Youth & Education

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

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.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Here's a bitter pill preschool teachers must often swallow: they could probably make more money by teaching kids who are just one year older.

The average Washington state preschool instructor makes $28,400 annually — half of what he or she could earn teaching kindergarten. In public school settings, a kindergarten teacher takes home $53,800 every year to a pre-K teacher's $44,700. It makes it harder to lure the best teachers into preschool jobs, or keep them beyond their first few often-rocky years in the classroom.

"I think early childhood is often more attractive than the higher grades for many [teachers], and the pay is so low it still keeps them away," said Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Eric Gay / AP Photo


"Lattés cost more," said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray of the property tax hike homeowners would see on their monthly bills if voters approve his proposal to expand the city's preschool services.

Under the proposed four-year, $58 billion tax hike, Murray says the average Seattle homeowner would pay an extra $3.60 in property taxes each month to fund a pilot project serving 2,000 mostly low-income preschool-age kids.

City leaders hope the program will eventually serve even some middle-class preschoolers in the future. But that will cost more money, and Murray isn't clear yet on from where that funding will come.

Eric Gay / AP Photo

Some children have never held a pencil or a pair of scissors when they start the year in teacher DaZanne Davis Porter's kindergarten class.

They enter her classroom at Seattle's Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary at the beginning of the year and "cannot recognize any letters, any colors, any numbers, any shapes," Davis Porter said. "By the end of the year, they are [expected] to be reading."

"When you're starting the journey behind," she asked, "do they ever catch up?"

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

If Seattle voters approve a property tax hike to expand preschool access, the program would start small, paying for a handful of providers to teach a little more than a dozen classrooms of students in its first year.

How will the city choose those few providers? Those teaching preschool kids in multiple languages have a better chance of getting picked.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has proposed a property tax levy to increase low-income children's access to preschool.

Murray is asking voters to approve a four-year, $58 million property tax hike to enroll 2,000 children in 100 classrooms by the year 2018. The plan would cost the average homeowner $43.36 per year, or $3.61 per month, the mayor said.

"I believe that giving all of our children a fair and equal chance to thrive in school, to live productive and prosperous lives, is, again, the most important thing I will ever do as mayor, and it's the most important thing my fellow council members will do as council members," Murray said during a Thursday press conference. 

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Rainier Beach High School senior Puja Niroula hopes to study science in college. But she's still a bit squeamish when it comes to netting tiny bugs from a creek bed in Olympic National Forest.

"I wonder if this is poisonous. Do you think so?" Niroula, 18, asked another student with more than a hint of trepidation as she picked larval mayflies from the net.

Niroula and 25 other biology students from the south Seattle school are spending this week conducting experiments on a fast-changing ecosystem at the heart of one of the century's most significant environmental projects: the Elwha River.

Seth Wenig / AP Photo

The number of preschoolers enrolled in state-funded early childhood education programs is dropping nationally. A national study released Tuesday shows that Northwest states are holding steady in terms of overall enrollment but continue to rank near the bottom in some key areas.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Washington may be the only state to lose control over millions in federal education funding over its failure to pass a new teacher evaluation system, at least in the near future. 

Less than a month after Washington state became the first state to lose its waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act, the feds are showing leniency to other states, according to a report by Education Week. Those states passed laws creating teacher evaluation systems that they're now struggling to implement. 

But state officials say that leniency will not extend as far as Washington, which failed to pass a similar law.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

The school day at Seattle's Rainier Beach High School is about to get longer and the curriculum, some staff say, is about to get a lot more rigorous.

Rainier Beach is one of 13 Washington schools state officials selected Thursday to receive a share of a $24 million grant over the next three years — money federal officials earmarked for helping schools with some of the state's lowest test scores and graduation rates.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

If the state's recent loss of its waiver from the No Child Left Behind law means the feds will label almost every Washington school as "failing," which schools are actually struggling enough to receive formal help?

Washington's top elected school official answered that question Tuesday, releasing lists of more than 280 struggling schools — more than twice as many as last year — that will receive $11 million worth of help in the form of state-aided planning and teacher training.

Eric E Castro / Flickr

Parents and teachers of a student who's been expelled from a Washington school will likely have to meet together before the student is allowed to attend classes again, according to new state rules up for public review Monday.

"You would think it was happening before, but it absolutely wasn't happening before," said Linda Mangel, education policy director for the ACLU of Washington, who noted the new guideline comes as part of a change in state law.

Washington State University

Washington State University and the University of Idaho are among the schools under investigation over their handling of sexual assault cases.

Ted S. Warren / AP File Photo

A lawyer who argued a landmark education funding case before the Washington Supreme Court says state lawmakers are still dragging their feet in meeting the mandate justices set out: develop, by this week, a "complete plan" to pump billions of new dollars into the state's public schools.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

State lawmakers aiming to meet an April 30 deadline from the state Supreme Court have delivered a report detailing its efforts to increase school funding from levels that justices have ruled are inadequate.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

When federal education officials revoked Washington state's waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act, they hung a cloud of uncertainty over the early childhood education programs Tacoma School District offers.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Five-year-old Serenity Johnson has been eager to start preschool since she was 2½ years old.

"She said 'Mommy, I want to go to school,'" her mother, Shantia Johnson, said. "I said, 'You can't go to school until preschool, and we have to pay for preschool. ‘So I needed to find a preschool we didn't have to pay for."

Washington state's waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), a controversial federal education law, helped Serenity get exactly what she wanted. The waiver freed up federal money Tacoma Public Schools officials used to expand its publicly-funded preschool programs to Stafford Elementary, the Johnsons' home school.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pulled Washington state's waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act on Thursday, making it the first state to lose flexibility from the outdated law.

The move revokes Washington school districts' flexibility in spending nearly $40 million in federal funding tied to the law, and replaces many of the 2001 law's most stringent rules designed to hold schools accountable for students' test scores.

"Today’s news from Secretary Duncan is disappointing but not unexpected," Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. "I hope districts will work to mitigate impacts on students. I know that despite this setback Washington teachers remain fully committed to serving our students."

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Washington's top elected school official is urging state lawmakers to think bigger as they craft a court-ordered plan to increase education funding for the state's K-12 schools.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn this week unveiled a plan to increase education funding by $6.7 billion by the 2017-2018 school year. That's nearly twice as much as the amount state legislative analysts estimate is needed to comply with the landmark McCleary decision. In the 2012 case, the state Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to fully fund K-12 schools by 2018. 

AP Photo

Disclosure: Pacific Lutheran University holds the license for KPLU.

Pacific Lutheran University will soon become the first Northwest college to offer a course of study in the Holocaust and other genocides.

The school will allow students to begin pursuing a minor in Holocaust and genocide studies starting next fall, says PLU professor and historian Bob Ericksen.

Kraemer Family Library / Flickr

Two women in Washington have raised enough money to send 350 copies of a controversial book by Sherman Alexie to students in Meridian, Idaho. 

The move is in reaction to the Meridian School Board's decision to suspend use of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" after parents complained about profanity and sexual content in the novel.


Washington state's senior U.S. senator is hoping to revive a push for federal anti-bullying laws aimed at preventing harassment of college students based on their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. But critics say such laws would impede on the students' First Amendment rights.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., visited the University of Washington campus Thursday to promote a bill she introduced in the Senate late last month. The measure would require any university receiving federal funds to adopt policies barring "severe, persistent or pervasive" harassment against its students.

"If ... you want to keep those federal funds, you will have an anti-bullying policy," Murray said during her visit.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

High school junior Marcus Hollman wants a job — "something to get me into the job market," he says. But he keeps running into the same words like a brick wall: "professional experience required."

"There are very few employers ready to accept someone with no previous experience," said Hollman, a student at Harrison Preparatory Academy, after attending a youth-oriented job fair in Tacoma on Tuesday.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

The night before Seattle's biggest competition of the year for the city's young slam poets, Koha Farr was understandably anxious.

"Ridiculously nervous," the 19-year-old competitive slam poet admitted after his Thursday evening practice. "But I'm ready. I'm ready for tomorrow."

Farr is performing at Town Hall Seattle in Friday night's "Grand Slam," in which teens who've qualified for this final competition will vie for a chance to represent the city at a national slam poetry festival.