Youth & Education

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

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

The Washington state Supreme Court on Monday received three separate petitions, each urging the court to clamp down and force lawmakers to fund public education in the upcoming legislative session.

Kyle Stokes

Seattle voters might not have to choose between the two early childhood education programs slated for the November ballot despite city leaders' warnings that the two questions are incompatible and contradictory.

Union leaders backing Initiative 107, a ballot initiative that would hike wages and mandate training for the Seattle's 4,000 early childhood workers, filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to allow voters to give separate up-or-down votes on their measure as well as on a second, city-backed proposal to create a preschool pilot program.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle Public Schools officials may soon get their best opportunity in years to open a public elementary school downtown, and various downtown interests are now pressing district leaders to take advantage of it.

District officials submitted an application earlier this month to move into the vacant building at Second Avenue and Spring Street, which once housed a Federal Reserve Bank branch.

Federal agencies no longer want the property and are considering whether to deed the building to Seattle Public Schools practically free of charge. If the feds grant school officials' application, downtown groups want to make sure the district follows through.

Lynne Sladky / AP Photo

Seattle Public Schools' efforts to educate students with disabilities of all sorts are "in need of urgent, substantial and significant improvement," according to a scathing report released Tuesday, faulting district staff from the administrative offices all the way down to individual schools.

The report itself was commissioned by the district office's special education team as part of an effort to correct, as the authors call it, "an obvious and chronic lack... of urgency" around special education — and to bring Seattle Public Schools back in the good graces of both state officials and of federal law.

Provided by Seattle Public Schools.

The Seattle School Board has named former Marysville School District Superintendent Larry Nyland as its interim superintendent.

The board made the announcement following a special meeting Friday.

The Seattle School Board will hold a special meeting on Friday to select an interim superintendent, district officials said.

The 4:15 meeting, which will be streamed online, will be followed by a news conference around 5 p.m., officials said.

The superintendent position is being vacated by José Banda, who has accepted a superintendent position in Sacramento, California. His appointment was finalized Thursday.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Look past the clunky antiques that once made the now-empty building at Second and Spring a working bank — brass teller windows, secured loading docks, a two-story vault with heavy metal doors to match — and it's not difficult to dream about what the vacant property could become.

A group of advocates for the homeless did just that. The Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness drew up a nearly $18 million plan to transform what was once the Federal Reserve Bank branch as a comprehensive service center for the homeless, putting a range of services from mail to primary health care under one roof.

Photo courtesy of the Kent School District

Students do better in school when their parents volunteer and have a relationship with teachers and staff, decades of research have shown.

Brennan Linsley / AP Photo

High school students in Washington will soon be able to drop up to two courses if they encounter "unusual circumstances" and still earn their diplomas under new state rules, which will also lift the number of required credits from 20 to 24.

But should schools be allowed to waive credits in subjects like English, math or science? The State Board of Education said no Thursday, voting 8 to 5 to approve rules marking 17 "core" credits as off-limits to these waivers. The board's decision mean districts can only excuse a student from elective or world language credits.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo

Earlier this year, Washington became the first state in the nation to lose its reprieve from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Now, Seattle Public Schools wants to become the first district in the nation to regain that flexibility on its own.

Superintendent Jose Banda sent a letter Wednesday asking for a Seattle-specific waiver from the outdated federal law.

Eric Risberg / AP Photo

An effort to commit south King County teens to a state program that guarantees fully-paid college tuition in exchange for good grades and good behavior through high school has reported its most successful sign-up campaign yet.

Organizers at the Road Map Project, which supports seven King County school districts, say a record 96 percent of eligible eighth-graders signed up for Washington's College Bound Scholarship this year.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle school officials will officially ask to move into a vacant, federally-owned building in the heart of the city, offering advocates for downtown interests a shot at something they've long sought: their own public school.

By a 5-to-2 vote, Seattle School Board members passed a resolution Wednesday night, authorizing the district's application to take over the 119,000-square foot building that, for decades, housed the Seattle branch office of the Federal Reserve Bank, located on Second Avenue between Spring and Madison streets.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Supporters of a statewide ballot initiative directing Washington lawmakers to provide enough funding to drastically decrease K-12 class sizes are confident they've gathered enough signatures to send their measure to voters in November.

More than 320,000 people have signed petitions to put Initiative 1351 on the ballot this fall, Class Size Counts campaign manager Mary Howes said Monday. The number is well over the required 246,000 valid signatures, which must be turned into the secretary of state's office by Thursday. 

Courtesy of George Wing.

When voters approved Initiative 502, one part of the law that appealed to parents was that recreational marijuana would only be available to people 21 and older.

What many parents don’t realize is that it’s possible for a healthy teenager, with the help of an unethical medical provider, to obtain authorization for medical marijuana, which then gives them access to hundreds of dispensaries in the Seattle area. 

Meanwhile, Seattle Public Schools officials say marijuana use by students is on the rise, and students say it is easier to get than alcohol. Where is the supply coming from? Parents and school officials suspect medical marijuana dispensaries. 

Photo courtesy of Mayor Ed Murray's Office

The idea of pitting two questions about early childhood education against each other on the November ballot doesn't appeal to Laura Chandler.

"I don't like it, I wish it wasn't like that," said Chandler, a teacher at Small Faces Child Development Center. She supports a union-backed initiative to create a broader training program and raise wages for childcare workers.

But Sattl1e Mayor Ed Murray officially sent a second question to the ballot Friday, signing off on the Seattle City Council's plan asking for voters' approval of a $58 million property tax hike to pay for low- and middle-income kids to attend preschool.

Flickr / Education, Labor & Workforce Committee Democrats

More than 150 skeptics of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation protested in front of the philanthropy's Seattle headquarters on Thursday, objecting to the foundation's support of, among other things, the Common Core academic standards.

On the afternoon before that protest, a top Gates official told KPLU that the foundation has been open to teachers' concerns about the new standards.

Kyle Stokes

At first, Julianna Dauble balked at the idea of protesting against the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

"We've all gotten Gates money one way or another," said Dauble, a fifth-grade teacher in Renton. "I don't know a single teacher who has not gotten Gates money for computers, different grants, small schools initiatives — all the things he's done in the Seattle area, especially."

In fact, the Gates Foundation sends more money to K-12 education causes around the U.S. than any other philanthropy, and some teachers have come to regard that influence as a threat.

Kyle Stokes

Two proposals dealing with early childhood learning will appear on Seattle ballots this November, but only one can win.

That's the electoral scenario Seattle City Council members set up Monday with their vote to put a proposed preschool pilot program on the November ballot, formally asking voters to hike property taxes to join cities like Denver and Boston in funding an early childhood education program aimed at low-income families.

But voters will have to make a choice. They can approve either the pilot program or Initiative 107, a union-backed citizens' initiative that raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour for more than 4,000 childcare workers and creates a training program for early childhood educators. 

Wilfredo Lee / AP Photo

It's the kind of case that walks into the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center maybe once a week:

Imagine a single mother, trying to hold down multiple jobs to hold her family together, turning to a neighbor for help taking care of her kids while she works. But that neighbor ends up assaulting one of her children.

And then the neighbor "gives [the child] the message, 'If you tell anybody, I won't be able to help your family anymore, you'll be taken out of your home and your mom won't believe you,'" said King County Sexual Assault Resource Center's executive director Mary Ellen Stone.

Gabriel Spitzer

Seattle Public Schools Superintendent José Banda expects to leave his post before the end of July after being named the only finalist for a superintendent position in Sacramento, California.

The Sacramento City Unified School District's school board could confirm Banda's hire as soon as July 17.

Free College For All: Dream, Promise Or Fantasy?

Jun 19, 2014

"Free" is a word with a powerful appeal. And right now it's being tossed around a lot, followed by another word: "college."

A new nonprofit, Redeeming America's Promise, announced this week that it will seek federal support to make public colleges tuition-free. That effort is inspired by "Hope" and "Promise" programs like the one in Kalamazoo, Mich., which pays up to 100 percent of college tuition at state colleges and universities for graduates of the city's public high schools.

Charla Bear / KPLU

The Seattle City Council on Monday delayed a vote on a proposed preschool expansion plan following last week's announcement that a separate referendum had gained enough signatures to appear on the November ballot.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray asked the council to hold off and study how Initiative 107, a "potentially competing proposal," would impact the chances of the preschool pilot program city leaders had also hoped to put before voters in the next general election.

Eric Gay / AP Photo

Seattle City Council members appear ready to approve two preschool-related ballot items for this November's ballot. 

The council will likely vote at its Monday meeting to ask Seattle voters to approve a package Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess has been pushing for the past year: a preschool pilot program funded by a four-year, $58 million property tax hike.

But council members will also likely certify that a separate, union-backed initiative has received enough signatures to go to the voters. If approved, Initiative 107 would hike the minimum wage to $15 an hour for more than 4,000 childcare workers and create a training program for early childhood educators.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

A frustrated Washington Supreme Court appears ready to hold state officials in contempt.

The high court late Thursday ordered the “state” to appear at a hearing in September to address the lack of a plan to fully fund basic education.

Judy Baxter / Flickr

Seattle School Board members bucked the advice of a district-led group charged with picking a new math textbook for the district's 27,000 elementary students, choosing instead, by a 4-3 vote Wednesday night, to formally pick a different set of materials.

But Seattle Public Schools staff estimates the move will come at a cost, nearly doubling the purchase price for the textbooks and the additional teacher training that comes with them.

AP Photo

Most Seattle elementary students will likely be using new math textbooks next year, and if a few members of the school board have their way, they might not all be the same textbooks.

Seattle School Board members will vote Wednesday on whether to allow school principals to decide between two sets of math textbooks, worksheets and materials rather than mandate which one to use.

When she was much younger, Tacoma high school senior Lauren Budd had no trouble convincing her parents to start recycling. But more recently, swaying them to eco-friendly light bulbs was another story.

"No, it costs too much," Budd, 17, remembered her parents saying. "And I'm like, 'It won't, in the end for, like, our power bill.'"

Budd doesn't always win with her parents, who still throw away a soft drink can on occasion, but it's clear she's not the only teen to grasp the importance of these small, cross-generational battles.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

With summer approaching, families who rely on school lunches have to make plans for how to fill the gap. United States Sen. Patty Murray says the answer is to subsidize their grocery shopping.

There’s already a big federal program – the Summer Food Service Program – to serve lunches to kids who qualify for food subsidies. Speaking at a Central Area elementary school, Washington's senior senator said those programs can be hard to access, as families have to bring their kids to designated locations during certain hours. Her office said just 10 percent of Washington children participated in 2012.

Sen. Murray wants to put a debit card in the hands of each of those families that they can use to buy food, much as one would use food stamps.

rafael-castillo / Flickr

Another 1,300 children will pack into already-crowded Seattle Public Schools next year as the district rides a wave of population growth that, if trends hold, could swell enrollment to more than 60,000 students by the end of the decade.

Projections district administrators released Tuesday show enrollment growing to more than 52,300 students next school year — an increase of more than 7,000 students from seven years ago, when enrollment bottomed-out after a decade of decline.

Cliff Owen / AP Photo

Most Seattle parents put their kids in preschool, but only one-third of the city's children attend full time and — according to results of a citywide survey of 1,300 parents released Tuesday — black and Latino families especially struggle to afford pre-K services. 

The results of the city-commissioned poll come less than a week before City Council members get their first look at legislation that would place a four-year, $58 million property tax question before voters this November that would eventually fund 2,000 pre-K slots in the city if approved.

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