Dear Friends:

One of the hardships of the pandemic has been the emotional burden our young people carry and how it affects their learning, whether in the K-12 grades or in college.

To support students’ physical, mental, and emotional health in grade and high schools, my colleagues and I in the Legislature added more than $1 billion in new funding to the budget this year:

  • A key component is the hiring of more nurses, counselors and social workers to ensure our classrooms are fully staffed. By next fall, schools will receive funding that includes $639 million for student support staff and $363 million for enrollment stabilization.
  • The funding will also help families engage with their children’s schools in their native languages, make sure students can access nutritious food, expand students’ financial literacy and media knowledge, and increase teacher pay.
  • We also approved substantial investments, including an initial $100 million this year, to retrofit schools to improve seismic safety.

This Legislature worked to improve accessibility and affordability in our state public higher education system and to help students succeed:

  • We increased the Washington College Grant program by an additional $137 million and approved a $150 million investment to create a new Washington Student Loan Program with interest rates no higher than 1 percent.
  • We allocated $48 million for various higher education student outreach and retention programs, including programs to expand financial aid access and support.
  • We provided $37 million for new nursing and healthcare degree programs.
  • We earmarked $44 million for higher education compensation support.
  • We provided $13 million for cybersecurity training and degree programs.
  • We approved $9 million in one-time funding to match private donations and pledges for the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship.
  • We provided $10 million for the UW Clean Energy Institute.
  • We invested $246,000 to expand a homeless student pilot program to two additional four-year institutions.
  • We added 50 new slots for computer science and engineering degrees at UW.

Of course, education begins at an early age. That’s why last year we passed the Fair Start for Kids Act to address the childcare crisis, promote racial equity, help the economy by stabilizing and expanding the childcare industry, and make childcare more affordable for families. And it’s why this year we added to last year’s $1 billion investment to speed up implementation of all these services and improve the system as we emerge from the pandemic.

As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “an investment in education gives the best returns” — and investments like these will continue to build one of the best public education systems in the country.

Best regards,