What is happening in Olympia?

By United Way of King County, on February 20, 2019 | In Helping Students Graduate

We’re fighting for young people, that’s what! High school graduation rates are dismal in our state. Really. One out of 5 kids aren’t graduating. We know what works and we’re hoping that our elected officials see it in the same slam-dunk way we do.

We know that when more young people graduate from high school, we all win: the graduate makes more money (40% more than someone who didn’t graduate from high school). And they’re more financially stable down the road, contributing to our strong economy.

So, what’s the problem?

We’re sucking wind in terms of graduation rates. Sound too harsh? A 79.3% graduation rate puts us 41st when compared to other states. Um…there are only 50 states. So yeah, sucking wind.

What’s particularly disturbing about that number is that kids of color are especially impacted. For black youth, the graduation rate is below 70% and for Native Americans, it’s just above 50%.

How can we fix it?

We know this one!

The state currently provides Open Doors funds that have been helping young people get their education back on track for years. Thousands (yes, thousands) of young people are earning high school and post-secondary credentials, through these sorts of efforts:

    • 1:1 mentoring. One system has already failed these kids. Individual support to help target their specific challenges is key.

    • Educational coaching. The immediacy of missed earnings when in school are often enough that young people resort to working in order to help out at home, instead of finishing their education. Having support to work through those challenges is key.

    • College & Career Navigation. So many of these kids are first-gen college applicants. The application process is not easy for a first-timer who doesn’t have that family support and background.

We’re also seeing success in helping low-income two-year college students persist in achieving a degree.

We need to take what’s working and scale up a bit.

What we need from Olympia:

    • We need those Open Doors funds expanded to July and August – to keep the support going all year.

    • We could also use some $$ to help eliminate some of the barriers these young people are facing. Some of them need child care while they continue their education; others may need help with transportation. Open Doors dollars can help remove those hurdles.

  • Last, but not least, we could use some funds for good ol’ fashioned planning. There are many communities that have been using Open Doors funding (we’re one of them, thanks to our fabulous Reconnecting Youth program that donors make possible!) – but not everyone is up to speed. Planning dollars will help bring everyone along so they too can start helping young people get back on track.

What can you do?

So glad you asked! Reach out to your elected official and put in a good word for Open Doors. Check out our entire legislative agenda – and sign up to receive our public policy alerts.


February 23, 2019

A huge barrier is the ridiculous waste of money the SBAC tests are. Kids who pass everything else - all their year long exhausting classes - and a standardized test fail will keep them from graduating. Who is benefiting from that test? Follow the money and get rid of the test. Grad rates for the kids I am currently worried about - they go up! The state saves money and kids graduate, and then redirect that money to other areas to support struggling kids.

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