Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Week two of the legislative session was full of public hearings and work sessions in committee. I want to highlight four bills that had public hearings this week. Three of them would improve partnerships between schools and communities.House Bill 2216 would simply amend the law concerning Washington State History and Government courses to say: “Each school district is encouraged to include information on local history in its curriculum, which may include visits to local landmarks and museums, readings on local history, and interaction with local historical societies.” It's important that our state law explicitly encourage such partnerships. My own passion for local history was first stirred when I was a student in the Puyallup School District visiting the Karshner Museum. Students need to know the stories of the places, symbols, icons, and festivals that can make life in a local community interesting and inspiring.
House Bill 2217 would promote the use of family and community engagement coordinators to organize partnerships between schools and community-based organizations. We need to open school house doors to after school activities, non-profits, and a range of civic organizations outside of the regular school day or year. Education is a community-wide endeavor, and we need to be more welcoming of community partners in our schools.
A third piece of legislation is focused on helping children of low-income families succeed in school. I was inspired to introduce House Bill 2462 after visiting McCarver Elementary School in Tacoma last year. McCarver has one of the lowest-income student populations in the state. Through an innovative partnership between the Tacoma School District and the Tacoma Housing Authority, low-income parents are getting involved in the their kids' education and the school is being transformed. The simple lesson is that parents matter, and housing authorities can help to engage parents. Under my bill, a new preference is added for state housing dollars that benefit projects featuring collaborative partnerships between local school districts and public housing authorities. Sen. Bruce Dammeier is sponsoring companion legislation in the Senate.
Finally, I continue my work to improve transparency and accountability in our higher education system. House Bill 2336 would require higher education institutions to post departmental budgets on their websites. This bill came to me from college students who found it very difficult to find basic information about their institutions' budgets. It is important that budget information be easily accessible to tuition payers and taxpayers.
All four bills received a public hearing in the last week. The policy committees are expected to take a vote on the bills in the next week or so and move them forward.
Committee work kept us busy for most of the week, but there were also a number of organizations, associations and constituents in town. One highlight was the opportunity to spend time with this year's Miss Pierce County contestants. I got to lead their tour of the state capitol on Wednesday evening—see photo above.
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