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    Two more Wilson bills improving access to childcare signed into law

Two more Wilson bills improving access to childcare signed into law

April 3rd, 2020|

Two new laws signed today by Gov. Inslee will ensure the delivery of full childcare benefits for eligible households under the Working Connections Childcare (WWC) program and will improve teen parents’ chances of attaining the education and graduation credentials to position them and their children for more successful lives.

“Childcare has never been more needed or less accessible than it is today, and it often determines whether parents and children thrive or struggle — not just during their school years but throughout their lives,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), who sponsored both bills. “I know the tremendous difference it can make because I saw the impacts firsthand each and every day when I worked in our public schools.”

The first bill, Senate Bill 6540, ensures that children will receive the full, 12-month childcare benefit for which they qualify under Working Connections. Under the current system, the 12-month clock starts as soon as an application is processed — often weeks and even months before a parent can find and arrange childcare — and expires after 12 months, even if the child has been in care for only a few months. Wilson’s law delays the start of the clock until the child begins receiving care.

The second law, also sponsored by Wilson in the Senate, passed in the form of a companion bill in the House — House Bill 2455. This measure extends, within existing resources, full-time subsidized childcare during the school year to eligible parents attending high school or working toward a high school equivalency certificate.

“Access to childcare makes for healthier households and more successful students,” said Wilson, vice chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. “When teen parents are able to stay in school or complete the work to earn a diploma, they position themselves and their children for more successful lives and they make our communities stronger.”

These are two of a slate of bills Wilson sponsored and shepherded to passage this year that improve childcare access, quality or safety. Two other Senate bills — SB 5434 and SB 6483 — prohibit guns at childcare facilities and allow childcare providers additional time to make remedial improvements that improve quality of care.

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    Governor signs new law to prohibit solitary confinement of youths

Governor signs new law to prohibit solitary confinement of youths

April 3rd, 2020|

Juvenile holding facilities may no longer subject teens to solitary confinement, except in extraordinary circumstances, under a law signed today by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“Solitary confinement is damaging to youth. It traumatizes them and hinders their ability to learn, grow and reintegrate into society,” said Rep. Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds), the sponsor of House Bill 2277. “Subjecting kids to solitary confinement is nothing short of torture. Its end is way past due.”

Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), who sponsored matching legislation and shepherded Peterson’s bill to passage in the Senate, said a study of suicides in juvenile facilities revealed half of all suicides occurred while in isolation and 62 percent of the youth had experienced solitary confinement.

“Studies show that using solitary confinement to improve behavior accomplishes exactly the opposite,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn). “Instead of reducing violence and assaults on staff and youth, solitary confinement makes things worse. It is an outdated and misguided practice that inflicts serious, lasting harm.”

The new law:

  • Limits the use of isolation to only emergency conditions, with strict guidelines for time and placement;
  • Requires institutions to document any use of isolation or room confinement; and
  • Establishes a process for the creation of model policies to follow when the use of isolation, room confinement, or less restrictive alternatives is deemed appropriate.

The legislation aligns Washington with 10 states — including the nation’s two largest, California and Texas — that have passed laws to ban or limit solitary confinement for juveniles. When the state of Ohio reduced the use of solitary confinement by more than 88 percent in 2015, institutional violence decreased by more than 20 percent.

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    Wilson bill to improve childcare learning and development is now law

Wilson bill to improve childcare learning and development is now law

April 2nd, 2020|

A new law signed today by Gov. Inslee allows childcare providers the additional time some need to make remedial improvements that improve quality of care.

Senate Bill 6483, sponsored by Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), updates the state’s Early Achievers rating requirements to allow certain childcare providers 12 months instead of 6 to complete remedial activities necessary to satisfy requirements. The goal of Early Achievers is to make sure childcare providers are effectively and adequately addressing children’s learning and development needs.

“The goal of the ratings requirements is to make sure our kids’ needs are met, not to shut down childcare providers,” said Wilson, vice chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. “If a provider is improving the level of care but needs a little more time to fully meet the Early Achiever requirements, that’s an investment worth making on behalf of our kids.”

The ratings apply to providers who receive subsidies through the state’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program and Working Connections Childcare subsidy program. The new law also allows providers to continue to receive subsidies while completing remedial improvements.

“Making sure children can get off to a good start in life is one of the most crucial things we can do for them,” Wilson said. “Healthier, more successful children invariably evolve into healthier, more successful adults. They achieve a better quality of life, and they make our communities stronger.”

SB 6483 is one of several bills Wilson sponsored and shepherded to passage this year that improve childcare access, quality or safety.

Two other Senate bills — SB 5434 and SB 6540 — prohibit guns at childcare facilities and ensure that Working Connections Childcare recipients receive the full childcare payments for which they are eligible. A third bill — SB 6255, which passed in the form of House companion legislation — improves access to child care for parents who are attending high school or working toward completion of a high school equivalency certificate.

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    It’s the law: Wilson’s bill makes childcare facilities gun-free zones

It’s the law: Wilson’s bill makes childcare facilities gun-free zones

March 27th, 2020|

A law signed today by Gov. Jay Inslee extends to childcare facilities the same prohibitions on deadly weapons that apply to K-12 schools.

“Our younger children deserve the same degree of safety as our school-age youths,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), the bill’s sponsor. “Whether it’s school or childcare, when parents see their kids off in the morning, they expect them to be safe and sound and come back home that way.”

Wilson, the vice chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, said Senate Bill 5434 will help keep younger children safe from the deadly shootings that are spilling into public venues with increasing frequency.

The law prohibits the possession of firearms on the premises of any licensed childcare center, childcare center-provided transportation, or other childcare center facility. It exempts law enforcement officers and holders of concealed pistol licenses.

“The last thing a parent wants to hear is that shots have been fired at a school or other public facility attended by their children,” Wilson said. “This should give parents reassurance that their children are secure and safe in the institutions they trust with their care.”

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    Governor signs comprehensive sexual health education bill into law

Governor signs comprehensive sexual health education bill into law

March 27th, 2020|

The expansion of science-based, age-appropriate sexual health education to all public school districts and grade levels was signed into law today by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“This curriculum has been taught in many of our school districts for years, but kids in other districts haven’t had access to the same information and protections,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), the vice chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. “This is about making sure younger children know what kind of touching is inappropriate, whether by peers or predators. It’s about helping older students recognize and resist abusive or coercive behavior. It’s about teaching all children to respect diversity and not to bully others.”

Among other things, Wilson’s Senate Bill 5395:

  • Expands comprehensive sexual health education curriculum to all grade 6-12 schools across the state, phased in over several years;
  • Phases in age-appropriate curriculum for K-5 grades; and
  • Simplifies the process by which parents may exempt children from sexual health education classes on request.

“We all want to keep our children safe. As an educator and parent of teenagers, I have seen the consequences of not providing young people with information they need,” said Rep. Monica Stonier (D-Vancouver), who sponsored companion legislation in the House and shepherded Wilson’s bill to passage in that chamber. “This bill will help schools provide students with the age-appropriate tools they need to keep themselves safe and healthy, while maintaining local control in districts.”

“Students need a safe place to ask questions and get the information they need to make safe decisions,” Wilson said. “Every year, there are children who are targeted for molestation, there are young women who are coerced or assaulted. The information and lessons in this curriculum will help our children live healthier, safer lives.”

The bill has been a target of disinformation campaigns that have sought to stir opposition by circulating misleading and false depictions of the sexual health curriculum.

Wilson noted that the curriculum does not promote sex or direct teachers to instruct students on how to have sex, one of numerous nonfactual claims that has been alleged. To the contrary, the curriculum focuses on health and safety, emphasizes the importance of consent, and is proven to reduce unintended pregnancy and STIs.

The bill earned the support of King County prosecutors who wrote in a recent op-ed in the Seattle Times that the curriculum would help prevent sexual abuse and violence by teaching healthier behaviors.

“In committee hearings, we heard testimony from a wide range of students, young people and educators, and even older people who said they wished they’d had access to this curriculum when they were younger,” Wilson said. “They spoke of confusion, torment and hardship that could have been avoided if they had better understood their rights and options and the ramifications of sexual activity. They said they wanted the kids going through our schools today to be able to avoid the pitfalls they endured.”

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    Bill mandating comprehensive sexual health education in public schools heads to Inslee’s desk

Bill mandating comprehensive sexual health education in public schools heads to Inslee’s desk

March 7th, 2020|

A bill requiring comprehensive sexual health education (CSHE) in all public schools by the 2022-23 school year received final approval from the Washington State Senate on Saturday, and now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk to be signed into law.

The Senate had previously passed the bill, but because the House passed the bill with an amendment, it required another vote from the Senate. The Senate concurred with the House’s changes with a 27-21 vote.

Senate Bill 5395, sponsored by Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), would:

  • Require age-appropriate, medically accurate CSHE to be taught once from kindergarten to 3rd grade, once from 4th to 5th, twice in 6th to 8th, and twice in 9th to 12th.
  • Teach the concept of affirmative consent to older students so they can better recognize inappropriate behavior and their right to reject it.
  • Define CSHE and specify that curricula for kindergarten to 3rd grade must meet social and emotional learning standards.
  • Uphold the right of parents to review the curriculum and opt their children out of any portion of the instruction.
  • Require schools to notify parents when CSHE will be taught.
  • Establish new requirements for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to provide technical assistance so that districts can effectively implement the new standards.
  • Require CSHE curriculum to include information about affirmative consent.

“The hard work that we put into this bill — in both the House and Senate — is well worth it because it will improve safety for children statewide,” Wilson said. “We must ensure that our kids have the tools and knowledge they need to recognize and resist inappropriate behavior. This important education will help prevent younger kids from being targeted by pedophiles, and help teens who feel pressured to have sex.”

“It also helps students stay healthy in consensual relationships,” Wilson added. “Studies consistently show that the most effective programs include comprehensive sexual health or HIV education — or both — and the comprehensive approach is proven to reduce unintended pregnancy and STIs.”

Wilson noted that young people ages 15–24 represent one-fourth of the sexually active population but acquire half of all new STIs.

SB 5395 does not mandate any statewide curriculum. Instead, the bill gives local school districts the flexibility to determine what will best meet the needs of their students and families. All information must be appropriate and must meet existing state K-12 Health and Physical Education Learning Standards.

The goal of this legislation, Democrats argued during floor debates, is to give Washington students the tools they need to engage in safe, consensual relationships as adults, in addition to teaching them skills to identify and prevent sexual abuse.

The bill initially passed the Senate on Jan. 22 with a 28-21 voted, and passed in House on March 4 with a 56-40 vote. Now that the Senate has concurred on the House amendments, the bill is eligible for signing by the governor.

 

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    House passes Wilson bill to improve timetable for childcare subsidies

House passes Wilson bill to improve timetable for childcare subsidies

March 6th, 2020|

Legislation passed unanimously late Thursday by the House will ensure that a child who qualifies for 12 months of Working Connections childcare receives the full 12-month benefit.

“If a household qualifies for 12 months of childcare, that’s what they should receive,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), the sponsor of Senate Bill 6540. “The current system starts the clock as soon as an application is processed, which is often before a parent can find childcare. It starts too soon and ends too soon.”

Delaying the start of the clock until the child is in care will ensure that the parent and child receive the full 12-month benefit to which they are entitled.

“Childcare is in great demand and short supply,” said Wilson, vice chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. “Parents deserve to be given the time it takes to find childcare.”

Having already passed the Senate, SB 6540 now goes to the governor to be signed into law.

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    Senate passes bill to prohibit solitary confinement of youths

Senate passes bill to prohibit solitary confinement of youths

March 5th, 2020|

Legislation passed today by the Senate will bar juvenile holding facilities from subjecting teens to solitary confinement. Having already passed the House, the bill now goes to the governor to be signed into law.

“Solitary confinement is damaging to youth. It traumatizes them and hinders their ability to learn, grow and reintegrate into society,” said Rep. Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds), the sponsor of House Bill 2277. “Subjecting kids to solitary confinement is nothing short of torture. Its end is way past due.”

Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), who sponsored companion legislation in the Senate, said a study of suicides in juvenile facilities revealed half of all suicides occurred while in isolation and 62 percent of the youth had experienced solitary confinement.

“Solitary confinement is especially damaging to young people, who are less developed and more vulnerable,” Wilson said. “It is an outdated practice that inflicts serious, lasting harm.”

HB 2277 passed the Senate on a 36-13 vote and will:

  • Limit the use of isolation to only emergency conditions, with strict guidelines for time and placement;
  • Require institutions to document any use of isolation or room confinement; and
  • Establish a process for the creation of model policies to follow when the use of isolation, room confinement, or less restrictive alternatives is deemed appropriate.

The legislation will align Washington with 10 states — including the nation’s two largest, California and Texas — that have passed laws to ban or limit solitary confinement for juveniles. When the state of Ohio reduced the use of solitary confinement by more than 88 percent in 2015, institutional violence decreased by more than 20 percent.

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    Senate passes bill to expand childcare subsidies for teen parents

Senate passes bill to expand childcare subsidies for teen parents

March 5th, 2020|

Legislation passed today by the Senate would improve teen parents’ chances of attaining the education and graduation credentials to position them and their children for more successful lives.

“Helping a young parent complete high school results in a more successful parent and a healthier household,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), vice chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee. “This modest assistance can profoundly change someone’s trajectory. It could mean the difference between success and struggle, now and throughout life.”

Wilson sponsored Senate legislation similar to House Bill 2455, which the Senate passed on a 34-15 vote. The measure extends, within existing resources, full-time subsidized Working Connections Childcare during the school year to parents attending high school or working toward a high school equivalency certificate. The bill also allows school districts to provide transportation to students who request to bring their infant with them on a school bus or other student transportation vehicle. If the request is denied, the district must authorize other arrangements for the child’s transportation.

To be eligible, a parent must participate in 110 hours of approved activities per month and have a household income not in excess of 85 percent of the state median income at the time of application.

Having already passed the House, the bill now goes to the governor to be signed into law.

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    House approves mandate for comprehensive sexual health education in public schools

House approves mandate for comprehensive sexual health education in public schools

March 5th, 2020|

Legislation passed late Wednesday by the Washington State House of Representatives would require comprehensive sexual health education (CSHE) in all public schools by the 2022-23 school year.

Senate Bill 5395, Sponsored by Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), would:

  • Require age-appropriate, medically accurate CSHE to be taught once from kindergarten to 3rd grade, once from 4th to 5th, twice in 6th to 8th, and twice in 9th to 12th.
  • Teach the concept of affirmative consent to older students so they can better recognize inappropriate behavior and their right to reject it.
  • Define CSHE and specify that curricula for kindergarten to 3rd grade must meet social and emotional learning standards.
  • Uphold the right of parents to review the curriculum and opt their children out of any portion of the instruction.
  • Require schools to notify parents when CSHE will be taught.
  • Establish new requirements for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to provide technical assistance so that districts can effectively implement the new standards.
  • Require CSHE curriculum to include information about affirmative consent.

“First and foremost, this bill is about safety. It’s about giving students the knowledge they need to recognize and resist inappropriate behaviors — from small children targeted by pedophiles, to older students pressured to have sex by their peers,” Wilson said. “Second, this bill is about health. Young people ages 15–24 represent one-fourth of the sexually active population but acquire half of all new STIs. Studies consistently show that the most effective programs include comprehensive sexual health or HIV education — or both — and the comprehensive approach is proven to reduce unintended pregnancy and STIs.”

SB 5395 does not mandate any statewide curriculum. Instead, the bill gives local school districts the flexibility to determine what will best meet the needs of their students and families. All information must be appropriate and must meet existing state K-12 Health and Physical Education Learning Standards.

“Parents and communities are critical partners in ensuring that our students are healthy and successful, which is why it is so important that this bill strengthens parental rights,” said Rep. Monica Stonier (D-Vancouver), who sponsored companion legislation in the House. “Teaching students how to be good friends, how to say no to unwanted touches, and how to develop healthy, respectful relationships are all building blocks of public education.”

The goal of this legislation, Democrats argued during debate, is to give Washington students the tools they need to engage in safe, consensual relationships as adults, in addition to teaching them skills to identify and prevent sexual abuse.

The bill passed 28-21 in the Senate and 56-40 in the House. Having been amended in the House, it must now be sent back to the Senate to reconcile the differences in the versions that passed each chamber.