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Gov. Gregoire signs bills to improve Washington's public education system

For Immediate Release: May 16, 2005

OLYMPIA – May 16, 2005 – Gov. Christine Gregoire today signed into law 10 bills that will change and improve the education system in Washington state – from early learning through higher education. Combined with major new funding in the operating budget to improve the public school system, the net result is a better future for students and their families, Gregoire said.

The centerpiece legislation, Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill 5441, creates a bipartisan task force to address the program and funding needs of early learning, kindergarten through grade twelve, and higher education.

“This legislation takes the first steps in realizing our goal of ensuring that every child in every community has the quality schools and teachers they deserve,” Gregoire said at today’s bill-signing ceremony in Olympia. “It takes a systemic view of the quality and funding issues facing us.”

Gregoire said the state must tackle quality education at all levels. “It is important that we build an integrated and seamless education system,” she said. “We expect a lot of our kids. They need to be prepared to enter school, accomplish high standards in K-12 and become prepared for an ever-changing workforce through higher education and skilled training.

“While we expect a lot of our children, we expect nothing less of our systems, our institutions and ourselves. We need to ensure that we do all we can to help them succeed.”

The task force will have 18 months to complete its work, although some of its recommendations could be implemented before the work concludes. The governor will chair the group.

The governor today also signed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5732, which addresses how state-level boards support K-12 education. The State Board of Education will now have governor-appointed members, as well as members from the education community, and it will address student learning and education-program accountability. The Professional Educator Standards Board will now set policy for teacher preparation and certification programs, formerly a task of the State Board of Education.

Another bill signed today was Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1152, which establishes an Early Learning Council. The council is a public/private partnership that will provide leadership in strengthening early learning programs and services available to children and their families. The council will address a broad range of early learning concerns, including governance, regulation of childcare, and creation of a voluntary quality rating system and a tiered reimbursement system for childcare.

In addition, the governor signed seven other bills that, in one way or another, impact the state’s education system. Those bills included:

  • House Bill 1066, which provides a more reliable funding system to support students struggling with reading and math.

  • Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1252, which encourages school districts to offer a family preservation course to help students build good relationships, communications and parenting skills.

  • House Bill 1485, which creates a list of accepted price quotes for school buses and allows districts greater flexibility in the bus bid process.

  • Substitute House Bill 1893, which provides for development of special certification for teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing.

  • Substitute House Bill 1987, which directs the Superintendent of Public Instruction to investigate the use of certification measures employed by business sectors as alternative ways to measure a high school students’ mastery of reading, writing, mathematics and science.

  • Engrossed House Bill 1998, which provides ongoing recognition for elementary schools that have improved the most on the WASL.

  • Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5983, which clarifies program requirements for teachers working to achieve the professional-level certificate.

The package of education-improvement measures signed today is in addition to major new funding steps taken by the governor to improve the quality of Washington’s public school system.

Those steps, which will become law on Tuesday when the governor signs the two-year operating budget, include restoration of voter-approved Initiative 728 to pay for smaller class sizes and more focused learning in public schools at a cost of $138 million. Also included is restoration of voter approved Initiative 732, granting teachers a cost-of-living raise at a cost of $139 million.