The 2022 legislative session officially wrapped up a little over a week ago, which means it’s time for our annual full-length summary of our most closely watched bills and budget items affecting schools, young people, and families.
This year marked the second mostly-virtual legislative session, a whirlwind sixty days that culminated in the legislature passing over 300 bills. Lawmakers also passed a supplemental operating budget that included sizable investments in housing, behavioral health, and environmental priorities in addition to education. Despite the volume of legislation, session still concluded on its scheduled end date of March 10.
A win for families
Stand is celebrating the passage of HB 2050, request legislation from the Department of Children, Youth, and Families to repeal “parent pay,” a forty-five year old statute that required parents to pay for their child’s incarceration with a portion of their gross income. The bill repeals fees charged to families of youth in Juvenile Rehabilitation’s care as well as county level youth detention fees, It also relieves over $1.1 million in debt currently owed by 242 families across Washington.
Advocates from Stand worked closely with partners at DCYF, the Center for Children & Youth Justice, and others to ensure the bill moved through the legislature during this short session. Ultimately, it received broad bipartisan support, passing 85-13 in the House and 41-6 in the Senate.
Investments in students
The legislature also passed several bills to better resource our schools and serve families. Most notably, HB 1664 will allocate $90 million to increase the number of support staff, including nurses, school counselors, psychologists, and social workers. Additional funding will be phased in over the next several years. The bill also puts guardrails around this funding to ensure it is spent on social emotional supports for students. Other new investments in K-12 include a new grant program that will allow educators to access professional development on financial literacy education (SB 5720), expanded language access services to improve schools’ engagement with families (HB 1153), and a new online platform for families to sign up for free and reduced price school meals (HB 1833).
Stand is also celebrating notable increases in funding to support students accessing postsecondary education. SB 5789 will establish a grant program to build local and regional partnerships focused on helping students find and complete postsecondary opportunities in their own communities. HB 1835 includes funding for outreach specialists that will support students to complete the WAFSA or FAFSA. Finally, HB 1659 provides critical bridge grants to cover non-tuition costs such as childcare, housing, or transportation. These three bills recognize that although Washington has one of the most generous financial aid programs in the country, barriers still exist that keep students from accessing this support. Stand was proud to partner with the High School Success Coalition and community members to ensure that these critical investments were included in the final supplemental operating budget.
Fostering belonging and opportunity
We were excited to support several bills that will help create better educational experiences for all students, but in particular, that will serve students who have been furthest from opportunity. Schools will now be able to grant excused absences for mental health days thanks to HB 1834, a student-led bill that passed with unanimous votes in both houses. In addition, we were glad to see two new bills supporting young people involved in the criminal legal system: SB 5657 will provide computer science courses in long term juvenile institutions, while HB 1894 will allow young people to elect to extend their time in juvenile diversion programs.
At Stand, we believe that dual credit courses are a key lever to ensure more students access rigorous coursework that prepares them for postsecondary success. HB 1867 represents an important step in our state’s work to ensure that these courses have equitable access and achieve positive outcomes for students. The bill will require reporting on whether students enrolled in dual credit actually earn dual credit, meaning it will track whether students receive credit toward high school graduation and college credit once they enroll at an institution of higher education. The report will give critical insight into the equity of dual credit programs by disaggregating the data by race, as well as whether students are dependent, homeless, or Multilingual/English learners. The bill moved through the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support, receiving a vote of 95-1 in the House and a unanimous vote in the Senate.
Finally, HB 1617, a trailer bill following last year’s legislation to make Juneteenth a state holiday, aligns school holidays with state holidays in statute, with the effect being that schools will now observe Juneteenth. Although this bill was a simple technical fix, we echo the prime sponsor Rep. Morgan’s hope that the new school holiday will provide an opportunity for students to learn a fuller history of our country.
The supplemental budget
The legislature passed SB 5693, the $64.1 billion supplemental operating budget, on the final day of the legislative session. It allocates funding for many of the bills previously described in this summary, including $90 million to implement HB 1664 this year and another $548.3 million set aside for the 2023–25 biennium to increase support staff.
The budget also contains funding to ensure school districts remain solvent and are able to serve students after COVID-related enrollment declines. Lawmakers allocated $346 million (federal dollars) for enrollment stabilization as dictated by SB 1590, which is designed to prevent budget shortfalls in districts with lower enrollment. The budget also provides $27 million in hold harmless funding for districts’ learning assistance programs (LAP), allowing them to use 2019-2020 free and reduced price lunch percentages to determine LAP funding levels, which go toward supplemental instruction and support for students who are working to meet grade level standards.
Of course, every year there are a few bills and budget items we support that don’t make it over the finish line. Unfortunately, the final budget did not include the additional funding for ninth grade success programming that we had hoped to see. Stand had supported Senator Mullet and Senator Liias’ budget proviso to allot an additional $500,000 for the program, which would have funded five schools currently on the waitlist to receive support. We are holding out hope for an alternative source of funding for these schools, as well as a sustainable funding source in future sessions.
A few other great ideas from this session we’re hoping will return next year:
Removal of the Victim’s Penalty Assessment (VPA) and DNA collection fee, especially for youth involved in the legal system. The VPA and DNA collection fee are two of the most costly legal financial obligations assigned to youth in the juvenile court system. HB 1412, which provides some relief from fines and fees, also included the VPA and DNA fees, however these were removed in the final version that passed the legislature.
Parent notifications about dual credit course offerings. HB 1760, which focused on reducing costs and increasing access for dual credit programs, included a provision requiring districts to notify students and families about all dual credit courses available to them. The bill made it through the House but stalled in the Senate Ways & Means committee.
An African American studies specialty endorsement for educators. HB 1829 would have created an endorsement process for educators to teach African American studies as well as a workgroup to identify essential learning requirements. This bill was referred to House Education but did not receive a hearing.
Gratitude for our community
We are ending the legislative session with lots to celebrate. The impact we have had to repeal parent pay, increase funding for support staff, and move the needle on countless other issues will make a difference for young people and their families. Stand is so grateful to all of you who attended Monday Action Meetings, wrote your legislators, and filled out action alerts to advocate for critical issues such as youth justice, student supports, and postsecondary access. Our small but mighty team is so proud to stand alongside you, and we look forward to what lies ahead. On behalf of the whole Stand team, thank you for all you do for young people and their families in Washington!