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RENTON, Wash. ⎯ On September 1, 2020, the Martin Luther King County Council approved the implementation plan for historic legislation investing $318 million to improve educational outcomes for children and youth over the next 15 years. The investment, funded through voter-approved Sound Transit 3 proceeds, supports King County children and youth across the entire age spectrum, from early learning through college, career and technical education completion.
Of the $318 million investment in the King County Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Account (PSTAA):
- $153.8 million will support the development of early learning facilities
$112.4 million will go to King County Promise, which provides high school, college and community-based organization advisors for historically underserved students and young people to get their college degree/credential and will address long-standing racial equity gaps by eliminating systemic failures
$29.6 million will support community-based organizations working with students in the K–12 grades
$22.3 million will be reserved for administration and evaluation
"Harnessing the full potential of the region’s diversity requires that King County continues to lead the way in naming and addressing racial inequity,” notes the County’s implementation plan. Studies show that “promise” programs, when they provide increased access to financial support, advising and removal of system barriers, lead to significant improvements in postsecondary retention, especially for students who are first in their families to attend college, and students who are most impacted by poverty and racism.
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis has heightened the need to support young adults through high school graduation and postsecondary success. Between March and May 2020, 18 percent of workers under age 18 and roughly 13 percent of workers ages 18-24 filed initial unemployment insurance claims, according to the County’s implementation plan.
"We are going to change the game for students in this region, ensuring that our systems are easier to navigate and that students are more equitably supported in their pursuit of postsecondary education,” stated Kyla Lackie, Director of Postsecondary at Puget Sound College & Career Network (PSCCN).
King County Promise intends to increase postsecondary attainment of participating youth from 40 to 70 percent, eliminating gaps in attainment for children and youth of color; those who are impacted by poverty or homelessness; are in the foster care, child welfare, or juvenile justice system; have disabilities; identify as LGBTQ; or are otherwise vulnerable children and youth. The Promise will also promote collaboration between K-12 school districts, postsecondary institutions, and community-based organizations, forming a more cohesive, equity-focused educational system.
King County Promise is a broad-based effort of hundreds of students, educators, community-based organizations and systems leaders collaborating since 2017, staffed by PSCCN, in partnership with Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD) and championed by the Puget Sound Coalition for College & Career Readiness. PSCCN works with students, educators, community organizations, schools, districts, colleges and state-level organizations to remove barriers so that students of color, first-generation college students, and students impacted by poverty have the opportunity and support to access and obtain postsecondary credentials.
“Through King County Promise, we now have an incredible opportunity to impact the young people who have been underserved in our region; the legacy left by this work will be more equitable policies and practices, leading to a transformation of the educational student support system and equipping young people with the degrees and credentials to empower them to be key parts of our local economy,” stated Mercy Daramola, Manager with PSCCN.
“Our region’s college access and completion system will be among the strongest in the nation and will serve as a model for equitable and highly-supportive systems for student success,” said Kevin McCarthy, President of Renton Technical College and Co-Chair of the Puget Sound Coalition for College & Career Readiness.
PSCCN, PSESD, the Puget Sound Coalition and the partners engaged in developing the King County Promise across the region thank the King County Council for this substantial investment in young people who have been historically underserved. “We are thrilled that the Council has made such a substantial investment in postsecondary advising through the King County Promise,” said Danika Martinez, Program Director for Northwest Education Access. “This is an opportunity for us as a community-based organization to strengthen our work alongside school districts and higher education to provide more supports for young people across King County.”
The King County Department of Children, Youth and Young Adults will oversee implementation of the King County Promise PSTAA investments. Over the coming months, the County will select a systems supporting organization to co-develop and oversee implementation of Promise PSTAA investments and to raise matching funds.
PSCCN, in partnership with PSESD, looks forward to continuing to work with partners across the county, including school districts, postsecondary institutions and community-based organizations, to eliminate racial opportunity gaps.