Did you know that in Washington State:


  • Almost 1.6 million children (under the age of 18) live in the state;
  • 3 out of every 10 children live in a household with only one parent;
  • Approximately 11,600 children participate in the federally-funded Head Start program;
  • 61 percent of fourth graders are reading below grade level;
  • 58 percent of eighth graders are below grade level in math; and
  • 24 percent of high school students do not graduate on time with a high school diploma.

Click here for the complete Washington Fact Sheet.

Developing Necessary Skill Sets

To overcome the challenges of the skills gap, we must train and re-train our current workforce. We must also develop skills in young people to ensure that they enter the workforce better prepared.  To be equipped with the knowledge and abilities businesses now require, students must:

  •  Master Core Academic Content
  •  Think Critically and Solve Complex Problems
  •  Work Collaboratively
  •  Communicate Effectively
  •  Learn How to Learn
  • Develop Academic Mindsets

Click here to read a description of these skills.

Innovative high school education models, along with rigorous standards, assessments, and accountability systems, can help to address the skills gap affecting businesses across the country. Business leaders know the importance of educational standards and aligned assessments that will help students master core academic content, and train them to think critically, solve complex problems and communicate effectively (i.e. deeper learning skills) that they will need to be competitive in today’s highly-skilled workforce.

Click here to view more on the background of these standards.

Click here to learn more about standards for math and standards for English language arts.

Click here to view more on Washington’s standards.

Bringing Career Relevance to High School Classrooms

In conjunction with these standards and assessments, innovative high school have shown promising results in preparing students for success in college and career. Often called “smaller learning communities,” education models such as “Career Academies” integrate career relevance training with a rigorous academic curriculum, equipping students with important skills highly valued by employers. These schools:

  • Are comprised of a group of students who take classes together for at least two years and are taught by the same group of teachers
  • Provide a college preparatory curriculum based on a career theme that helps students see relationships and connections between academic subjects and their application in the real world.
  • Develop partnerships with employers, the community, and colleges.

Our 2014 Policy Priorities

Education policy at the federal and state levels needs to address the range of knowledge and skills needed for all students to be fully ready for college and careers. Policy opportunities include:

  • Skill Development
  • Measurable Results
  • Accountability
  • Professional Development and Teaching Practice
  • Academic Standards and Aligned Assessments 

In 2014, America’s Edge members will be urging their state legislators and Congressional delegation to do the following:

State Policy Priorities:

  • Create a voluntary, universal pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds (the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program – ECEAP). Click here to read more about ECEAP.
  • Create a Quality Rating Improvement System paid for by the state.
  • Seek proven improvements to the K-12 system.

Federal Policy Priorities:

1.  Support the state-federal partnership that would increase access to and quality of pre-k to children across the country. 

a) This proposal is being discussed as part of the federal budget negotiations that began after the government shutdown. If not included in a budget resolution this year, our work to support this partnership will continue in 2014.

2. Protect access to high quality early care and education and increase quality of programs by:

a)  Fighting against cuts, and where possible seek increases, for Head Start, Early Head Start and both the discretionary and mandatory funding streams of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG);

b) Working to improve the quality of Head Start/Early Head Start and CCDBG through the reauthorization of these programs;

c) Seeking to, at minimum, maintain the current investment in the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge program to enable States to build up the necessary infrastructure to increase access to high-quality early care and learning programs, especially for the most at-risk children.

3. Strengthen our nation’s education system through federal education reform to:

  • Provide incentives for States to shift away from the traditional K-12 approach towards an educational system that incorporates early learning into the educational structure so kids are ready to learn and succeed when they enter kindergarten;
  • Support Career Academies, which can help vulnerable youth develop critical skills and be prepared for careers and/or post-secondary eduction;
  • Improve graduation rates measurement and accountability, including supporting both data systems that can serve as an “early warning system” for kids headed towards dropping out, as well as the use of evidence-based programs to keep kids in school and on the path towards graduation;
  • Provide the support of K-12 programs which enhance academic outcomes;
  • Create a system of recruitment, professional development and retention for teachers so that more students – especially those most at-risk for adverse academic outcomes– have access to high-quality teachers; andEnsure that, to the maximum extent possible, funds are directed toward evidence-based approaches in the highest-need communities.

Read more about innovative education models, such as Career Academies.



America’s Edge Members Send Letters to Policy Makers

In January, 2013, 67 Washington business leaders sent a letter to Governor Jay Inslee urging him  to consider expanding investments in programs that will ensure businesses have a workforce with the 21st-century knowledge, skills, and abilities we need. The business leaders noted that high quality early learning programs will contribute significantly to Washington’s economic recovery, as well as ensure that at-risk children are on paths toward academic and life-long success.

Click here to view the letter.

On May 25, 2012, 42 Washington business leaders sent a letter to Senator Patty Murray asking her to maintain access to critical programs to protect America’s competitive edge in a global marketplace and build a foundation for sustained economic security through investments in quality early learning which benefit Washington businesses in both the short- and long-term.

Click here to view the letter. 

On May 5, 2011, 26 Washington business leaders sent a letter to Senator Patty Murray urging her  to consider several important reforms and investments that will ensure businesses have a workforce with the 21st-century knowledge, skills, and abilities we need. The business leaders focused on early learning as one key area of reform that could immediately boost Washington’s state economy.

Click here to view the letter.


America’s Edge Members meet with Senator Patty Murray



Three America’s Edge members – Mike Edwards, George LeMasurier and Kevin Washington -  met with Senator Murray to discuss the economic benefits on Washington businesses and the economy of investments in early care and education.




 America’s Edge Members Release New Report in Olympia

America's Edge Members at Press Event

L-R: K. Johnson, K. Lombardo, B. Jurkovich, S. Leahy

Washington business leaders gathered at the Association of Washington Business in Olympia December 12, 2013 to release a report entitled,“Ensuring Washington State’s Global Success.” The report shows that the state is facing an impending skills gap, and local businesses are struggling to find qualified candidates to hire. Brad Jurkovich, Principal at Fisher-Jurkovich Public Affairs, Kathy Lombardo, former Senior Vice President of CH2M Hill Engineering and independent consultant, and Kris Johnson, President of the Association of Washington Business, spoke at the event.

The report shows that many students are graduating high school without the skills they need for college and career. Between 2013 and 2023, Washington jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree are expected to grow 18 percent faster than jobs for high school dropouts. In addition, 47 percent of positions will require post-secondary education in those fields that are expected to have the highest deficits of skilled workers through 2023.

The business leaders also highlighted a proven method in reversing the skills gap: innovative high school models. These career academies incorporate real-world, work-based learning to connect what students are learning in the classroom to possible careers and uses after graduation. The business leaders cited the Washington Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as part of the solution to the state’s skills gap. The business leaders concluded that although the skills gap is a very real problem in Washington State, viable solutions exist to reverse these trends. (Click here to download the report.)

Previous Report Releases

Washington Members Susannah Malarkey, Executive Director, Technology Alliance; and Carl Bailey, Financial Advisor, AXA Advisors, LLC; hosted the report release

In early 2013, Washington business leaders released a report at a local education center showing that investments in high-quality early care and education provide significant short-term gains to Washington businesses, especially through increased worker productivity and attracting and retaining skilled workers and new businesses. (Read the report and see infographic.)

On February 17, 2011, America’s Edge members from Washington State released a report entitled The Skills Gap: Reversing Washington’s Lack of Skilled Workers Through Early Learning.” The report generated an article on February 21, in the Skagit Valley Herald which ran an editorial showing findings from the report, and agreeing with America’s Edge members that investments in early education are important for Washington State’s economy.  Click here to read the editorial.

Given the severe pressure on our state budget, it makes sense to invest our limited funds in programs that will help jump-start our economy and provide the greatest return on investment.”

–Larry Schorno, President, Schorno Agri-Business, Yelm, WA

America’s Edge in the News

  • On October 27, 2010, America’s Edge members from Washington State sent a letter to Governor Gregoire urging not to cut state funding to the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP.)  The letter highlights the short- and long-term economic benefits of investing in early childhood learning programs.  Click here to read the full letter.
  • On April 30, 2010. The Seattle Times published an op-ed by America’s Edge member Bob Watt asking Senator Patty Murray to consider funding early learning programs to jump-start Washington’s economy. Click here to read the article.

 *For more information, please contact Washington State Director, Steve Leahy.

Phone: (206) 790-3138

E-mail: sleahy@americasedge.org