Youth & Education

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

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Three-year-old Kai Semke has all the trappings of a future soccer star: speed, stamina, awesome shorts — and as if that weren't enough, he boasts, "My feet are super-hard, and I kick it super-hard." (Competitors, take note.)

With not much yard at his family's Wallingford home, though, Kai normally lacks a regular space to have a kick. But that's not the case this summer.

Neighbors shut down a residential street a short distance from Kai's home as part of a new city initiative, turning a block of North 39th Street into a temporary soccer pitch — or basketball court, or scooter racetrack, or general public play space — one evening every week this summer.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Amid a fresh wave of public frustration over Seattle Public Schools' response to a 2012 incident on a Garfield High School trip, district officials outlined a plan for addressing future allegations of sexual violence against students.

The parents of a former Garfield High School student say district administrators failed in their legal duty to investigate their daughter's allegations that a fellow student sexually assaulted her during the school trip two years ago.

But at Wednesday's school board meeting, as a dozen protesters decried the district's handling of the case, interim superintendent Larry Nyland pledged the district would do better. He said district officials have undergone new training and implemented new procedures for handling "critical incidents."

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

A union-backed advocacy group for Seattle childcare workers has appealed a lower court ruling that pits a voter initiative the group favors, Initiative 107, against a city-endorsed pre-kindergarten proposal on the November ballot.

The advocacy group, Yes for Early Success, asked the state Court of Appeals to review a King County judge's decision that states Seattle voters cannot cast votes in favor of both I-107 and the city's proposed preschool plan.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Come November, voters can choose one or neither of the two ballot measures that deal with childcare — but not both, according to a King County judge's ruling.

Judge Helen Halpert on Friday shot down a legal challenge designed to allow Seattle voters a chance to approve both measures, namely a pilot program to fund low-income kids' preschool tuition and a minimum wage hike for the city's more than 4,000 childcare workers.

Jessica Hall / AP Photo

Just days before he died in the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, 6-year-old Jesse Lewis scrawled three words in a first-grader's uncertain hand on the family's kitchen chalkboard: "nurturing, healing, love."

"Those three words were, of course, phonetically spelled," his mother Scarlett Lewis remembered, "because he was in first grade, just learning to write."

Why her son wrote those words at all remains a mystery to Lewis. But since his death, Lewis has dedicated herself to instilling "nurturing," "healing" and "loving" practices in American schools — a mindset she believes would've stopped 20-year-old Adam Lanza from shooting and killing 26 students and staff members, including her son, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Five small colleges across the Pacific Northwest are attempting to find ways to work together on projects they might not be able to pull off on their own.

The schools' most recent stab at collaboration: a food systems course that sent a class of college students traveling hundreds of miles across the region, tracing the region's food chain from its beginning — the fields and orchards of eastern Washington — to its very, very end.

The students' environment changes day to day. After watching combines comb wheat from an industrial-sized farm field in the Palouse the week before, 10 students from three of the colleges took their summer study of agriculture and food systems to the waste treatment plant in Tacoma that turns the city's biosolid waste into soils for lawns and gardens last Tuesday.

Ashley Gross

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is pushing a plan to give parents a bigger tax credit for child care expenses. The high-ranking Democrat and former preschool teacher dropped in at a downtown Seattle daycare center Thursday to publicize the legislation, called the Helping Working Families Afford Child Care Act.

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.