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Youth & Education

Stories and features about education in the Pacific Northwest. Including stories from Washington state and the United States. 

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Ashley Gross / KNKX

The new superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, Denise Juneau, has been holding meetings around the city to hear from parents, students and community members. She met with Somali families Friday evening in the Rainier Valley neighborhood.

She said the input she’s gathering is important as she gets to know the school district and prioritizes issues to tackle.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

(Updated at 7:47 am on Sept. 22, 2018, to correct to say the district has "curtailed" central administration hiring instead of "stopped," and to add comments from Superintendent Denise Juneau.)

Seattle Public Schools is facing an unexpected drop in enrollment, and the Highline and Bellevue school districts also said the number of students enrolled this school year is below their earlier projections.

The Kent School Board said it plans to hire an independent auditor to examine the district's financial transactions for the past six school years, a move the board announced in a letter to two parents who had filed complaints.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

This story was updated at 4:24 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, to reflect that teachers have approved a salary agreement.

A bitter labor dispute that delayed the start of school in Tacoma by more than a week  has now come to an end.

The Tacoma Education Association, which represents more than 2,400 teachers, librarians, office professionals and other school staff, has approved an agreement with the school district over salaries. 

UW Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine

Around the country, schools are placing a lot of emphasis on STEM education  -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics. W.F. West High School in Chehalis is part of that trend, to an impreesive degree.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

The strike by teachers in Tacoma has gotten increasingly bitter as it’s stretched into a second week. One long-time middle school teacher tearfully announced her resignation in a short video clip posted by a USA Today correspondent on Twitter.

As teachers in a record number of Washington school districts strike this week, a top official with their union says the unwillingness of superintendents and school boards to negotiate higher pay raises for teachers is a crime. 

"It's wage theft," said Stephen Miller, vice president of the Washington Education Association (WEA), Thursday in an interview on TVW's "Inside Olympia" program. "They are taking wages away from public employees."

Ashley Gross / KNKX

Across the state, there are a lot of kids who struggle with reading. Almost half of third-graders failed to pass the state assessment for English language arts.

That's an important time in school because research has shown that students who struggle with reading at the end of third grade are less likely to graduate from high school.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

Teacher strikes in Puyallup and Tukwila have ended after union members ratified contract agreements with their school districts. In Seattle, teachers and other school staff voted to accept a one-year contract that includes an average raise of 10.5 percent.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

(Updated at 4:00 pm on Sept. 6, 2018, to add comments from Evelyn Cook, a middle school teacher in Tacoma, and Tacoma Public Schools spokesman Dan Voelpel.)

The first day of school in Tacoma was canceled on Thursday because teachers and other school staff in the state’s fourth-biggest district went on strike.

That comes after the district and the Tacoma Education Association failed to reach an agreement over salary increases for the coming school year. Members of the union voted by about 97 percent to authorize a strike Tuesday evening.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

School was supposed to start in Puyallup and Tukwila Wednesday, but teachers have gone on strike after failing to reach contract agreements.

The Washington Education Association said almost 6,000 educators are on strike in nine Western Washington school districts, including in Centralia and Tumwater.

Tacoma faces a possible strike as well, after more than 2,000 educators voted to authorize a strike if no deal is reached by Thursday.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

The Supreme Court dealt a blow to public-sector unions earlier this summer when it ruled in the Janus case that government employees no longer have to pay fees to their unions.

But labor experts say the high level of teacher bargaining in Washington state right now may help unions avoid some of the negative impacts from that case.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

School in Seattle will start on time after the union that represents about 6,000 teachers and other school staff reached a tentative contract agreement with the state's largest school district, averting a strike.

That will come as welcome news to families who were starting to try to make alternate plans as concerns mounted that members of the Seattle Education Association would walk out. They had taken a strike authorization vote on Tuesday, but the district and the union continued bargaining since then before announcing Friday evening that they had struck a deal. 

Ashley Gross / KNKX

Schools in Kent started on time this week after teachers approved a last-minute contract agreement. But the contentious negotiations left many union members feeling frustrated and they’ve voted on a resolution requesting that two school board directors resign.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

It was a hot August morning – the height of summer vacation – but two classrooms at Edison Elementary in Centralia were abuzz with activity.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Both the Seattle and Tacoma school districts have said they face future budget shortfalls because the state has set limits on local tax levies. But state Sen. John Braun, a key Republican lawmaker who helped craft the state’s education funding system, defends the levy cap.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

 (Updated at 10:43 am on Aug. 29, 2018, to add that the Tacoma Education Association says the raise the district is offering is 0.6 percent above what's in the current contract.)

Just a day before school is set to start in Kent, the Kent Education Association said on Facebook it has reached a tentative agreement with the school district.

The teachers' union had been at odds with district administration and said the district was trying to use money from the state intended for teacher salaries to plug budget holes. 

Ashley Gross / KNKX

Seattle teachers will take a strike authorization vote Tuesday afternoon after failing to reach a tentative contract agreement with the school district. Teachers in other districts in the Puget Sound region, including Stanwood-Camano and Kent, have already voted to authorize strikes.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

This is a busy week at the bargaining table for school districts and teachers’ unions. They’re contending with the state’s new education funding system, which one expert says has created some new inequities.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

The Kent School Board is preparing to vote Wednesday on a controversial extension of the superintendent’s contract that adds language on conflicts of interest and outside consulting work.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

Researchers at the University of Washington are gearing up for another year of investigating whether robots can be used to measure stress levels in teens.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

Teachers’ unions across the state are pushing for salary increases after lawmakers approved another $1 billion for public education earlier this year. In Seattle, hundreds of educators rallied outside school district headquarters Wednesday.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

This story is the second in a two-part series about school districts and education technology. You can find the first part here

(Updated at 6:35 a.m. on Aug. 15, 2018 to add that Steve Kupfer said he’s never been affiliated with ERDI.)

Teachers’ unions are scrutinizing school district budgets right now as they bargain for pay increases. Salaries make up the bulk of public education budgets, but districts also make significant technology purchases.

In the Kent School District, some parents are upset about the sole-source purchase of budgeting software that they say exacerbated the district’s budget mess.

Joe Mabel / Flickr

The University of Washington ranks among the top universities in the country in international student enrollment. Now the university is working to inform its 8,900 international students about a recent policy change by the Trump administration with big potential consequences.

screenshot of ERDI web site

 (Updated at 10:55 am on Aug. 17, 2018, to clarify that the Kent School District has a policy requiring that employees inform their supervisors in writing of potential conflicts of interest.)

As fall approaches, families are starting to shop for school supplies including notebooks and markers. But increasingly, the work of school is done digitally – from online homework apps to web portals for accessing grades.

District superintendents play an important role in deciding what software to buy, and because of that, education technology companies look for ways to get their attention.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The long-running McCleary lawsuit is over now that the state Legislature approved big changes in how the state funds public education. But school districts and teachers’ unions across the state are now trying to figure out what that means for salaries.

Scott A. Miller / AP Images for National Council on Aging and Sanofi Pasteur

Across the state, school district officials are meeting at the bargaining table with teachers’ unions. In Seattle, teachers who work as substitutes said they’ve been largely shut out of the district’s health insurance plan and they’re pushing to have better health coverage included in the new contract.

Sy Bean for the Hechinger Report

Washington schools may get a boost in funding for career and technical education classes. That’s because Congress has voted to reauthorize the Perkins Act, which spells out gradual increases in federal dollars for vocational education through the year 2024. 

Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo

Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray has come out strongly against a proposed rule from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that addresses debt relief for students defrauded by colleges. Murray said it tilts too far in favor of schools, especially for-profit colleges, and would leave students in financial jeopardy.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

The number of visas issued to international students who want to study in the United States has dropped for two straight years. That’s hurt colleges that have helped mitigate declines in domestic student enrollment by recruiting abroad, including some community colleges in the Puget Sound region.