Youth orgs voice thoughts on language surrounding $318 million from the PSTAA

County Council will soon vote on motion.

King County youth organizations are urging the King County Council to strengthen motion language in an item that would dictate how education funding from the Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Account (PSTAA) will be spent.

Their goal is to ensure that improving the outcomes of the “most vulnerable” students — those in the foster care system, experiencing homelessness and the juvenile justice system — are prioritized.

“These are the groups of students who really need additional targeted intervention to help them achieve the same educational outcomes as their peers,” said Dawn Rains, chief policy and strategy officer for nonprofit Treehouse, an organization that provides academic support for foster children.

The council will be voting on Motion 2019-0245 this month. It lays out how the county will spend the $318 million from the PSTAA. Action is expected during the County Council meeting on Aug. 28. The PSTAA was an amendment to the 2015 State Transportation Revenue Package, according to King County background documents. Since its implementation, it’s been collecting dollars to be doled out to counties in the Sound Transit taxing district, to help improve education outcomes in early learning, K-12 and education after high school.

Rains said they’re happy with some of the progress the council has made, but the group of 18 organizations want to ensure that the county council’s focus honors both the legislative statute and also the council’s own 2017 motion 15029. That motion identified specific populations that the PSTAA funding could help.

“We are urging the council to focus on the educational outcomes they are intending to impact, as opposed to being overly prescriptive on strategy,” Rains said.

Rains said it makes a difference when using the word “should” instead of “must” or “shall.” And the motion should change to say that “funds must be used for strategies that improve this” rather than target particular strategies that could evolve, she said.

Treehouse is working together with other youth-focused organizations including Friends of Youth, YouthCare and Building Changes. And the student populations served by those groups typically have the worst educational outcomes.

According to statistics from Treehouse, less than 50 percent of youth in foster care graduate from high school. And about 55 percent of homeless youth graduate.

“I think it’s potentially possible to have this big infusion of important once-in-a-generation dollars and have it not impacting the students who need it the most,” she said.

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