In even-numbered years, the Washington Legislature meets for just 60 days and essentially makes slight changes to the two-year budget lawmakers approved the year before.
That rushed schedule means major legislation, including policy bills related to K-12 schools, often die in committee almost as quickly as lawmakers first introduced them. Two big legislative deadlines just came and went: Bills needed to both move out of their respective House and Senate education committees and receive a favorable vote from each chamber’s fiscal committee in order to stay alive.
This week brings another deadline — the floor cutoff — and the full House and Senate must pass any surviving bills by 5 p.m. Wednesday to keep them moving to the other chamber.
Of course, the Legislature can resurrect seemingly dead policy proposals during budget negotiations and amendments to other bills later in the session. And lawmakers often introduce their pet projects during a short session with the hope of building momentum for the next year.
Here’s a roundup of notable pieces of legislation related to public education.
Bills still in play
House Bill 1860: This legislation would, for the first time, require all schools in Washington to test their drinking water for lead, a heavy metal that poses developmental and physical risks to children. HB 1860, which the House unanimously approved, would trigger immediate fixes to water sources with elevated levels of lead.
House Bill 2220: After a similar bill failed late in last year’s session, HB 2220 would make it easier for parents with criminal records to volunteer in their children’s schools. The proposal awaits a full vote in the House.
House Bill 2864: By a vote of 78-19, the House gave its blessing to this proposal to start a summer school pilot for the popular Running Start program, which allows high school students to take courses on college campuses. The pilot would start at three college or university campuses, if HB 2864 wins approval in the Senate.
Senate Bill 5395: Schools in Washington currently don’t have to teach sex education, but Democrats in Olympia want to make comprehensive sexual health education a mandate across the state. The Senate split along party lines to approve such a mandate in SB 5395, and the House education committee will hold a hearing on the bill this week.
Senate Bill 6505: Each year, Washington families spend an estimated $59 million to enroll students in classes that can help them earn college credit before graduating from high school. SB 6505 would eliminate any costs for students to participate in those programs, and the bill awaits a floor vote in the Senate.
Bills that died in committee
House Bill 2699: This measure would have tightened the duties of school counselors, keeping schools from treating these largely master’s-degree-level staff as generalists who fill any vacant role on campus. HB 2699 never received a hearing, but a companion bill advanced out of the Senate and has been referred to the House education committee.
House Bill 2788: Charter schools, which receive public funding but operate independently of elected school boards, hoped to access additional state money this session. HB 2788 would have done that, but the bill did not move beyond the House appropriations committee. It could come back during budget negotiations later.
House Bill 2933: Similar to education savings accounts in other states, HB 2933 would have created a scholarship program for parents to use state funding to pay for the cost of sending their students to private school. The proposal never had a hearing a died in committee.
Senate Bill 6615: At the request of the state schools chief, this legislation would have boosted funding for mental health staff in schools. The proposal, with a more than $5 billion price tag, had little chance of passing this session and may gain more traction next year.
Senate Bill 6608: Like HB 2933, this legislation would have allowed parents to use per-pupil funding for the children’s education at the school of their choice, including private schools. It too never had a hearing and died in committee.