Every Student Deserves a High Quality Education

By Pulemau Savusa
In 2013, I graduated from my local high school in the Highline School District. My sister, who was a year older than me, had just graduated in 2012 from a high school in Seattle Public Schools. Because we were both in high school for the same amount of time, I noticed things were different when we were at home. At my high school, we were not allowed to take our textbooks home. We had to share books with other classes and, as a result, we weren’t able to utilize our books for homework. When I saw my sister coming home with several textbooks, it made me wonder why this was. But as a freshman in high school, I wasn’t sure how to articulate that.
My brother, who is now a high school senior, has expressed that this discrepancy between districts still seems to be an issue. He struggles to understand how we, who attend under-resourced schools, are expected to perform the same on state tests as students who attend school in more affluent communities where they have access to graphing calculators instead of a basic one.
Since I graduated four years ago, over 80 percent of the teachers in my school are now gone. This inconsistency in the classroom can be detrimental to the learning of students in our schools. It seems as though the schools in my district are not equipped to provide our students a quality education. Especially in neighborhoods where a lot of families are poor, we tend to get the short end of the stick.
In White Center, families support their child’s education, but we still have to overcome barriers like the stigma of living in an impoverished part of the district where resources for our schools are limited. Funding schools and making sure access to resources is fair for all students across the state is important, especially in neighborhoods like mine. Kids are held to high expectations when it comes to performing academically, and I believe Washington state needs to be held to high expectations, too, when it comes to making sure schools are fully funded to avoid inequities in education.
This is why it’s important for me to get involved in education and in my community. In my work with Our Future Matters (OFM), an organization that focuses on the success of Pacific Islanders in education, I connect with young people and find ways to influence policy and systems change. We take students down to the Capitol in Olympia to advocate for the issues Pacific Islander students face in schools, which are similar to mine.
I’m also proud to stand with the Campaign for Student Success in urging legislators to solve the McCleary education funding issue this session by not only putting more money into the public education system, but also bringing about student-oriented policies that direct money, resources and supports to students. Specifically, we’re calling on legislators to consider policies that:
1. Focus on directing more dollars to high-poverty districts. This means making two major changes to tackle current policies that make our system unfair: eliminating the staff mix ratio so funding goes to students, not systems. And fixing inequities in the levy system so EVERY student has a fair chance.
2. Add more money and additional weight to certain student-targeted programs. This means directing $1 billion more for existing student-targeted programs including the Learning Assistance Program (LAP), Transitional Bilingual Instructional Program, Dual Credit Programs, Special Education, Career and Technical Education and Highly Capable Program.
3. Promote transparency to ensure funding actually reaches students. We can do this by ensuring all school spending is reported in the same way and by ensuring school-level data on how funding is spent is publicly available.
The voice of young people is powerful. It is important for us to continue to organize and find our voice in this work for the other young leaders who will come behind us. Hopefully, our experiences will have an impact on how education happens in the future while also continuing our work for racial equity and social justice in education.
Pulemau Savusa is the director of Our Future Matters, working with Pacific Islander students, their parents, and community leaders to create positive change and enhance success in education.

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