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Today’s Seattle Times has a disturbing story about how only one in 10 applicants at a Tacoma manufacturing company  pass the simple math test.

Eric Hanh, a vice president at General Plastics, said the poor scores on the company math test — which requires about middle-school level — have been evident for about six years. That’s even though applicants are required to have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Somebody’s dropping the ball.  A member of an aerospace work force committee, he reports that other suppliers are finding the same problem.

That’s why the vote in last Friday’s House education committee is particularly troubling. As amended by the committee, Senate Bill 5330 would lower standards by waiving the graduation requirement of a fourth year of English and third year of math for vocational students. It would allow vocational program credits  to count toward high school graduation requirements.

The amendment by freshman Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, cost the bill the support two veteran House education leaders, Reps. Kristine Lytton, D-Anacortes, and Marcie Maxwell, D-Renton to vote against the bill, which passed 11-10.

Stonier told Publicola districts need more flexibility. “I understand the concerns of not adhering to 24 credits, but that standard is for kids that are college-bound, ” she said.

Now is not the time to be lowering standards for certain students. Competency in English and math is necessary for all students, not just those headed for college. As is, the bill should go no further.

Just ask General Plastics’ Hahn:

“Manpower training for manufacturing is a critical issue right now,” he said. “The development of highly skilled workers is essential if we are to produce good products and grow our industry.”