There are more than 35,000 homeless K-12 students in Washington—a population with one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the state. Historically, barely half of these students graduate with their peers. Now, thanks to legislation passed by the Washington State Legislature and signed into law last week by Governor Inslee, homeless students are more likely to receive the support and stability they need to succeed in school and life.
Under the Homeless Student Stability and Opportunity Gap Act (HSSA), Washington becomes the first state in the country to fund school-housing partnerships to keep kids near their schools of origin. In doing so, HSSA tripled the public dollars specifically focused on homeless students and doubled publicly-funded in-school supports. For homeless students in Washington, the future just got brighter.
Quality doesn’t happen by accident, especially when it comes to education. That's why, for the last seven years, the Raikes Foundation has been working with organizations like School’s Out Washington, Greater Tacoma Community Foundation and Spokane County United Way to train hundreds of Washington organizations in how to understand, evaluate and improve the quality of their programs for school-age kids. Now, thanks to legislation recently signed by Governor Inslee, Washington state is taking another important step to provide our young people with high-quality experiences that extend beyond the classroom.
This Saturday, local celebrities, athletes and community leaders will go to bat at Safeco Field during United Way of King County’s third annual All-Star Softball Classic for Youth. They’ll play alongside formerly-homeless youth who epitomize why this event is so important for our community and why the Raikes Foundation is such a proud sponsor.
These young people—like roughly 5,000 others each year in King County—at some point in their lives have been forced to prioritize shelter over school and basic survival over pursuing their dreams. These are unacceptable choices that no young person should ever have to make, and that no community should ever allow. The young people playing alongside the celebrities in Saturday’s game have overcome the challenges of homelessness, but we’re working hard at the local, state and federal levels to make these types of success stories the norm rather than an exception.
Expertise comes in many forms. There’s the kind gained through years of study and research, or the kind sought out through hands-on training. But there’s also the type that’s involuntarily hoisted on us from sometimes-harsh life experiences. Each kind provides unique value, and all are necessary when tackling an issue as complex as homelessness.
That’s why I was so encouraged by the crowd in attendance last night to mark a new step forward in Washington state’s effort to make youth and family homelessness rare, brief and one time. Led by Governor Jay Inslee and First Lady Trudi Inslee, dozens of policymakers, business executives, philanthropists, nonprofit leaders and formerly-homeless youth came together to celebrate our shared commitment to the Washington Youth & Families Fund (WYFF).