The Graduate Tacoma Advocacy Network is dedicated to elevating the Tacoma-Pierce County voice to address impactful local, regional, and state policy issues that further our vision for a Tacoma where every child succeeds in school, career, and life. 

2022 Advocacy Priorities

Sustain investments in quality early learning opportunities for more children with a focus on children of color and those living in poverty
Each of Washington’s 460,000 children under the age of 5 deserves the chance to enter kindergarten ready, healthy, and with the support they need to begin a lifetime of learning.
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Expand equitable access to postsecondary pathways
Ensure that paths to college for students from low-income backgrounds become permanent state policy.
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Maintain K-12 budgets to protect student supports
If unaddressed, pandemic-related underrepresentation of enrollments will reduce funding allocations in districts all across Washington, creating budget shortfalls that will negatively impact students in every corner of our state.
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Increase funding for community-based organizations offering youth development programs
Preserving existing funding streams for these programs is necessary to maintain the holistic, whole-child support some of our state’s most vulnerable students receive – both during the growing COVID crisis and beyond.
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Washington Legislature Concludes 2022 Session

Washington Legislature Concludes 2022 Session

The biggest development under this priority was a nearly $126 million dollar investment in the Working Connections Child Care program. There were two

How Policy Can Advance Access to Student Supports

How Policy Can Advance Access to Student Supports

Policies should enable schools to engage with community partners to ensure access to whole-child services, educational attainment, and economic mobility.

How Policy Can Address Lagging Postsecondary Enrollment

How Policy Can Address Lagging Postsecondary Enrollment

The rate at which high school graduates in Washington State enroll in a 4-year or 2-year college program after high school has remained


Washington Cradle to Career Advocacy Network

A partnership of cross-sector community groups aligned to create more integrated and equitable investments for youth from cradle to career.

Advocating for Youth

In the Fall of 2018, the Foundation for Tacoma Students — the backbone 501c3 nonprofit supporting the Graduate Tacoma community movement —launched its first advocacy agenda in favor of policy that works for all Tacoma students to increase graduation rates and close disparity gaps. The Graduate Tacoma Advocacy Network launched the following year to develop an annual cradle-to-career shared policy agenda. 

The Foundation for Tacoma Students is a 501c3 nonprofit and legally allowed to advocate on the local, regional and state level within the following perimeters:


The Foundation will never participate in campaigns on behalf of, or in opposition to, political candidates to public office.

The Foundation’s advocacy for legislative and public policies will not exceed 20 percent of its total expenditures – commonly known as lobbying.


The Foundation’s advocacy efforts will abide by the IRS’ substantial part test. In doing so, the majority of the Foundation’s overall organizational and human resources will continue to be dedicated to providing backbone support for Graduate Tacoma’s four Collaborative Action Networks.

As we develop our capacity to advocate for policies that positively impact students, the Graduate Tacoma movement will become a key player in mobilizing local community. As such, we welcome any and all input and guidance from our trusted partners involved in the Graduate Tacoma community movement.

The Foundation for Tacoma Students has adopted a Policy Advisory Committee comprising of Tacoma leaders with significant insight and understanding on policies impacting students, families and our success as a movement toward closing the opportunity gaps in Tacoma. These individuals are deeply engaged with the Graduate Tacoma community movement. 


The Policy Advisory Committee’s primary objectives are to

1) provide policy recommendations that support the vision of the Graduate Tacoma movement and;

2) advise the process for developing the Foundation’s advocacy capacity.


As we build out our capacity for advocacy, the Foundation will expand this role beyond a sole advisory committee and integrate it into the Graduate Tacoma model of collective impact. 

Collective impact is the commitment of a group of actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem, using a structured form of collaboration. Graduate Tacoma is a collective impact movement supported by community partners. Graduate Tacoma organized these community partners into five stakeholder groups, called Collaborative Action Networks (CANs).

Utilizing a collective impact approach to the work, the Graduate Tacoma community movement is able to improve outcomes for students across the cradle-to-career continuum. However, to make a lasting impact, we must improve systems and promote policies to compliment our progress – as well as leverage our collective power when policies and systems threaten to dismantle our progress. Advocacy acts at the systems change level by addressing the root causes of social problems.

Since its inception in 2010, Graduate Tacoma’s Collaborative Action Networks (CANs) have brought the community together to align data, resources, and ultimately actions to move the needle on our seventeen academic and community indicators. While the data tells us that we’ve made incredible progress in our community, it also shows us there is more work to do. It is our belief that we will make faster and stronger progress by taking on an advocacy role on behalf of all Tacoma students.


Our advocacy and policy efforts will cut across state, regional and local agendas and we will focus primarily on elevating the Tacoma/Pierce County voice in agendas that otherwise have not had our strong presence. Now is the time to build a strong and adept approach to advocate for policies that disrupt long-standing inequities for historically underserved communities like ours.


Ben Mitchell

Director of Advocacy & Policy | Foundation for Tacoma Students

April Shine

Director of Advocacy & Policy | WA Cradle to Career Advocacy Network

Gray Sterling

Assistant Director of Policy & Planning | WA Student Achievement Council

J.R. Nobles

Executive Director | Friends of the Children

David Westbrook

Director of External Relations | University of Washington-Tacoma

Rachel Haas

Project Child Success Manager | First 5 Fundamentals

Jake Vela

Senior Policy Analyst | League of Education Voters