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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Feb. 27, 2024

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WA Board of Education sets its priorities for next legislative session

Equity initiatives, special education funding lead concerns

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The Washington State Board of Education on Wednesday adopted a legislative platform that prioritizes funding for equity initiatives and special education.

While the platform does not promote specific bills or budget requests for the upcoming legislative session starting January 2024, some priorities are connected to bills that the board believes will be up for consideration.

The board’s list of priorities includes expanding previous legislative work, including establishing a clear timeline for implementing what’s known as “Since Time Immemorial,” a curriculum endorsed by all federally recognized tribes, which covers Indigenous sovereignty, history and culture.

Although state lawmakers passed legislation requiring all schools to teach the “Since Time Immemorial” curriculum in 2015, the Legislature never set a deadline. A bill setting a deadline, HB 1332, failed to pass last year.

The board will also call for expanding dual language education, hands-on learning and the “Ninth Grade Success Initiative,” a program focused on supporting student transitions into ninth grade.

“We’re meeting the students where they’re at rather than forcing them to meet where we’re at,” said Patty Wood, an at-large board member from Kelso.

Additionally, the board is again calling for ending a cap on special education spending.

Spending in Washington state on special education students is capped at 15% of a district’s student body, even if a district’s population of students on individualized education plans exceeds that cap.

While the Legislature this year updated the funding formula, increasing the cap on special education spending from 13.5% to 15% of enrollment, both the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education called for elimination of any cap on special education spending during last year’s session.

Over 100 Washington districts started the 2023-2024 school year without fully-funded special education. Removing the cap has bipartisan support, but opposing lawmakers believe doing so could lead to misuse of funds and overdiagnosing kids with disabilities.

Other legislative priorities include providing more mental health support, recruiting diverse staff, incentivizing ethnic studies and increasing student representation. The State Board of Education’s full legislative platform is available here.

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