skip navigation
Support KUOW

Schools are struggling to meet the complex needs of an increasingly impoverished student body with less funding from shrinking budgets. Photo by Phil Roeder.

Paramount Duty: K–12 Education And The Recession

From KUOW Reporter Phyllis Fletcher:

I have covered education for KUOW for seven years. The recession has meant that I have done repeated stories on poverty and budget cuts. This year, the Washington State Legislature cut funding to school districts in the middle of the school year, taking back money districts had already budgeted. The new state budget has given districts a grim outlook for the next two years.

Meanwhile, school districts are increasingly serving poor children. Families have fallen into poverty as a result of the mortgage crisis and the loss of jobs. The Puget Sound region continues to attract refugees and other immigrants, some of whom are using pencils for the first time. Families living on the edge have slipped into homelessness. Federal law says schools must serve all these children and improve in serving them each year, or risk losing everything — including control of their schools.

And the Washington State Constitution says the education of all children is the state's "paramount duty." A trial court has agreed with school districts that the state is not fulfilling that duty. The state Supreme Court will hear the state's appeal of that decision this month.

In "Paramount Duty," I report on how the recession has affected children, parents, teachers and school districts. I produced this series with assistance from Mike Babb and Anita Rocha from the UW Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology; Shannon Harper of the West Coast Poverty Center; Doug Haddix of Investigative Reporters and Editors; and NPR's Hansi Lo Wang.

Christina Salas of Washington Elementary in Auburn poses with granola bars she got at school from the Food to Go program. Photo by Phyllis Fletcher.

Auburn School Helps Kids Eat On The Weekend

Monday, June 20, 2011

Federal census estimates show unemployment in Auburn quadrupled during the recession. Schools have partnered with donors to give poor students food for the weekend.

Listen to this story spacer Jacob was homeless for more than two years.  Now he's in technical school and high school in Mount Vernon. Photo by Phyllis Fletcher.

Homeless In Mount Vernon

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The number of homeless students in Mount Vernon nearly quadrupled during the recession. School districts help those students, but usually get no money for it.

Listen to this story spacer Teacher Kelly Davidson coaches a student in the after–school program at Seahurst Elementary in Burien. Photo by Phyllis Fletcher.

Staying After School

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Two Highline teachers saw students in their high–poverty school falling behind, so they volunteered their time to catch them up, and it worked.

Listen to this story spacer Blitz the Seahawk poses with REI CEO Sally Jewell and Superintendent of Renton Schools Mary Alice Heuschel at a fundraising event.

The Ask

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Superintendents and school board members advocate for their students in Olympia, and with local businesses. In a recession, it can be a tough sell.

Listen to this story spacer