, and in many cases, their disabilities are not to blame, according to a new state report.

In the report, the independent state office that handles disputes between parents and public schools calls on state lawmakers to empower a blue ribbon commission to determine how best to remove "unnecessary divisions between 'special education' and 'general education.'"

Hope for Gorilla/Flickr

Should Seattle schools adjust their start times to let middle- and high school students get more sleep?

It's a riddle that's vexed Seattle Public Schools for the last six years, and a 30-member district task force kicked off a months-long process Thursday night of solving it.

Some parents and sleep experts have lobbied district leaders to let the district's schools, most of which currently start classes at 7:50 a.m., begin their school days at a later hour. One way to accommodate that change, they say, is for elementary schools, which currently begin their days at either 8:40 or 9:30 a.m., to start classes earlier.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

How often does a ballot initiative in Washington state garner 60 percent support or better in public opinion polls before Election Day, only to wind up losing?

Pollster Stuart Elway can count the times on one hand. But now, there's a real possibility he could add a statewide class-size initiative to the list. 

Two October polls showed voters supported Initiative 1351, which calls for hiring thousands of teachers in an effort to reduce public school class sizes, by wide margins. Yet the vote count as of Thursday afternoon showed the initiative trailing by 12,171 votes, or 0.86 percentage point. An automatic recount occurs if the margin is 2,000 votes and less than one-half of a percentage point.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo

Seattle Public Schools students don’t get enough time to eat lunch, according to a group of parents. Dozens in a group calling itself “Lunch and Recess Matter” rallied at the Seattle School Board meeting Wednesday.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle Public Schools leaders have dropped a bid for a property that could've been the site of the district's first downtown elementary school in more than six decades.

School board members balked at the estimated $53 million cost of renovating the vacant Federal Reserve Bank building, noting the district would have to take on debt it might have trouble paying back.

In voting 5 to 0 to drop its application, the board passed up a golden opportunity for effectively free land in a pricey real estate market, the school's supporters say; the U.S. Department of Education could have deeded the property to the district for practically nothing.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

A statewide ballot initiative aimed at limiting class size in Washington appeared too close to call, according to early election results Tuesday.

Initiative 1351, which calls for hiring more than 7,000 teachers over the next four years in hopes of reducing class sizes in Washington's public schools, was failing by less than 1 percent.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

As voters, teens and young adults don't have the best track records, especially in off-year or midterm elections.

In 2010, less than one-third of 18- to 29-year-olds in Washington state voted, and that's the age group's best turnout rate in more than two decades. By contrast, nearly two-thirds of older voters cast ballots.

But consider how election season can sound from a teen's point of view.

"There's things that I want to be engaged in. I try to listen, I try to be engaged, but it’s like all these old men droning on and on, and on," said Halley Norman, 18. "It’s not very engaging. It’s not something that makes me feel passionate about the issue."

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

If a recent poll is any indication, Washington voters appear poised to again pass a ballot initiative that calls for steeply reducing public school class sizes, this time by hiring more than 7,000 teachers over the next four years.

Voters passed a similar measure in 2000 that had little effect. Lawmakers repealed it two years ago and the state's student-to-teacher ratio remains one of the nation's largest.

But the group behind that 2000 class-size initiative has urged voters to reject this year's version, Initiative 1351. The group joins skeptical lawmakers and newspaper editorial boards who fear a class size-reduction measure would complicate their task of meeting a state Supreme Court order to pump another $2 billion into the state's K-12 budget. 

Mark Humphrey / AP Photo

Seventeen years ago, Bill Bond was the principal at a small high school in western Kentucky that was rocked by a school shooting. It happened before the term "school shooting" had even entered the national conscience.

The Columbine massacre was still a year and a half away when a 14-year-old freshman at Heath High School entered the lobby in Dec. 1997 and opened fire, killing three fellow students and wounding five more. The shooter eventually surrendered to Bond, who says it all happened "right in front of him."

"People are going to want a solution" to prevent shootings like at Heath or Marysville-Pilchuck High School last week, Bond said. "But there's not a perfect, simple solution there. The solutions are hard."

Mark Stahl / AP Photo

Where should a transgender student in a public school use the restroom? In which locker room should the student shower or change clothes? And how should a teacher refer to a student: as a he, a she, or neither?

The Highline Public Schools Board will vote Wednesday night on a new, formal set of guidelines to help staff answer these questions.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle's elected leaders can hardly describe the proposed preschool pilot program at the heart of Proposition 1B without using the phrase "high-quality."

City education officials frequently invoke these words when speaking about their desire to pass a four-year, $58 million property tax hike to not only cover preschool tuition for as many as 2,000 low-income kids, but to ensure these children receive the greatest possible benefit from the program.

But amid a broader debate over whether voters ought to choose the city's plan over a competing childcare initiative, Proposition 1A, a smaller debate has roiled among early educators: What exactly constitutes "high-quality" preschool?

Pages