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Student led SPI candidate forum

Photo courtesy League of Women Voters

Students to lead forum with SPI candidates

League of Education Voters event aims to give kids a voice

Who is most impacted by the election of a new Washington Superintendent of Public Schools? 

Students.

That’s why the Seattle-based advocacy organization League of Education Voters (LEV) is hosting a special online candidate forum in July—one that will be led by students.

The “Our Voices: A Student-Led Virtual Candidate Forum for the Next Superintendent of Washington State Schools,” an online discussion, will be held July 9 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. It will bring together students and the three leading candidates for the office: David Olson, incumbent Superintendent Chris Reykdal, and Reid Saaris.

League CEO Ari Korman says the forum is a “platform to center student voices, experiences, and priorities and help shape the future of education from student perspectives.”

“Students have an important voice in shaping the education system since they are the end users,” says Korman, adding that LEVE is committed to working with students—especially Black, Indigenous, and students of color, students with disabilities, students gaining English proficiency, students who identify as LGBTQ+, students experiencing homelessness, foster youth, and other historically marginalized students—to identify barriers and solutions to school success.

“We support them in organizing to advocate for their future,” he “The July 9 candidate forum embodies this work.”

Bringing student voices forward 

Korman said LEV worked with a team of students from across the state to develop the event and create an experience that brings together students’ diverse perspectives and innovative ideas for the future. Korman hopes the conversation with Reykdal, Reid, and Olso will ignite conversations about the future of learning in our state among students and between students, parents, educators, and policymakers.

“Students are our society’s future, which is why we must center them in our work,” Korman says. LEV sought to do that in a variety of advocacy and education efforts. For example, students participate as panelists in nearly every Lunchtime LEVinars, the organization’s popular webinars that educate and update the public about issues impacting Washington’s public education system. LEV also works with young people through its  Student Potential Youth Advisory Council (SPYAC) through the statewide Investing in Student Potential coalition. The group will host a Youth Advocacy Summit on October 26 at the Renton Pavilion and Events Center.

Issues facing Washington public schools

The state’s education system has faced challenges for years, with many districts underfunded and some, including Seattle Public Schools which is expected to close a number of elementary schools next year, reporting to drastic measures to balance budgets. According to the 2024 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report that analyzes how kids are doing in post-pandemic America, the state ranks 14th in the U.S. when it comes to kids’ overall well-being but in the bottom half of states (26th) in educational outcomes, particularly in math and reading.

Further, between 2018 and 2022, Washington lagged behind the national average in early childhood education, with 57% of children ages 3 and 4 not enrolled in school, compared to the national figure of 54%. High school graduation rates also present a concern, with 18% of Washington high schoolers failing to graduate on time in 2020-2021, exceeding the national rate by 4%. Check out our article “KIDS COUNT 2024: WA must do better for kids” for more on the report.

Korman says other issues likely to be on the minds of youth forum participants include support for youth mental and behavioral health, inclusive curriculum, education justice and equity, and public health issues like opioid use and gun safety.

Get your student involved with LEV

Have a student in the house interested in what’s happening in public schools and how they can participate in creating a world that represents them? Check out LEV’s Youth Advocacy Hub, which is dedicated to giving students a voice in creating education legislation and policies. The organization invites young people to develop blog posts, op-eds, video essays, or other advocacy pieces showcasing their opinions as part of its Youth Education Advocacy. Series. To participate, call (206) 728-6448.  

July 9 forum details

Live Spanish interpretation and closed captioning in English will be available during the student-led candidate forum, which will be a Zoom forum. Not able to join the virtual candidate forum in real-time? Register anyway to receive a link to the recording. If you wish to submit a question in advance, email arik@educationvoters.org. The event is free and hosted in collaboration with the Association of Washington Student Leaders. Register online.

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