2024 legislative session •

House Republicans continue to point out the catalog of crises facing Washington state and our solutions to address them in order to fix Washington. Over the last two weeks, I’ve covered public safety and affordability. This week, I’d like to discuss the crisis facing our public education system.

It is clear that Gov. Inslee’s decision to shut down in-class instruction during the pandemic had serious consequences for student learning. Over 60% of our students do not meet grade-level standards in math, and about half do not meet grade-level standards in English language arts. At the same time, state spending for K-12 education has increased significantly — more than doubling over the last decade and now represents about half of the state near general fund spending.

There are other concerning statistics that highlight the challenges facing our students and schools. I encourage you to visit this website below, which has information on student performance, funding, enrollment, and national rankings:

Addressing learning loss

We need to help our students recover from learning loss. House Republicans have proposed several potential solutions, including: 

House Bill 2387, sponsored by Rep. Skyler Rude, our ranking member on the House Education Committee. The measure would place tutors in schools and more paraeducators in classrooms. Research shows that high-dosage tutoring is the most effective way to get students back on track in math and reading.

House Bill 2142 is sponsored by Rep. Chris Corry. The legislation would fund reading literacy coaches in elementary schools and prioritize low-income students and those who have fallen furthest behind their peers.

Fix the education crisis

Beyond addressing learning loss, other House Republican solutions to fix the education crisis include:

  • House Bill 1044 would create a new grant program to help school districts in economically disadvantaged areas repair and build schools. The measure passed off the House floor unanimously last week. Rep. Joel McEntire has been working on this issue for a long time. We’re hopeful his bill reaches the governor’s desk this year.
  • House Bill 1615 would fund education savings accounts for students who are low-income, eligible for special education, or in persistently failing schools. The “Students First” legislation is sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Eslick
  • House Bill 1915, also sponsored by Rep. Skyler Rude, would make financial education instruction a graduation requirement. This measure has a lot of bipartisan support and has been covered by the media.

House Republicans also continue to fight for special education students. Last year, I led a floor debate on an amendment and alternative solution to legislation that would have improved special education funding and provided advocates to parents of special education students to help them navigate the IEP process. House Democrats voted it down.

In the House Appropriations Committee this week, Rep. Travis Couture voiced his concerns with the Democrats’ failure to recognize the constitutional rights of special education students and fully fund special education. He concluded by saying it was within our power to do it now. I agree. You can watch his remarks here.

Initiative 2081

There is also an initiative before the Legislature that would establish a parents’ bill of rights relating to their children’s public school education. As we’ve done with the other initiatives to the Legislature this session, we offered a motion on the House floor to require the House Education Committee to hold a public hearing, but every single House Democrat voted it down. I-2081 would provide transparency and help build trust with parents and schools. My colleagues, House Republican Floor Leader Jacquelin Maycumber and Rep. Jim Walsh, discuss this initiative in this short video.

Rally on the Capitol steps 

I joined many of my House Republican colleagues at a rally on the Capitol steps on Wednesday in support of all six certified initiatives now being considered by the Legislature. We will continue to fight to get these measures public hearings. You can read a story from The Seattle Times by clicking on the image (Photo credit: The Seattle Times) below. 

TVW’s Inside Olympia

I had the opportunity to sit down with Austin Jenkins of TVW’s Inside Olympia last week for a wide-ranging interview. We discussed my role as House Republican Leader, the initiatives, public safety, gas prices, transportation, housing, K-12 education, and other issues. I appreciated the opportunity to highlight our caucus priorities and solutions. You can watch the interview here.

Next week

Monday is house of origin fiscal committee cutoff. We are then scheduled for House floor action the rest of the week, possibly into the weekend. 

Warmly,

Rep. Drew Stokesbary 
House Republican Leader
drew.stokesbary@leg.wa.gov