The Formation of the Kirkland Promise Committee
Kirkland Promise is the name of the Kirkland Chamber of Commerce educational committee; a committee inspired by the Kalamazoo Promise, and the five-year plan adopted in 2015 committing the Chamber to support education from birth through post-secondary education.
In 2014 the Chamber’s Public Policy Committee researched the Kalamazoo Promise, a scholarship program in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which guarantees all graduates of its two high schools, the payment of tuition and fees at any Michigan public post-secondary institution.
Lake Washington School District sent one representative and two volunteers who paid their own way, to attend a national program in Kalamazoo regarding Promise programs. They learned that such programs were often adopted by failing school districts to revive their schools and communities, and to disrupt the schools-to-prison pipelines of inner cities. But reality confronted Kalamazoo in the form of high drop out rates from colleges as a result of lack of skills the students should have developed from birth through high school.
Kalamazoo (with 60% of students on free and reduced lunches) had identified that Early Childhood Education was the best option to teach students essential skills to perform at post secondary education. It became clear that a program from birth through post secondary education could help the 8% of Lake Washington School District students who were not graduating from high school and 12% who were not continuing into 2-year or 4-year college programs.
The Kirkland Promise Report
The report was adopted by the Kirkland Chamber of Commerce Board on May 12, 2015, and the introduction included the following:
- Preschool as an economic stimulus—the idea that high-quality preschool lays the foundation for children to succeed as adults who can make a positive contribution to the country’s economy and which attracts and retains families in the community
- Research on the benefits of early childhood education—from birth to age five. This is the period of a child’s greatest brain development, the period when 85% of the brain is developed.
What began as a focused look at one scholarship program has now become a consideration of the multiplicity of needs and actions that will give our children their best chance at not only affording college but succeeding in college. It is clear that this effort must start even before preschool: at birth.
We aim to address the continuum of education from age 0 through 18. We view this in three stages:
- From birth to age three; early childhood education
- Three to five; kindergarten through high school
- Post-secondary education, whether at technical colleges, community colleges, four-year colleges, or universities.
A child’s progression through each stage should be seamless.
Birth to Age 3
- With financial support from Rotary of Kirkland and Kirkland Kiwanis, we funded the purchase of Tracy Cutchlow’s book, “Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science”. See https://zerotofive.net
- Committee members distributed Tracy’s book to 85 early childhood education providers in Kirkland while encouraging them to become rated in the Early Achiever’s Program as a means to improve the standards of early childhood education
- Encouraged case managers from a number of family assistance programs to use the Tracy Cutchlow book as a resource in working with parents of young children
- Secured funding from Kirkland Kiwanis to fund the initiation of Reach Out and Read at the Pacific Medial Center, Kirkland, WA, and encouraged EvergreenHealth Primary Care to begin their program in Redmond
- With the superb work of Karen Story and Grupo Español, translated Tracy’s book into Spanish. The books can be ordered at: https://zerotofive.net/buy/bulk-order/ or download the PDF at: https://gum.co/cero-a-cinco.
Kindergarten through K12
The Kirkland Chamber has endorsed all of the bonds and levies of Lake Washington School District since the date of the report, and committee members and other Chamber members have served on the Lake Washington Citizens Bond and Levy Committee. Despite this work and the extreme overcrowding of our schools, three of the last four bond (school buildings) levies failed, although two levies passed.
The Committee and the Public Policy Committee have advocated for full funding of basic education which was partially fulfilled by the legislature in 2019 funding of the McCreary, but, unfortunately, with all funding through the state property tax increase. All agree our tax system in Washington State is broken and the committee and Chambers advocate that the legislature fund a tax study committee in the next budget.
The Kirkland Promise Committee continues to advocate for a 51% vote threshold to pass bonds to build schools as we are one of the few states with a supermajority requirement. This requires a state constitutional amendment. The East King County Chambers of Commerce Legislative Coalition has blocked this from being an official position of the Coalition, but we will continue to pressure them to advocate for this enlightened position.
The Committee and Chamber members support the Lake Washington School District Foundation breakfast.
Committee members and the Chamber supported the research into creating and funding a Kirkland Foundation, along with the City of Kirkland. The conclusion – there was insufficient support for a separate foundation.
Post Secondary Education: Two-Year and Four-Year Colleges
- We have studied the funding of education in the State of Washington with assistance from Representative Ross Hunter. The State used to pay 70% of the cost of college, now the state only pays 30% towards the cost of college
- The Washington legislature balanced the state budget since 2008 on the backs of our state schools, community and technical colleges, and universities
- Students graduate with too much debt and need ways to work through college, to pay affordable tuition, and receive scholarships.
- One in twenty students ages 25 to 34 whose parents do not finish high school have a college degree 
- Some forty percent of students cannot afford to attend four-year colleges or universities
- Those who do graduate carry too much debt, which limits their future job choices, prevents them from purchasing a car or house, or going on for graduate work
- Without post-secondary education, students are more likely to live a life of poverty with all of its attendant health and societal risks
- We have two excellent schools in our area that provide excellent post-secondary education and training, Cascadia Community College and Lake Washington Institute of Technology. They are an affordable alternative to or start on a four-year degree. They need our support.
The Kirkland Promise committee, the Public Policy committee and the Kirkland Chamber Board have advocated for increased funding for two-year colleges and technical schools persistently over the past five years, and the efforts bore fruit in the 2019 legislative session with increased funding of four-year and two-year institutions. The committee also shared scholarship opportunities through the Chamber website. What needs to be done in the future is to better facilitate mentors, internships and work study jobs and to develop scholarships. The committee and Board and members support the Lake Washington Institute’s Bright Futures breakfast and serve on the foundation board. The committee needs to do a better job of supporting Cascadia Community College Foundation and encouraging the development of a job fair for LWIT and Cascadia Community College. The committee and board have actively supported and endorsed Northwest University in its Master Plan amendments which have been adopted by the Kirkland City Council.
When the plan was developed the active members were : Dave Asher, Kathy Feek, Doug Davis, Samantha St. John, Bill Vadino for Jane Hague, Dr. Amy Morrison Goings, Peg Hunt, Rev. Marian Stewart, Steve Leahy, Dr. Terry Byington, Bruce Wynn, Walt Krueger (Chair). Current active members are Kathy Feek, Doug Davis, Stephanie Dickson, Samantha St. John, Dr. Josehph Castleberry, Samantha Dale, Cassandra Sage, and Walt Krueger.
The committee is currently amending the plan and welcome the addition of volunteers who wish to better understand our educational system and it’s funding and who will advocate for a stronger educational system in Kirkland and Lake Washington School District.
We will be considering universal preschool education, more robust funding for retraining of workers displaced by our constantly changing economy, increased state and federal funding of our colleges, universities and community colleges and technical schools, and a strengthened safety net for the families of our students, including guaranteed health care and housing for all students. Homelessness interferes with the education of the student and prevents us from meeting our societal educational goals.
Please take the time to visit Kirkland’s four excellent centers of post secondary education:
Lake Washington Institute of Technology, 11605 132nd Avenue NE., Kirkland, WA 98034
Northwest University, 5520 108th Ave. N.E., Kirkland, WA 98033
Cascadia College, 18345 Campus Way NE • Bothell, WA 98011
University of Washington Bothell, 18115 Campus Way NE., Bothell, WA 98011
 Promise and Failure of Community Colleges for Upward Mobility, Eduardo Porter, New York Times, February 18, 2015, Section B1 & 2.