Special session: McCoy joins big majority in approving key education bills

‘We urgently need to redouble our efforts in teaching technology,’ lawmaker asserts

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OLYMPIA – It certainly bears repeating. State Rep. John McCoy is reiterating his call for Washington students to be technologically ready, willing and able to capture competitions for 21stcentury careers. The Snohomish County lawmaker says they best keep up with IT times to expect any shot at keeping up with Joneses in North Carolina, Dhillons in India, and Zhengs in China.

McCoy is tying that bow around an education-improvement package the Legislature sent to Gov. Chris Gregoireshortly before adjourning the special session.

The two major classroom measures highlight science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (otherwise known as “STEM”) in schools, colleges, and universities here in Washington. House Bill 2159 passed the House, 77-18, and the Senate, 48-0. House Bill 2160passed the House, 93-2, and the Senate, 48-0.

“Now is exactly the right time to re-emphasize rock-solid principles in the STEM curricula,” McCoy said. “You better believe this re-emphasis is Job No. 1 all through the grade levels in our Washington schools. We urgently need to redouble our efforts in teaching technology.

“We’ve got to make sure that our young men and women, as well as our older citizens who are back in school for retraining, are all equipped with tools they need to win the intense competition for 21stcentury careers.”

HB 2159 establishes three competitive grant programs.

One grant program features assistance for high schools in preparing students for employment as entry-level aerospace assemblers. Another program allows skills centers to implement enhanced manufacturing-skills programs. And the third program aims to help high schools establish specialized courses in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through Project Lead-the-Way.

The legislation provides that the grants are one-time only and may be used for curriculum, equipment and materials, and professional development for teachers. Also, the measure directs the Education Research & Data Centerto collect student-participation and completion data, and to follow students either to employment or to further training in the two years right after they leave high school.

“This legislation supports our state’s economy, and that’s the all-important bottom line,” McCoy said. “All you have to do is simply look at the headlines. Boeing has sought and captured a huge and continuingchunk of the worldwide orders coming in for airplanes. Our children deserve a solid opportunity to capture the high-quality aerospace and manufacturing jobs coming our way. We’d best make sure that Washington men and women are job-ready.

“The goal is to make sure education fits the job-needs in the real business world. Graduates must earn and demonstrate the skills needed to hit the ground running when they walk through that door on their first day at work.”

HB 2160 requires the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB)to revise certification and certificate-renewal standards for elementary teachers and secondary science and mathematics teachers to include integration of knowledge and the all-important STEM skills.

The PESB must revise teacher-certification assessments, according to terms of the measure, in both teaching effectiveness and subject-matter knowledge as a way to integrate STEM knowledge and skills.

“It’s fundamental that after young women and men have earned and learnedtheir way through our K-12 system, they should then be able to choose from a reasonable assortment of selections,” McCoy said. “Maybe they’re ready to step into a good, decent-wage job after high school, or maybe they’ll go on to more instruction in a community or technical college, or a university.”

McCoy said that “strengthening STEM instruction in Snohomish County and in other communities all across Washington should slice the dropout rate because when students see the obvious relevance of a program in which they’re engaged they’re much more likely to stick it out and stay in school. Finding strategies to get students interested and qualified in STEM fields will have such a good and immediate impact on our economy.”

McCoy said people testified in committee hearings that “it’s so very important for us to champion interest in STEM instruction, certainly even for our youngest students just starting their school years. That’s exactly why we need to prepare teachers to capture young people’s attention, and that’s exactly why teachers need to feel confident in their own knowledge and skills in these 21st-century fields.”

Also yesterday before they finished their business and headed home for a few weeks, lawmakers approved an early action budget-cutting measure (House Bill 2058). The bill, which would ax $500 million out of the overall $2 billion in budget timber that must be felled in the next few months, passed the House, 86-8, and the Senate, 42-6.

“North of $10.5 billion has been slashed from state programs and services in the past three years,” McCoy said. “Thousands of employees have been terminated from the state payroll in that same time period. It seems to me that it’s manifestly irrational to suggest that budget-chopping hasn’t already carved deeply into the bone.

“Finding a fair and appropriate balance of cuts and revenue reform demands a serious restructuring of programs and policies. What it comes down to is that a good percentage of folks in both parties and in both chambers must step up to the plate. We’ve got to man up and woman up against the undeniably very intimidating pitchers staring down at us when we come back here next month.

“This legislation is an immediate-term solution to the unremitting economic listlessness at the local, national and worldwide levels. The fact is that we’re billions of dollars in the hole for what’s needed to fund basic, crucial, essential programs and services.

“For sure, these awfully bumpy revenue times do indeed call for woefully grumpy budget decisions.”

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