The Washington state Legislature is back in session and lawmakers are considering a bevy of education-related bills. Where do they stand? Below, Ed Lab reporters track them for you. Want to find out about these topics sooner? Subscribe to Education Lab’s free newsletter!
Neal Morton: While most folks in Olympia have grown pretty tired of talking about funding for K-12 schools, special education remains perhaps the only point of bipartisan agreement on where lawmakers can provide more money. It’s unclear exactly what that will look like, but we’ll be watching for updates.
I’m also tracking some bills that lawmakers resurrected from the dead of last year’s session: Comprehensive sex education, testing for lead in school drinking water and a boost in state funding for charter schools. New items of note: Free menstrual hygiene products in schools, cost-free dual-credit programs that allow high-school students to take college-level courses, and school districts building housing for teachers.
Hannah Furfaro: The Legislature is looking at an assortment of bills that focus on higher education. The House Committee on College and Workforce Development is considering a bill that would make college costs more transparent. On Jan. 14, legislators held a hearing on the bill, which would require acceptance letters from public colleges to provide students with an estimated cost.
Lawmakers are also debating a bill that would create a common application to the state’s public colleges, as discussed in a Jan. 16 Senate Committee on Higher Education and Workforce Development hearing.
This committee is also taking up a bill that would require school districts to hold at least one financial-aid day a year, in an effort to help more students apply for financial aid.
Dahlia Bazzaz: The Legislature is wading into the controversy over how to teach gifted education. Senate Bill 6282 requires school districts to develop individual learning plans for every gifted student before phasing out separate classes for gifted learners. Ten out of 11 members of the Senate’s education committee have co-sponsored the measure. If passed, it would affect Seattle’s proposal to end segregated learning environments for advanced learners, which has prompted an outcry from some parents.
Anne Hillman: Also on the agenda are bills in both the House and the Senate focused on funding and improving school counseling programs. School counselors work with students and families to develop plans for academic success and for life after high school taking into account the student’s individual needs. They also focus on social and emotional development. These bills would set standards for developing counseling programs at every school and make sure the funding set aside for counselors is used for that purpose.