Legislature must support proven dropout prevention program | GUEST OP

By Brandon Ervin
For the Reporter

Under the Washington State constitution, providing an ample education for all students is identified as state government's "paramount duty."

Last year, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature had failed to meet that duty by persistently underfunding our schools. This year, the Legislature is responding. The governor and lawmakers of both parties agree that upward of $1 billion in new funding needs to go to education in the budget they are now debating in Olympia. Curiously, however, some lawmakers want to actually eliminate funding for one of our state's most successful education programs: Navigation 101.

Navigation 101 is an education program for students, scientifically proven to reduce dropout rates. Fifty-two percent of all middle and high schools here in Washington use Navigation 101 to help kids prepare for their future and graduate. Eliminating it now will make our state's dropout problem worse.

We use Navigation 101's curriculum and tools to help our students develop their core competencies in career and life planning, post-secondary option decision making, college admissions, the financial aid process and more. The program also provides tools for counselors, teachers and administrators to track and monitor student and school performance. Through this comprehensive set of curriculum and tools, we have been able to significantly increase high school graduation and college enrollment rates.

Some kids thrive in traditional classrooms and need very little help from specialized programs like Navigation 101. But for many others, the targeted assistance provided by Navigation 101 is crucial. I have literally seen many kids stay in school, graduate, and move on to successful futures because of Navigation 101.

It is hard to understand the rationale behind eliminating funding for this program. We know it works. Years of data prove that Navigation 101 helps students succeed, and our state Superintendent of Public Instruction's office recommends and stands behind this program.

We know it isn't expensive. The two year budget to keep Navigation 101 available to all school districts is just over $5 million; not a large program in the context of a budget of more than $30 billion, especially when we are adding $1 billion in education funding.

And we know we have to do more to lower dropout rates. Currently, nearly one in four of Washington's students fail to graduate on time. Navigation 101 is designed specifically to address this crisis. Why would we take this resource away from school districts that are using it to change lives right now?

The state Legislature is working on a new two-year state budget now. Your legislators, Rep. Pat Sullivan (D-Covington) and Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn), are crucial in this debate. They need to hear from you. Please call the toll free legislative hotline today at 1-800-562-6000, and ask Rep. Sullivan and Sen. Fain to support continued funding for Navigation 101.

Education is our paramount duty. In fulfilling that duty our leaders need to remember that when it comes to learning, one size does not fit all. Many of our kids need the help Navigation 101 offers. Let's keep this vital program available to the hundreds of schools and hundreds of thousands of kids who depend on it.

Brandon Ervin is the career and college director at Lincoln High School in Tacoma. Reach him at 253-571-6659 or Bervin@tacoma.k12.wa.us.

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