This week was Children’s Day in the Legislature, a fun tradition where the members bring their families to the floor. It was great to be able to do this again after two years of remote sessions, and it felt good to have my kids at work. They got to share what my work in Olympia is like, which was really nice. And they really loved the hotdogs at the cafeteria!
Here I am with my family on the House floor in 2019 –
And four years later, here we are in the Senate!
Children’s Day is more than just kids out onto the Senate floor – it’s an opportunity for us to be reminded of our commitments to the next generation. Whether it’s providing them a great education, protecting our environment or ensuring a vibrant economy with jobs, opportunity, access to affordable healthcare and enough housing for everyone– centering children and the next generation is essential to our work.
On Children’s Day, we passed a bill guaranteeing every elementary school student at least 30 minutes of recess a day. Lots of schools already do that much recess or more, but some don’t – even though we know that recess and active time is important for academics too. I asked my kids what they thought about the recess bill and unsurprisingly they were both “pro-recess.” I’d love to hear what your kids, grandkids, other children in your life think too!
There’s a lot more work to be done on education this year. I’ve heard from every single district that they are worried about K-12 cuts as COVID money finishes, but students still need support. One of our biggest challenges in K-12 education is funding special education services. Right now, there’s a cap on how much special education money goes out from the state to each school district – if more than 13.5 percent of students in a school district need special education services, the costs involved go up, but the state support doesn’t. We should raise the cap, so state funding better reflects the actual cost of supporting these students.
It costs a bunch of money to do this, but it’s the right thing to do. Special education is something we HAVE to fund, so the money from the taxpayer is being spent on it regardless – the question is whether it comes from the state or from local school levies. State funding is more sustainable, predictable, and equitable between districts than local levies are, so this is a good change. We might be voting on legislation to do this as early as next week.
As always, thanks for reading, and let me know if you have thoughts, feedback, or questions. You can reach me at Sharon.Shewmake@leg.wa.gov at any time.
Sen. Sharon Shewmake