The Cradle Through College Coalition wants policymakers to think of the education system as not just kindergarten through 12th grade, but also early learning and college.
A coalition of nearly 200 school districts, higher-education institutions and other organizations is urging state lawmakers to focus on early learning and college as well as K-12 education in the upcoming legislative session.
The Cradle Through College Coalition’s call to the Legislature comes on the eve of its 2017 session, when lawmakers plan to continue their ongoing debate over how to fully fund basic education. They’re facing a 2018 deadline set in the 2012 McCleary decision. State lawmakers must also come up with the state’s 2017-19 operating budget.
The coalition recommends that policymakers recognize education as a continuum, rather than pitting different sectors, like early learning or higher education, against each other in competition for funding. To highlight both ends of that continuum, the coalition says the Legislature should fund an expansion of the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program and fully fund the State Need Grant, a financial-aid program.
“Children’s needs are whole,” said Jon Gould, Children’s Alliance deputy director and coalition co-chair, at a recent Education Results Network meeting. “Our response needs to be whole as well.”
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The coalition also wants more funding and a review of the current funding system, which the group says doesn’t sufficiently consider poverty when calculating how much money goes to each district.
It also calls for ending the current system of using local levies to fund basic education, which is what the McCleary decision says, too. Using property-tax levies, school districts pay a portion of teacher salaries, which the coalition says penalizes poor and rural districts that have low property-tax bases. Under Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget plan, released Tuesday, local school tax levies would go down in 119 of the state’s 295 school districts.
Launched in 2014, the coalition started with about 40 groups and has grown to include nearly 200. Members include the Highline, Federal Way, Renton, Tukwila, Auburn and Kent school districts, the University of Washington, the Seattle Colleges and the League of Education Voters.