Closing the opportunity gap by improving student achievement so that every child is career and college ready
Public education is the foundation of the middle class, the paramount duty of the state, and the ladder to opportunity for all Washington’s children.
Democrats have championed significant improvements to education in Washington state, and will keep pushing to ensure that every student receives a quality education.
We have passed into law reforms that, if properly funded, would represent a leap forward in the quality of the education of all our children. They would help close the opportunity gap that has kept the door to the middle class closed for far too many low-income and minority families.
Taking this step is an urgent matter. The State Supreme Court has stated clearly the Legislature’s constitutional obligation is to provide the opportunity to access a good education to every Washington child. And the court has been equally clear that the reforms already in law will do just that, if those reforms are implemented and funded.
More importantly, our future is at stake.
The middle class is shrinking and poverty is on the rise. Since 2005, child poverty in Washington has increased by 27 percent. Median income for white families in this state has grown, but has declined for American Indian, Pacific Island, Black and Hispanic families.
Meanwhile, the Great Recession has taken $3.5 billion from our schools. Middle class children and low-income families have been hurt the most from the overall disinvestment from education. We owe them a refund.
This is important for every community in our state, and for every student, because they must compete in the global economy of the 21st Century.
Yet, Washington is one of just nine states with a growing opportunity gap. It would take 105 years to close it at the current rate of progress. We need to reverse course and reinvest in our kids and reinvest in strengthening and growing the middle class in every community.
Senate Democrats believe that, as a matter of fundamental fairness, we need to focus on closing the opportunity gap – now more than ever.
The reality is, only 48 percent of children born into poverty are ready for school by the time they start. As median income has fallen for families of color in Washington, so has
- the performance of 4th graders in every ethnic category in meeting the reading standard,
- the performance of American Indian and Pacific Island students in meeting the 8th grade math standard, and
- the graduation rate of American Indian and Pacific Island students.
The situation is clear: We have a moral and constitutional obligation to move forward on education. We must implement and fund the reforms already in law, while continuing our efforts to improve the instruction every student receives.