Jobs bill would boost graduation rates and employment in high-demand fields

OLYMPIA – For the first time ever, high schools, colleges and job training programs might be paid for achieving specific results, not just for enrolling students.  Boosting graduation rates and helping students land decent jobs would drive state funding for these programs, under a new jobs bill given a hearing Friday in the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee.

House Bill 2265, by Rep. Tim Probst (D-Vancouver), is part of a coordinated effort to support private sector job creation and economic recovery.  It is co-sponsored by Rep. Larry Haler (R-Richland), and 12 additional House members, both Democrats and Republicans, have signed onto the Probst-Haler bill.  Probst is vice-chair of the House Appropriations Committee for Education, and Haler is the ranking Republican on the House Higher Education Committee.

“We’re telling the world that Washington is the place where the best companies find the best talent,” Probst said.  “People will have more opportunities for rewarding and engaging careers, because we’re branding Washington as the global hot spot for talent and creativity, which is the No. 1 resource needed by today’s cutting-edge companies.”

The payments for positive student outcomes would be further increased when they involve such high-demand fields as biomedicine, engineering, science and aerospace. The rewards also would grow if the successful students are from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Students, parents, businesses, and schools all want higher graduation rates, more graduates in high-demand fields, and economic growth that reaches the middle class and all the people in our society,” Probst said. “This redesigns our old state funding system, to focus the money on the outcomes that students, parents and businesses already agree on.”

The new payment system also unifies pieces of the education system that have long been kept separate.  High schools, colleges and job training programs would all earn a “Washington Works” score based on their students’ success, and the scores would be used in distributing payments. The money for the program would be phased in as state revenues gradually grow during economic recovery.

A broad coalition of strange bedfellows is supporting the bi-partisan bill, including business, labor, advocates for the poor, education reform groups and the colleges and universities themselves.

“Washington’s taxpayers will be paying for the results they expect, and we’ll be creating a positive economic spiral,” Probst said.  “We’re telling the world we are the leader in human talent and innovation, and we are putting our money where our mouth is.”


Washington State House Democrats

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