Archive for Schools

2014 Roundup: What bills passed, what didn’t pass during session

By | March 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature adjourned shortly before midnight on Thursday, the final day of the regular 2014 session. It’s the first time since 2009 that lawmakers finished their work without going into an overtime special session.

Here’s an overview of what lawmakers accomplished — and didn’t accomplish — during the session.

PASSED:

Supplemental budget: Both chambers agreed on a supplemental operating budget that spends about $155 million, including $58 for K-12 books and supplies. It also adds additional money to the mental health system, early learning and prisons. It does not include any new taxes or tax breaks, nor does it include teacher pay raises.

Dream Act/Real Hope Act: The Dream Act allows undocumented immigrants to apply for state need grants to help pay for college. The House passed its version of the Dream Act on opening day. The Senate renamed it the Real Hope Act and added $5 million to the state need grant. It was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee in February.

Homeless fees: As part of a last-minute deal, lawmakers agreed to extend until 2019 a $40 document recording fee that people pay during real estate transaction, such as buying or refinancing a house. The fee supports homeless shelters, affordable housing and other services and was scheduled to sunset unless the Legislature took action.

24 credit diploma: Starting with the class of 2019, high school students will have to earn 24 credits for a diploma. The current minimum is 20 credits, although some school districts require more than the minimum. The bill will also provide more opportunities for students to take career and technical classes that meet graduation requirements.

Tanning beds ban: Teenagers under the age of 18 would no longer be allowed to use tanning beds in Washington. Senate Bill 6065 bans minors from using tanning beds, unless they have a written prescription for UV radiation treatment from a doctor. Tanning salons would be fined $250 for violations.

Domestic violence: Washington residents under domestic violence restraining orders will soon be barred from owning guns. The bill says that someone who is under a protection, no-contact, or restraining order related to domestic violence must surrender his or her guns to law enforcement.

Drones: The Legislature approved a bill that puts limits government agencies that use drones, or remote-controlled monitoring devices, for surveillance. An agency may only use a drone after getting a warrant or under several exceptions, such as a fire or other emergency.

Religious holidays: State employees will be allowed to take two unpaid days off a year for religious reasons, and public school children will be excused for two days under a bill approved by the Legislature.

Military in-state tuition: Veterans and active duty military members will soon qualify for in-state tuition at Washington colleges and universities without having to first establish residency. Senate Bill 5318 waives the one-year waiting period for veterans, military members and their families.

Short-barreled rifles: Washington gun owners will soon be allowed to own a short-barreled rifle under a bill approved by the Legislature. It is currently a felony to own a gun with a rifle with a barrel shorter than 16 inches, or to have a modified gun that is shorter than 26 inches overall. (more…)

UW Huskies lobby for Dream Act and tuition issues

By | February 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

About 120 students from the University of Washington took a day off from school to lobby at the Capitol Thursday. The Huskies pushed the Dream Act and a bill preventing differential tuition.

The students expressed their support of extending financial aid to undocumented immigrant students and thanked legislators for passing the Dream Act, known in the Senate as the Real Hope Act.

Also, the students pushed House Bill 1043, which prohibits state universities from allowing differential tuition, which is a tuition rate based on a student’s major. Amber Amim, a student majoring in informatics and applied math at UW, raised concerns that math and science students would have to pay more if it were allowed.

The bill to prohibit differential tuition passed in the House at the start of the session.

But the value of lobby day goes beyond these particular issues, said Jillian Celich, a senior at UW and ASUW employee.

“It’s important for students to tell their personal stories to lawmakers. There needs to be a stronger voice for higher education,” Celich said.

Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, spoke at the Capitol steps and encouraged the crowd of student lobbyists to stay involved with the legislative process after lobby day.

His final words: “Think bigger than just today.”

2.1.12

Categories: Education, Olympia, Rally, Schools, TVW

Legislation aims to help homeless students by housing their families closer to schools

By | February 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

As many families struggle to find affordable housing and stable employment, the number of homeless children in Washington state public schools is increasing.

In the 2011-2011 school year, more than 27,000 students were reported as homeless, a 5 percent increase from the previous year and a nearly 50 percent increase from 2008, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The statistics are stark, and not unusual. The Department of Education estimates more than 1.1 million students in the U.S. in grades K-12 were homeless in the 2011-12 school year.

Lawmakers discussed potential solutions to help families and schools address the needs of homeless students during a Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee hearing Tuesday.

Advocates and legislative leaders pushed two related bills, Senate Bill 6365 and Senate Bill 6338, which would get low-income families in houses closer to their schools. The first bill connects families with stable housing and the other gives priority to housing projects that involve certain partnerships that support children of low-income families.

Those partnerships are critical to “breaking the cycle of poverty” said Michael Power, the manager of educational programs with Tacoma Housing Authority (THA).  He used the McCarver Elementary Special Housing Project in Tacoma as the model example of a successful joint effort, which involves the THA, the elementary school, students and parents.

Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, said that the law would not only help homeless students and families, but also minimize transportation costs for schools.

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is a federal law that requires schools to provide free transportation to students. For schools particularly in rural areas, these expenses can be high. Supporters say the bill would reduce those costs because students would live closer to their schools.

Homeless advocates want to see the bill extended to other housing nonprofits, such as tribal housing. But they agreed it is a step forward in providing families in need with stable housing, which they say is critical to student success.

Research shows that the academic achievement of homeless students declines across all grades and subject material. Liz Allen, a previous teacher and advocate with the UW School of Law, reported that homeless children are nine times more likely to repeat a grade and four times more likely to drop out of school.”It’s hard to do homework with no home,” said Allen.

Democrats introduce bill to reduce classroom size to 17 students by 2017

By | January 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

Washington is one of the worst states when it comes to crowded classrooms, ranking 47th in the nation, according to the organization Class Size Counts for Washington Kids.

During a press conference, Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, and Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, announced House Bill 2589 that would prioritize making K-12 class sizes smaller and lay out an implementation plan. The goal of the bill is to reduce classroom size to 17 students by the 2017 school year.

The democratic lawmakers pose with advocates for smaller classrooms.

The lawmakers said the changes would cost money, but didn’t specify a funding source.

Parents and advocates with the Class Size Counts group discussed the benefits of smaller student-to-teacher ratios. They say it reduces the achievement gap between low-income and high-income communities, lowers teacher burnout and improves student performance.

Parent Katherine Jones said that if Washington doesn’t make changes soon she would consider moving her kids to another state.

“It’s just not acceptable. When you’re one of 29 students, you cannot get the attention that you need,” Jones said.

Child care funds could boost early education

By | January 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

Child care subsidized by state money could be required to do more to prepare children for kindergarten, as bipartisan bills in the House and Senate aim to push state-funded providers into becoming early learning programs.

Bills HB 2377 and SB 6127, which are sponsored by Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina) and Sen. Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island), are called the Early Start Act of 2014. It tentatively is scheduled to go before the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education Friday at 8 a.m.

Programs affected would be Washington’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) and the Working Connections Child Care program, which helps families with low incomes pay for child care while they work or participate in the WorkFirst program. Privately paid child care wouldn’t be affected by the bill.

Child care providers who receive state funds through ECEAP or Working Connections will need to meet standards established by the Department of Early Learning’s Early Achievers program. The act would assist child care centers to reach the standards by providing reimbursements, coaching and mentoring and making sure that children can stay enrolled in programs.

Current providers have five years to reach certain Early Achievers standards, which is determined by a point system that takes into account family engagement, professional development, the classroom or home environment and children’s success. New providers must reach those standards in 30 months.

According to Hunter and Litzow, the goal is to get 80 percent of children in subsidized child care into high quality early learning programs by 2020.

They talked about the programs at a press conference earlier this week.

 

Charter schools on this week’s edition of ‘The Impact’

By | October 24, 2013 | 0 Comments

Washington voters last year approved an initiative creating a public charter school system. This week marks a key deadline for organizations that plan to apply to start the state’s first charter schools.

TVW would like to issue a clarification: On Wednesday’s edition of “The Impact,” we stated that 14 school districts have applied to become charter schools. However, those 14 districts have filed “notices of intent” to submit applications. Only one school district — Spokane — has submitted an application.

The Washington State Board of Education has more information about the charter school timeline available on its website.

On the show, host Anita Kissée interviews Ember Reichgott Junge, a former Minnesota state Senator who wrote and passed the country’s first charter school law.

Watch this week’s edition of “The Impact” below:

Categories: Schools

Schools superintendent Randy Dorn calls for higher taxes to pay for education

By | October 11, 2013 | 0 Comments

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn is calling for higher taxes to fund education.

Dorn gave the state Legislature an “incomplete” grade for its first $1 billion down payment on the McCleary decision, a Washington Supreme Court ruling that said the state isn’t adequately funding education.

Lawmakers would have to come up with another $700 million during the upcoming 60-day session in order to “get a quality grade,” Dorn said.

“If I see no movement, I may go forward with my own plan,” Dorn told “Inside Olympia” host Austin Jenkins.

Dorn listed several options, including: Raising state property taxes, imposing an income tax on those who earn more than $250,00 a year, implementing levy reform, getting rid of tax loopholes or redirecting money from those loopholes into education.

“Somebody has got to make a move,” Dorn said. “Someone has got to put on the pressure, and my job is to be an advocate for the kids. I don’t see anyone stepping up to the plate.”

Dorn said he would like to see the state Supreme Court be “very stern” with legislators and force them to come up with a stable funding source for education. The court has jurisdiction until 2018 and has required the state Legislature to report annually on its progress.

The state Legislature adopted a budget in June that puts an additional $1 billion dollars into education for the current two-year budget cycle that ends in 2015. Dorn said that falls short of the money that’s needed to meet the court’s mandate to fully fund basic education.

“If you go back to 2008 and have today’s money, we’re about dead even. So we didn’t really make any progress,” Dorn said.

Watch the full interview below:

Categories: Education, Schools, TVW

Drunk drivers would pay child support to their victim’s children under proposal

By | February 8, 2013 | 0 Comments

On Thursday’s “Legislative Review,” we look at a proposal that would require drunk drivers who kill someone to pay child support to the victim’s children.

Also, several family members of people who have committed suicide testified at a House education committee — including the aunt of Kurt Cobain. They were testifying in support of a bill that would require school counselors and nurses to undergo suicide prevention training.

Plus, highlights from a hearing on the Yakima River Basin project — including opponents who say the plan would put their homes under 20 feet of water.

For a wrap-up of the week’s legislative activities, catch tonight’s edition of “Legislative Review” at 6:30 and 11. It’s a full half-hour recapping all of the week’s highlights.

Categories: Education, Schools

Hundreds of community college students rally at the Capitol

By | February 1, 2013 | 0 Comments

More than 250 students from Washington’s community and technical colleges rallied in Olympia on Friday with the message: “We are the future, don’t cut the future.” The 2013 Community Student Legislative Rally organized the event at the Capitol Rotunda to bring attention to rising costs of tuition, programs, class selections and textbook prices.

“We’re here today to ask our lawmakers to stop raising tuition and cutting our funding,” said Kailene Sparrs, president of the Washington State Community and Technical College Student Association. “We want our students to be able to get an education so they can go out and get jobs and be contributing members of the community.”

“When you look at compounding costs for students, tuition has actually increased by approximately 100 percent over the last four years,” said Highline Community College trustee Dan Altmayer. “We need more money for the system so we can do this without putting on the backs of our students.”

Administrators from several community and technical colleges spoke at the rally, along with students and state legislators.

“My goal is to make sure that every single person who wants a higher education in the state, gets an education, and gets a job in their field afterward,” said Sen. Barbara Bailey (R-Oak Harbor), chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee.

Joshua Armstrong, a student from Edmonds Community College, said he may not be able to finish school because of the cost.

“My biggest fear is to not be able to continue my education due to rising tuition costs,” Armstrong said.

Categories: Education, Schools

Legislators consider ‘sip and spit’ law for state’s viticulture students

By | February 1, 2013 | 0 Comments

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Lawmakers are considering a piece of legislation that would allow some Washington students to take a sip of wine – as long as they don’t gulp it down.

House Bill 1459, sponsored by Rep. Larry Haler (R-Richland), would allow college students between 18 and 21 years old and enrolled in a viticulture or enology program to sample alcoholic drinks, but not ingest them.

Other restrictions would apply, including tasting the alcoholic drinks only during class time and under the supervision of an instructor who is at least 21 years old.

Washington State University currently offers a viticulture and enology degree for students interested in wine-grape growing and wine making at their Pullman and Tri-Cities campuses.

Similar bills, often labeled academic “Sip and Spit” laws, have passed a handful of states, including Illinois, Colorado and Rhode Island.

The bill will receive a hearing in the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee next week.

Categories: Schools, WA House

House higher education committee considers recommendations

By | January 15, 2013 | 0 Comments

The House Higher Education Committee met this morning for the first time this session to address the problems facing higher education for Washingtonians.

Committee Chair Rep. Larry Seaquist (D–Gig Harbor) began the meeting with a simple question – why is Washington state under-educated?

“Washington’s 25-year-olds are less educated than their parents, and less educated than the 25-year-olds in many other countries,” said Seaquist.

After introductions of the committee members, the Student Achievement Council presented their strategic recommendations. The council was created by Legislature last year primarily for the purposes of increasing the level of education attainment for Washingtonians and to identify improvements to the education process.

“We believe that to increase the higher level education attainment, you have to look at the entire system – how it’s aligned, how it’s integrated, how the students at every level are ready for the next level of education,” said Brian Baird, chair of the Washington Student Achievement Council.

The Council presented recommendations developed to address the biggest issues facing higher education:

  • student readiness
  • the affordability of higher education
  • institutional capacity and student success (student-teacher ratios and the effect on student performance)
  • technology (eLearning)
  • funding

Following the presentation by the council, the committee heard from students from both four-year institutions and 2-year community and technical colleges.

(more…)

Categories: Education, Schools
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Guns, charter schools and live legislative preview

By | January 9, 2013 | 0 Comments

Here’s our mid-week round-up:

  • Several lawmakers appear to be considering new gun laws in Washington state in the wake of the Sandy Hook mass school shooting. Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, told The Seattle Times he believes there’s bipartisan support for tougher gun laws for juveniles and committing dangerous individuals — but not much else. Meanwhile, Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, wants to allow trained teachers to carry guns in the classroom. Read the story here.
  • Schools chief Randy Dorn wants state lawmakers to amend the charter school law so that his office oversees the new schools. The law, which voters approved in November, creates a new commission charged with supervising charter schools — a move that Dorn says is unconstitutional. Dorn will discuss the issue, among other topics, on this week’s “Inside Olympia” with Austin Jenkins on Jan. 10 at 7 & 10 p.m.
  • Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia, is among three candidates in the running to replace Kim Wyman as Thurston County auditor. Wyman leaves the office next week to become Secretary of State. Thurston County Republicans named Carol Person as their first choice for the job, Alexander as their second choice, and Yelm Mayor Ron Harding third, according to The Olympian.
  • TVW will be live Thursday with the Associated Press Legislative Preview starting at 9 a.m. The event includes a leadership panel with presumed Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom and Senate Democratic Leader Ed Murray, as well as an education funding panel and Gov.-elect Jay Inslee. Watch live on TV, or at this link.

 

Watch the latest Inside Olympia right here

By | April 27, 2012 | 0 Comments

On this week’s edition, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn discusses K-12 education, and Sen. Rodney Tom (D) and Sen. Andy Hill (R) talk about higher education.

Categories: Schools, TVW

Q&A: State Superintendent of Schools Randy Dorn on teacher evaluations

By | April 25, 2012 | 0 Comments

I spoke with state Superintendent of Schools Randy Dorn about the new teacher evaluation measure passed by the Legislature earlier this year, and what’s being done to prepare for its implementation starting in 2013.

Two years ago, the state adopted an evaluation system that ranked teachers as either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. The new law replaces that with a more centralized system that ranks teachers as a level 1-unsatisfactory, 2-basic, 3-proficient or 4-distinguished.

Dorn will also be a guest on this week’s Inside Olympia talking about his re-election campaign and issues related to K-12 education. Watch Thursday at 7 & 10 p.m.

 What’s going on behind the scenes to prepare for the new evaluation system?

There are nine pilot programs looking at different types of teacher evaluations — eight are school districts and one is consortium of small districts outside of Spokane. I will pick three evaluations this summer. Those evaluations will be the framework and somewhat standardized, so that there will be similarities between all the school districts and how they evaluate teachers.  A “3” teacher in Olympia will be a “3” in Othello. The evaluations basically give us definitions and an understanding of what good teaching is. Going forward, all the school districts will be in negotiations of which one to pick.

So the individual school districts will then be able to choose which of the three evaluations they want to use.

Yes, and it was a positive step by the Legislature. They could have said, ‘Just one evaluation.’ But we’re a state of local control, and it adds to the discussion when it is not just the Legislature saying, ‘This is the one you’re going to do.’ School district leaders and teachers will chose which one fits them best, and which one works for their teachers and students. You get a more robust exchange of ideas.

We’ve seen other states do it from the top-down level and it has become a very tough time in those states. We may be a little tortoise and the hare nationally, but the tortoise wins. So I’m going to bet on the tortoise. We’re going to get it right.

 What has been the reaction of teachers and principals to the new evaluations?

It’s been mostly positive. The big concern by teachers is trusting that this is really about improving the profession, rather than just getting rid of bad teachers. A lot of principals are concerned about this shift of their workload. Over the past three years, many vice principals and deans of students have gone away. So they have less personnel to do the evaluations today compared to four years ago.

(more…)

Categories: Schools

Week 1 of Session: Let’s Review

By | January 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

The 2012 Legislative session kicked off on Monday, and we covered lots of ground here on the blog and on Legislative Review, our 10-minute wrap-up of the day’s events that airs nightly at 6:30 p.m. on TVW. Here’s a quick look back at what happened this week.

Monday: Opening ceremonies got underway with speeches from Reps. Frank Chopp and Richard DeBolt. TVW aired a two-hour opening day special of “The Impact” with interviews from the Governor and dozens of lawmakers, who touched on everything from the budget to gay marriage and medical marijuana.

Watch Monday’s Legislative Review here.

Tuesday:  Gov. Chris Gregoire gave her final state of the state address, calling for a $3.6 billion transportation package that would include a $1.50 fee per barrel on oil produced in Washington. Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, delivered the Republican response. That was followed by a news conference where several Republicans said they were concerned that the Governor’s proposed oil fee would cause prices to rise at the gas pump.

Watch Tuesday’s Legislative Review here.

Wednesday: After three years of delivering gloomy economic forecasts, the state’s chief economist Arun Raha announced he was resigning to take a new job in Cleveland — but not without cracking a few of his signature “Arun-ism” jokes first. We kept an eye on two environmental bills — one would ban plastic grocery bags in Washington state, and the other would ban petroleum-based plastic bottles. And, the Senate took a look at a proposal that would consolidate the healthcare benefits of K-12 public school employees under one insurance plan.

Watch Wednesday’s Legislative Review here.

Thursday: A bipartisan group of lawmakers held a press conference to announce their plans for education reform, including a bill that would authorize charter schools in Washington state. Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, held a press conference to promote his version of a bill that would ban plastic bags. The employment department and chief economist Arun Raha gave an update on how the state’s economy is doing.

Watch Thursday’s Leglative Review here.

Friday: The Sandusky scandal prompted the Senate to hear a bill that would hold certain higher education employees responsible for reporting suspected child abuse. Also, the Senate honored Sen. Scott White, who died in October of a heart attack. Friday’s edition of Legislative Review airs at 6:30 p.m. on TVW.

Education reform group announces package of bills including charter schools, teacher evaluation

By | January 12, 2012 | 0 Comments

“We’re here because we believe that education is truly the answer,” said Rep. Eric Pettigrew, kicking off the education reform press conference where he and a handful of other lawmakers are unveiling their ideas for the session. He said 11 students per hour drop out in this state, and many fourth graders aren’t reading or doing math at grade level. He said the coalition of lawmakers is proposing a group of bills that would aim to help those struggling students now.

Pettigrew said he knows education reform is an emotional subject, but when it’s done with the right reasons, “it’s well worth the fight … All we’re asking for is an honest, open dialogue.”

Sen. Steve Litzow took the mic. “We know that our schools are not keeping pace with the needs of a dynamic and growing international marketplace,” he said. “There are 920 schools that are designated Title I” — that’s 40 percent of Washington schools where students aren’t meeting adequately yearly progress.

Litzow said the single most important factor in a child’s education is a quality teacher. “We need to do everything that we can do to make sure that everyone … has the opportunity to succeed.” He said that includes a more robust method to evaluate teachers that can help develop quality teachers — and weed out those for whom teaching might not be a good fit. (more…)

Categories: Public Policy, Schools
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Proposed benefit plan would consolidate benefits for K-12 employees

By | January 11, 2012 | 0 Comments

This morning the Senate Health and Long-Term Care committee heard details about an overhaul of the healthcare benefit system for nearly 200,000 public school employees.

The proposal would consolidate the healthcare plans of 295 school districts, and include medical, dental and vision. Life insurance and long-term disability would be left to the individual school districts.

The plan could save the state an estimated about 1-2 percent of the current billion dollars that is currently spent on public school employee benefits, according to a report by the Health Care Authority.

Sen. Steve Conway said that although the cost savings was important, that’s not the only issue at hand. “What we’re trying to do is get a good product to the people who work in the school districts,” Conway said.

Randy Parr of the Washington Education Association said that they oppose any plan that would give a government board power over employee healthcare plans.

“This is a genuinely seriously subject and you are talking about 200,000 lives,” Parr said. “I hope you understand the importance and magnitude of decisions” that could affect people’s healthcare coverage, premiums and choice of doctors, Parr added.

 

Gov. Gregoire discusses sales tax hike, gay marriage and medical marijuana

By | January 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

We just wrapped up an interview with Gov. Chris Gregoire as part of our special opening day edition of “The Impact.” You can catch the rebroadcast at 7 p.m. tonight, and we’ll post web clips as they become available.

Gregoire spoke about her proposal for a half-cent state sales tax hike, gay marriage, education reform and medical marijuana.

The Washington Supreme Court’s recent decision on the McCleary case — which said that the state isn’t doing its duty to fully fund education — emphasizes the need for a sales tax increase, Gregoire said.

“The court put an exclamation point behind my recommendation,” Gregoire said during the interview.

Gregoire said she hopes to get a gay marriage bill out this week, and possibly as soon as today. The bill would make gay marriage legal in Washington state.

Current domestic partnerships would transition to marriages within two years, she said, unless those partnerships are dissolved. Heterosexual or homosexual couples over the age of 62 who are in a domestic partnerships for financial reasons will be able to continue that relationship if they choose, she added.

She also spoke about her continuing efforts to get the federal government to reclassify medical marijuana as a Class II drug, which would give it accepted medical uses.

Rep. Larry Haler: “We have reached the breaking point”

By | January 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

In just a few minutes TVW will be on air with legislators with discussions spanning the topics of the budget, jobs, and higher education.

So far, we’ve spoken with Senators Ed Murray and Mark Schoesler about the budget and Senator Derek Kilmer about job creation.

In our discussion about higher education with Representative Larry Haler, he said “we have reached the breaking point,” regarding cuts to higher education. He said he is in talks with higher education officials and has called for a “zero percent increase” in tuition, or as close to that as is feasible, he added.

All of the interviews today will be on air at 7 p.m. as well.

Today on TVW

By | January 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

We’ll be interviewing legislators from 10 a.m. until noon on air. We have interviews lined up with Governor Chris Gregoire, budget writers, and legislators working on same-sex marriage, higher education, transportation, K-12 education, and more! Stay tuned, and right after that, you can watch the opening ceremonies live on TVW starting at noon.