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Statewide education coalition urges lawmakers to prioritize equity, close opportunity gaps

OLYMPIA – A coalition of more than 150 organizations, academic institutions, coalitions, elected officials and community members have published an open letter urging budget negotiators in Olympia to ensure the final budget deal includes measures that advance equity and close opportunity gaps to benefit all of Washington’s children. The letter appears in today’s Seattle Times.

Since launching in December, the statewide Cradle Through College Coalition has advocated for the Legislature to fund education from early learning through higher education, and address the holistic needs of children at each stage of their development. Members of the coalition include The Seattle Foundation, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Children’s Alliance, Thrive Washington, King County Executive Dow Constantine, the Seattle College system, University of Washington, Washington State University, Bellevue College, numerous South King County K-12 school districts, United Way of King County, Eastside Pathways, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound, Child Care Resources, Rural Alliance for College Success and Tacoma-Pierce County Growth Partnership.

“The importance of education – from cradle through college – is only increasing. By 2018, two-thirds of jobs in Washington state will require some form of postsecondary credential. Right now, we are not preparing all our students for success. The Legislature has a historic opportunity to make critical investments that will help all students and bolster Washington’s economic future. We urge them to do the right thing and support each step of the education continuum, from early learning through higher education,” said Dr. Jill Wakefield, chancellor of Seattle Colleges and a Cradle Through College Coalition member.

The open letter asks lawmakers to make sure the final budget includes the following:

  1. Fully fund the State Need Grant, the state’s primary financial aid program, and maintain strong support for the College Bound Scholarship. Last year, 33,500 low-income students qualified for state financial aid but did not receive a grant because funds were no longer available.
  2. Pass the Early Start Act with a 12-month Working Connections Child Care authorization to ensure children have access to a full year of quality care
  3. Ensure McCleary investments advance equity and close opportunity gaps. Ways to do this include:
    • Increase funding for the state’s school turnaround program, which helps very low-performing schools implement robust improvement strategies
    • Fund College in the High School and other college credit programs for high school students
    • Increase funding and maximize the impact of the Learning Assistance Program, which allows schools the flexibility to use funds in innovative ways to improve student outcomes and close opportunity gaps
    • Expand dual language programs, which strengthen parent engagement and student achievement
  4. Follow the state Supreme Court order and end the overreliance on local levies
  5. Invest in higher education operating costs to ensure tuition freezes or reductions do not result in hidden budget cuts

“Now is the time for lawmakers to invest in advancing equity, closing opportunity gaps and improving outcomes for all children,” said Tony Lee, chair of the Equity in Education Coalition and a founding Cradle Through College Coalition member.

The Cradle Through College Coalition believes it is time to break from “business as usual” and approach education funding as a whole system. The coalition is focused on ensuring that progress on the McCleary lawsuit be measured by our state’s ability to provide opportunity for every student, and that new investments must spur dramatic improvements in student achievement that close the unacceptable opportunity gaps for low-income students and students of color.

The coalition’s steering committee includes the Equity in Education Coalition, League of Education Voters, OneAmerica, Road Map Project and Rural Alliance for College Success. To see the full list of supporters and to learn more, please visit http://www.c2cCoalition.org.

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About the Cradle Through College Coalition steering committee members:

Equity in Education Coalition
The Equity in Education Coalition is a statewide coalition that is looking at a more targeted and comprehensive approach to improve educational achievement and growth as well as closing the opportunity and achievement gaps throughout the State of Washington. https://www.facebook.com/EECWA

League of Education Voters
The League of Education Voters (LEV) is a non-partisan, non-profit statewide organization working to improve public education from early learning through higher education with ample, equitable and stable resources. www.educationvoters.org

OneAmerica
OneAmerica, formerly Hate Free Zone, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that advances the fundamental principles of democracy and justice at the local, state and national levels by building power within immigrant communities in collaboration with key allies. OneAmerica envisions a peaceful world where every person’s human rights and dignity are respected, where communities appreciate differences and stand together for justice and equality and where each person contributes to the common good. https://weareoneamerica.org/

Road Map Project
The Road Map Project is a community-wide effort aimed at dramatically improving student achievement from cradle to college and career in South King County and South Seattle. The project builds off the belief that collective effort is necessary to make large-scale change and has created a common goal and shared vision in order to facilitate coordinated action, both inside and outside schools. The Road Map Project is supported by the Community Center for Education Results. For more information, please visit www.roadmapproject.org. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/roadmapproject and Twitter at @RoadMapProject.

Rural Alliance for College Success
The Rural Alliance for College Success is a partnership of rural school districts, higher education institutions and the college-readiness community in Eastern and Central Washington whose mission is to develop a comprehensive strategy to deliver college readiness, access and program completion for all students. www.ruralalliancewashington.org/