Kids Need More Than K-12 to Thrive
This week, over one million kids across Washington state are headed back to the classroom to begin another school year. Meanwhile, state lawmakers are headed back to court where they face contempt for lack of progress in fulfilling our constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education. It is a dramatic prelude to what will most definitely be a challenging budget year for policymakers. To make the best decisions for Washington state’s kids and our collective well-being in the future, it is imperative that policymakers recognize that the success of our kids depends on support both inside and outside the classroom.
For the nearly one in three (625,000) kids living in families that struggle to make ends meet in Washington state, the start of another school year presents a unique set of challenges. Kids that don’t have secure housing or adequate food find it difficult to perform well in school or attend on a regular basis. With unemployment still high, many of their parents lack stable employment, the stress of which can ripple throughout the family. In Washington state:
- Four of every 10 (39 percent) children are living in families that are struggling to cover the cost of housing. Last year over 30,000 kids in Washington’s public education system were homeless.
- One of every five children (20 percent) in our state live in households that have difficulty putting food on the table.
- Nearly one in three of kids (31 percent) have parents that are unable to find secure employment.
- Each of these indicators is far worse for children of color, who will represent the majority of school age children in the United States this year.
Research shows the impact of such adverse experiences can last a lifetime. In Washington state, lack of economic security is the number one adverse experience children face.
If we want to improve the educational outcomes for our kids, they need more than K-12. To be sure, a high quality K-12 education is essential for a child’s future success and is a basic right guaranteed to them under our state constitution. But resources outside the classroom are equally as important in setting them up for success in school and beyond. High quality early learning, access to affordable higher education, supports for parents trying to make ends meet while seeking employment, and health and human services that provide stability for children are critical investments for our kids, communities, and economy.
Some policymakers think our state can’t afford to make these investments in our children and families. We know the opposite is true - we can’t afford not to.
So, as students walk into their classrooms tomorrow and policymakers consider the education funding challenges before them, they should remember it takes a high quality K-12 system and a lot more to support children’s success in school. Let’s not pit education funding against other equally important investments that are essential to our collective future as a state. When our kids do better, we all do better.
To learn more about the economic well being of kids in Washington, take a look at our blog post for the 2014 KIDS COUNT database. For more information about our take on the education funding debate, read the amicus brief Pacifica Law Group filed on our behalf.