64 nonprofit organizations join CFN effort to discover consensus on K-12 funding
Issaquah, Wash. – Is it possible to bring together 64 diverse organizations from around the state and find consensus on the hot topic of school funding? That’s the ambitious goal of Community Forums Network (CFN), a nonpartisan public engagement organization with a mission to discover consensus on major issues and to share those insights with policy decision-makers. Now through Oct. 28, CFN is hosting forums and promoting an online survey on how to fix the K-12 budget crisis through a network of 64 nonprofit community, education, business, and labor organizations. Interested citizens are also welcome to participate by visiting http://www.communityforumsnetwork.org/take-survey/
“It’s remarkable that this many diverse organizations from Spokane to Seattle, north to Bellingham and south to Skamania County can gather in a virtual sense to talk about the school funding crisis and provide feedback,” said Carrie Shaw, CFN executive director. “CFN is providing the platform to discover consensus at a time when we need solutions to the school funding crisis.”
In January 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the State Legislature had failed to fully fund public education based on what the Legislature defines as “basic education” services. According to the Washington State Constitution, funding public education is the “paramount duty” of the state. Now the question is “how” will the Legislature fix the funding shortfall?
“Finding the right mix of policy changes and financial support is crucial to having an education system that lives up to our constitutional mandate to ‘amply provide for the education of all children,” said State Representative Ross Hunter, chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, “We have work to do this year to comply with the court’s order, but to do it in a smart way that will actually increase student learning outcomes.”
“We know students learn best when they receive individual attention from educators who know and understand their needs and learning styles,” said Mary Lindquist, president of the Washington Education Association, “If we want to improve students’ learning, reducing class size should be a critical element of increased education funding.”
“The hard truth is that our children are not as educated as they must be to be successful in our global economy. Indeed, they are falling further behind each year,” said State Representative Glenn Anderson, ranking minority member of the House Education Committee. “We can fix this, if we want to. The question is do we want to? If we do, then decisive decisions need to be made now regardless of how difficult. These community forum opportunities are the cornerstone of giving a real future of prosperity back to our children.”
CFN’s partner organizations have more than doubled since round 1 addressed the topic of youth unemployment in May 2012. The 64 organizations involved in round 2 on education funding represent diverse views and areas of the state and include: Association of Washington Business Institute, Washington Education Association, Greater Spokane, Inc., El Centro de la Raza, Solid Ground, Partnership for Learning, The Seattle Foundation, and Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington to name a few. A complete list of CFN partners is available on the website http://www.communityforumsnetwork.org/partners/
“If we are to break down barriers in our society, it is critical that policy makers listen to the people impacted by their decisions,” said Gordon McHenry, Jr., president and CEO of Solid Ground. “We are pleased to participate in this effort to engage community members in critical dialogue about how to improve public education.”
“CFN offers a positive and proactive way for the opinions of every individual to be heard,” said Shelly Quinn, director of education and workforce for Greater Spokane, Inc. “We encourage our members to actively share their views and like the fact that CFN invited participation from every sector of our community – and from both sides of the state. We are pleased to participate and look forward to reading the full report.”
“All we hear about is how divided we are on important issues,” said Shaw, “CFN’s goal is to buck that conventional wisdom and use dialogue and survey feedback to find consensus on important topics.”
During CFN’s round 1 on young adult unemployment, over 2,300 people provided feedback on how best to overcome high unemployment rates for young adults ages 16 to 24. Consensus emerged in key areas that included restoring the vocational track in high school, more state funds and business involvement for job training, and for the idea of a training wage with limits. The findings were presented in July to a joint working session of the Commerce and Labor Committees of the State Senate and House of Representatives.
CFN is part of the Dick Spady Legacy Project that includes Countywide Community Forums of King County and scholarly research in the social sciences through the Forum Foundation and the Stuart C. Dodd Institute for Social Innovation. Spady is co-founder and president of Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants and a longtime advocate of building community through better public engagement strategies.
CFN is not an advocacy or lobbying organization and is strictly nonpartisan. CFN works with a diverse group of advisory board members and partners to develop the topics and materials presented in the forums and online platform. Data gathered from the surveys is verified by an independent accounting firm and a formal report on “Where’s the consensus?” is compiled and shared with policy decision-makers, the media, and the public. The round 2 survey findings on education funding will be released in late November 2012.
For more information, or to access the online survey and forum calendar, go to www.CommunityForumsNetwork.org or call toll free 800-369-2584