Legislation passed unanimously by the Senate would enable one of the state’s most successful science programs to sustain and invest in its outreach to students, including those who are limited to remote learning because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Bill 5080, sponsored by Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), would give the Pacific Science Center the flexibility to allocate funds to help youth in low-income households access free or deeply discounted science programs. The bill follows an amendment sponsored by Carlyle to House Bill 1839 in 2019, which required half of the repaid deferred sales tax on the construction of Climate Pledge Arena to be allocated towards the Pacific Science Center. That amendment, which added $3.6 million in funding for the next four biennia, starting this year, represented the most significant public investment in Pacific Science Center in more than a decade.

“These incredibly popular programs mean everything to the tens of thousands of students who use them, and their expansion will cost the state nothing,” Carlyle said. “At the same time, the value of these programs has only increased since the onset of the pandemic.”

To help youth, families and educators cope with the challenges of remote schooling, the center has delivered more than 230 programs to more than 11,000 students since October alone. Another 100 programs with more than 6,000 students are planned for the current school year, with registrations increasing weekly. This is despite the pandemic-driven suspension of the center’s onsite programs and Science on Wheels programming in schools.

“The center has found new and inventive ways to continue to serve students remotely,” Carlyle said. “It is incumbent on us to give them the flexibility they need to meet the unique student needs dictated by these difficult times.”

“Pacific Science Center and I are deeply grateful to Sen. Carlyle and the Senate body for passing this bill,” said Will Daugherty, the center’s president and chief executive officer. “This funding would allow critical investments in facilities, technology, operations and infrastructure necessary for continued service to youth and families throughout Washington. Our priority is to improve our ability to design, develop, and deliver virtual and digital educational programming in low-income communities and Title I schools as well as the larger education community.”

Other programs enacted since the onset of the pandemic include:

  • Curiosity at Home, a portfolio of free, interactive digital programming that ignites curiosity and supports STEM learning.  More than 120,000 people have enjoyed more than 400,000 virtual visits to Curiosity at Home and other online programming during the past 11 months.
  • In-person and virtual science camps for 3,000 youth last summer, including a free week of camp for 160 students from low-income households.

SB 5080 passed Tuesday on a 47-0 vote and now goes to the House for consideration.