Our students and families need our help.
We have all been living through a pandemic — one that has laid bare vast inequities in our education system and disrupted young people’s education all across Washington state.
There are options that students and families can access for support, but only if they know about them and can access them. Recovery services are available to students to address gaps in learning due to school closures and remote learning. Additionally, compensatory education services are available to address the lack of services and related supports offered for students with an Individualized Educational Program (IEP).
The reality is not all families are aware of the options they have available to make sure their child gets the services and supports they are entitled to receive. Families who understand the education system have access to advocates or attorneys, and have the time and resources, are more likely to access these recovery and compensatory education services and be successful as they navigate this new terrain.
Washington’s greatest asset is its young people — our future workforce, community members and neighbors. Every family and student should have equitable access to the supports they need to navigate this time, engage in their learning and reach their full human potential.
We already see troubling signs across districts. Many families are experiencing significant challenges in accessing their legal right to recovery services and compensatory education services for their student. These challenges indicate the profound difficulties we have in ensuring our systems work for students and families in an equitable and responsive way.
Thankfully, we have the Washington State Governor’s Office of the Education Ombuds (OEO). The OEO is a free resource for families, schools and community members. They listen to family concerns and provide support and resources to help them navigate the system and find a solution that works for the student and the family.
The OEO has long been under-resourced, all the while working to be responsive to families and schools who reach out to them and providing training and resources across the state. The difficulties caused by the pandemic and the return to in-person learning have tripled their call volume and left even more families without recourse to the challenges they are facing.
As state agencies look to invest federal funds from the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan, we call upon them to increase funding to the OEO to allow full access and support of every family who needs their help.
Students and families across Washington state need support today. Families should not be adrift without a critical way for them to find a solution that works for their students. How we allocate resources is also our state values statement. What receives funding communicates what is most highly valued.
Investing in the OEO will send a loud and clear message that every family and every student’s success matters. Washington state must decide to support the OEO meaningfully. If not, we must collectively accept the implications of that decision and take responsibility for the long-term negative impact on students’ and families’ lives.