Dear friends and neighbors,
The 2023 session officially ended last month, and I am proud to report we made tremendous strides for Washington, from historic investments in education and housing to increased support for behavioral health and access to health care. Scroll below for some of the session’s key victories.
SUCCESS FOR EVERY CHILD
This year, we dramatically increased funding for special education, continued to address food security for students, provided more resources for student health and safety, and began creating tools to enable students to guide their own individualized learning.
I particularly want to highlight two bills I helped champion:
- HB 1436 boosts special education funding by more than $372 million over a two-year period to ensure students with disabilities receive the services they need to be successful. The legislation incentivizes inclusive practices and makes it easier for districts to access safety net funding for students who need high-cost services. In total, $821 million will be invested over the next four years.
- SB 5243 improves the High School and Beyond Plan by creating an online platform that will offer students in every district a more robust set of resources to plan their educational journeys.
The pandemic will continue to have lasting implications on the social, emotional and academic needs of our students as they return to the classroom. However, despite the overwhelming challenges, we’ve seen innovations that will help our educational system adapt and become more flexible. We must continue to use the lessons learned from the pandemic to enhance creativity in instructional practices and acknowledge the importance of student agency over their own learning — that’s exactly what we did in 2023. By embracing different learning styles, environments, and new technologies, we can better support our evolving educational system.
INCREASING ACCESS TO TREATMENT
The Legislature reconvened for a quick special session in May to pass SB 5536 to amend Washington’s drug possession laws and increase access to substance use treatment in response to the State v. Blake decision.
No single bill can solve the substance use crisis our state is facing, but this legislation is an important bipartisan step forward to support a statewide public health approach that balances treatment and accountability. The criminal justice system is not the right place to treat a chronic health condition, but we have a duty to address public disorder in our communities. The legislation ramps up recovery support that is proven to work, builds out low-barrier treatment, and takes steps to ensure that the collateral consequences of a conviction don’t prevent people from rebuilding their lives.
It also is just one of the many significant steps we took this session on behavioral health — from expanding the 988 crisis hotline services to establishing a system for crisis relief centers around the state to growing the behavioral health workforce — all this and more backed by $1.2 billion in funding.
This interim, I intend to continue to explore how we can ensure students in our schools are on track to compete globally, and as we transform the educational system in Washington, we implement best practices from not only around our country but best practices from around the world. The future of education cannot simply be focused on what works in the United States but must take on a global perspective in order to prepare our students to be the creative thought leaders of the future. This requires we continue to develop and refine a vision of the future that incorporates new technologies and builds on innovative instructional practices, which focus on the individual needs of every student and engage them in their own educational journey.
As part of this exploration, I was invited to attend the Transform-Ed Symposium in Malta in May, where educators and thought leaders from all over Europe came together to discuss both the opportunities and challenges new technologies pose for the educational system and share best practices for professional development and classroom implementation of these new technologies. I also had the opportunity to visit schools in Malta and talk with both students and teachers in those classrooms and learn about their educational system.
As I have done every year, I intend to visit schools throughout our state in order to continue to learn from our educators how policies work in their classrooms and what additional tools they need. New technologies, such as AI and ChatGPT, are impacting our education system — I’m on it. I’ll be attending a number of high-level conferences to learn from industry leaders, and I’ll report back my findings in future newsletters.
I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to all my friends and neighbors for their commitment to a forward moving and forward thinking 41st community. Thank you for staying in contact and engaged with our office this session, and I look forward to staying in touch during the interim.
It is an honor to serve,