The 2014 legislative session may have been short, but there were significant policy accomplishments in improving public education in Washington state. These accomplishments expand access to financial aid for higher education for all Washington students, pave the way for all students to graduate from high school ready for college or career, and make steps toward reducing the opportunity and achievement gaps.
At least six bills that passed this session addressed aspects of the opportunity and achievement gaps. The first of these bills was the Dream Act (or Real Hope Act), which expands college financial aid to students regardless of immigration status and appropriates $5 million for the State Need Grant for 2014–15.
One of the bills that passed late in the session was approval of the College and Career Ready Diploma, to better prepare graduates for life after high school, by updating high school graduation requirements to better align with knowledge and skills needed for their college or career plans. The quiet passage of this bill belied the work done to pass it. Indeed, the League of Education Voters’ work to update Washington’s high school graduation requirements began in 2006, and it took eight years of continued effort to upgrade the requirements.
Beginning with the high school class of 2019 (with built-in flexibility for districts), students at public high schools will complete 24 credits, which better align with entry requirements to public colleges in Washington. The law also builds in flexibility for students to pursue career and technical education or create a personalized plan to better align with their career goals.
While the League of Education Voters (LEV) is pleased that so many bills with a focus on the opportunity and achievement gaps passed, we were disappointed that the legislature did not follow Governor Jay Inslee’s guidance and take action to protect Washington’s No Child Left Behind waiver. Along with the rest of the state, we are now watching and waiting to see what action the federal government will take.
We are now looking forward to the 2015 legislative session, where we will continue to work toward our vision that every Washington student receives a an excellent public education with the opportunity for success—from cradle to career.
To hear more about the 2014 legislative session, listen to our session wrap-up webinar with LEV’s Director of Government Relations, Frank Ordway, or read about our legislative accomplishments. Below is the final list of bills that passed this session.
Expands access to early learning opportunities for children in the child welfare system and requires the Department of Early Learning and Department of Social and Health Services to develop recommendations for improved collaboration in order to address these children's needs.
Requires districts to submit to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) information about its employee collective bargaining agreements. OSPI will post the information online.
In order to improve educational outcomes for homeless students by gathering more and better data and distributing best practices and other means to support these students.
Establishes a work group to design minimum employment standards for paraeducators; professional development (PD) supporting the standards; a paraeducator career ladder; an articulated pathway for teacher prep and certification; and teacher PD on how to maximize the use of paraeducators in the classroom.
Extended school year pilot program will lengthen the school year by 20 days for 3 years starting in 2015–16; eligible schools have a low-income enrollment of 75 percent or higher. Up to 10 schools will be selected. Pilot applicants must get staff buy-in; solicit input from the community; and get school board approval.
Establishes Washington state seal of biliteracy to recognize public high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking; reading; and writing in one or more world languages; in addition to English.
The Dream Act; also called the Real Hope Act. Extends State Need Grant eligibility to qualifying undocumented students who have graduated from a Washington high school; appropriates $5 million for the State Need Grant for 2014–15.
Adopts policies related to high school curriculum in science; technology; engineering; and mathematics (STEM) coursework; delay of the 1080 instructional hour requirements; increase in guidance counselor allocation; and implementation of the 24-credit high school graduation requirement.