Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The 2016 general election is behind us and the 2017 legislative session is just six weeks away, scheduled to begin Jan. 9. The election-year mailing restriction freeze is over, which means I can resume email updates to communicate the latest news from Olympia to you, beginning today.
Today and tomorrow, House committees are meeting in Olympia for pre-session planning in what is known as “Assembly Days.” We are discussing the latest issues expected to be brought before the Legislature during the scheduled 105-day session.
This coming session will be a time in which lawmakers will be crafting a two-year state operating budget. It is also a time when we will be working to put in place the final education funding reforms under the state Supreme Court's “McCleary Decision.” We have already made significant progress. I am proud of the state Legislature for allocating an additional $4.6 billion of NEW tax dollars to K-12 public schools during the last four years I have served in the House. This is the largest increase of education funding in the history of our state and represents a permanent increase of 34 percent.
During the current 2016-17 school year, districts are receiving an average of $12,675 per student from state, local and federal revenue sources — the highest amount ever! This is something we should be celebrating.
Washington's education funding crisis was more than 20 years in the making. It won't be fixed overnight. In addition to money, the McCleary case was also about accountability and improved student outcomes. We are continuing to address each of those issues.
We have more work to do. You may be aware only 25 percent of jobs in Washington require a baccalaureate or higher degree. Yet we are forcing our high school students to graduate from a curriculum that directs 100 percent of them toward college and higher education. Unfortunately, we are losing students with this paradigm. In order to improve high school graduation rates from our state's average of just 77 percent, we must work together to create a curriculum that creates the potential for success for all of our students, not just those bound for four-year universities.
My goal is to return vocational education programs into our high schools, provide greater worksite learning opportunities for high school students, and increase apprenticeship, career and technical education programs. By making these programs available to our students who do not wish to attend college or a four-year university, we will better prepare them for a meaningful career and truly make them future ready. These are the kinds of reforms we need to ensure success in our K-12 education system.
I am working with legislative staff to draft a list of constituent-request bills for the coming session that I hope to share with you in one of my next email updates. In the meantime, please feel free to contact my office in Olympia with any questions, comments or suggestions about legislation and state government. I look forward to serving you in the coming session.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"