Hunger. Health. Home. Heart.
My friend Heather is the Principal of an elementary charter school in Bridgeport, CT. She has dedicated her career to closing the educational achievement gap. Over the last decade she has worked with some of the hardest to serve young people in New York and Connecticut. She knows that her school can help break the cycle of poverty by giving young scholars a pathway to college and career. She hires the most talented professionals, uses cutting edge research to inform academic plans, and spends vacations diving into spreadsheets to see which students are making academic progress and which interventions are having the best results. Her young Meerkats (quite the school mascot) have long school days, rigorous academics, and top-notch tecahers.
But Heather knows that what happens inside the classroom isn't enough.
She knows that....
This Annie E. Casey Foundation just released their 25th annual Kids Count Data Book. The report ranks states on overall child well-being in four areas: (1) economic well-being, (2) education, (3) health, and (4) family and community. Connecticut ranks 7th. Washington ranks 18th. The report is evidence of what Heather knows: the effects of poverty are holding our kids back - "growing up in poverty is one of the greatest threats to healthy child development". Education is key to breaking the cycle of poverty but learning doesn't happen in a silo. In order for kids to thrive we must make sure we make address their basic needs - Health. Hunger. Home. Heart.
Here in Washington, our state legislature must find billions of dollars over the next few years to fund basic education as a result of the McCleary decision. This is necessary and good for kids. But the money will need to come from somewhere and without new revenue, the likely options aren't pretty. State Agencies are preparing for the worst by submitting 15% spending reduction plans. While this exercise may be extreme - it illustrates the struggle of fund sources and agencies operating in isolation. With one in four Washington kids struggling with hunger and 30,000 WA kids facing homelessness we need MORE resources to go into supporting the whole child.
Pouring money into classrooms and schools kids won't work if kids are hungry, homeless, unhealthy, or lack social supports. WA we can do better. We must do better to close the opportunity gap and give all kids a chance to thrive.