The League of Education Voters has been working for nearly 15 years to improve public education in Washington state. We work with policymakers, coalitions, partner organizations, and thought leaders. We research and propose education policy and see it through to its implementation. We have pictures on the wall of some of our successes—passing discipline legislation, the Washington Dream Act, updated high school graduation requirements, early learning legislation, and so on.
We’re proud of our work. But it’s easy to forget during some of our high-level conversations with policymakers and political leaders that all of our successes began with a conversation.
We began focusing on school discipline because of our conversations in the community. We heard from the parents on the ground—especially in south Seattle—about how punitive and disproportionate discipline practices were and how it was harming their children and their families. We heard from parents across the state about how their children were graduating from high school—sometimes with the highest honors—only to learn upon attending college that they were not prepared for college-level work and needed remediation.
When I asked Kelly Munn, our State Field Director, why she feels organizing and advocacy is important for our work, she says it can be summed up in the famous Maya Angelou quote: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Ensuring that our communities’ priorities are at the forefront of our organization’s priorities is as simple as asking them before doing anything else, keeping them involved during the priority process, and giving them an opportunity to talk directly to our policymakers about their experiences.