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Originally published Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 4:00 PM

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Editorial: College Bound — the civil right of educational opportunity

Washington state should continue its investment in the College Bound Scholarship program.

Seattle Times Editorial

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EDUCATION is as much a civil-rights battleground today as it was in 1964 when Martin Luther King Jr. called it the “road to equality and citizenship.”

The fight now is to improve academic outcomes for low-income kids of color. Evidence that we’re not doing as well as we should comes from the League of Education Voters. The advocacy group used the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math and reading scores to compare achievement gaps in 2011 with gaps in 2009. The gap is widening in Washington.

The gaps between achievement levels of African-American, Latino, Native-American students and white students are troubling. The biggest challenge lies in the gap between low-income students and their more well-off counterparts.

The solution is not to lower the academic bar, creating a separate accountability system for low-income kids. Legislative proposals, such as one a year ago to lower high-school graduation requirements, sells short the ability of students to persevere and achieve.

Once students are on the proper academic track, support should continue, not stop. That’s why the College Bound Scholarship program is a critical strategy for improving academic outcomes for low-income students.

Students sign up in middle school and pledge to stay out of legal trouble and maintain at least a “C” average. In return, the state pays for four years at a public college or university. It is a powerful beacon that has attracted 123,000 students.

The first group of College Bound scholars started their college careers this year. Credit the College Success Foundation for taking the lead. The nonprofit agency correctly sees supporting college aspirations as a way of tackling the state’s dismal 76 percent graduation rate and its national ranking of 32nd in the percentage of low-income students enrolled in a postsecondary school.

Money is tight but lawmakers should continue to support the College Bound Scholarship program. Prioritize it as a key investment in a quality education for students from age 3 to 23.

For more information about the College Bound Scholarship:

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