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Oct. 3, 2019

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Early learning and K-12 education are overwhelmingly important issues that touch communities in every corner of the state. Nothing is more important when it comes to providing our residents with equitable opportunities and the potential for success.

In the 2019 Legislative Session, we focused on creating policies that will provide all students with access to safe, student-focused learning environments that are culturally responsive to the needs of our diverse student body while also enhancing funding for key areas where school districts have told us they continue to need additional support.

Affordable access to quality early learning and childcare programs was again a priority, and we passed bills expanding access to the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) and to put Washington on a path toward childcare access for all.

I am not a member of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, but I supported each of these measures as they came to the Senate floor.

In gratitude,



Creating a Safe and Supportive Learning Environment

A safe and supportive learning environment that recognizes the needs of the whole student is critical to academic success. To help students be successful in both school and life, the educational system must have policies and resources in place that allow it to be responsive to the different barriers to learning that our students experience.

  • HB 1216 requires each educational service district to establish a regional school safety center to provide behavioral health coordination, school-based threat assessment, training and collaboration. A statewide school safety center is created within the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to assist regional centers in meeting state school safety requirements.
  • SB 5082 improves and expands work started in 2015, when OSPI was directed to begin developing social-emotional learning (SEL) standards for every grade level. These SEL standards are intended to help students build awareness and skills in managing emotions, setting goals, establishing relationships and making responsible decisions. This new bill creates a permanent committee to promote and expand these standards, which will be aligned with existing educational programs, as appropriate.
  • SB 5324 requires each public K-12 school to establish a point of contact for youth experiencing homelessness. OSPI must provide best practices for choosing and building the point of contact.
  • SB 5689 is designed to protect transgender students from bullying. The Washington State School Directors Association and OSPI must collaborate to develop and update a model transgender student policy and procedure to eliminate discrimination based on gender expression and address the unique challenges transgender students face.

How this affects you: Our country is in a school safety crisis. We must ensure that our students have the tools they need to address stress, bullying and behavioral health crises. We must also ensure that districts have the tools they need to perform threat assessments and intervene when necessary.

Special Education

This year, the Legislature increased funding for special education, paving the way for more inclusive learning environments. SB 5091 increases the state funding multiplier for special education and gives additional funding to schools that educate students with individualized education programs in inclusive environments. In Washington, fewer than 4 percent of students with disabilities are identified as having an intellectual disability, and more than 90 percent have above-average intellectual functionality, according to OSPI. But only 55 percent are placed in general education for 80 to 100 percent of the day. For students of color, the number is even lower — only 47 percent.


School Funding

When it comes to school funding, we know that one size does not fit all. Every school district has unique circumstances and needs — and people at the local level are in the best position to make those choices. Changes made to the levy lid in 2017 left schools without a sustainable way to fund enrichment programs. We knew at that time that we would need to make adjustments.

  • Senate Bill 5313 changes the levy capacity calculation to allow levies in the amounts of: the lesser of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value or $2,500 per pupil for school districts with fewer than 40,000 students; and the lesser of $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed value or $3,000 per pupil for school districts with 40,000 students or more.
  • Additional local effort assistance funding is also provided to school districts that generate less than $1,550 per student with a levy rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value. Previously the per-student rate had been $1,500.
  • SB 5313 also more clearly defines the audit provisions related to how local funding is spent to ensure districts are not spending this funding on basic education programs and creates consequences if the funding is not being used appropriately.

Childcare and Early Learning

Washington continues to be a leader in efforts to improve quality in early care and education settings. Since creating the Department of Children, Youth, and Families in 2017, Washington has steadily invested in advancing the quality of early learning environments across the state with policies that support children, families, and the many providers who serve them.

  • This year we invested an additional $143 million in early learning programs — a 153 percent funding increase over the previous biennium.
  • SB 5437 extends ECEAP to children whose family income is less than or equal to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, as available, and requires development of a phased-in birth-to-three ECEAP pilot project.
  • SB 5089 extends eligibility to the ECEAP to income-eligible children who received early intervention services or early head start and who will turn 3 during the school year.