On a strong bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives approved a plan to put as much as $700 million toward building schools to reduce K-3 class sizes and comply with the state Supreme Court’s order to fully fund education.
“This isn’t the Republican solution or the Democratic solution – it’s the right thing to do,” said Rep. Drew MacEwen (R-Union), assistant ranking member on the Capital Budget Committee. “We cannot continue to advocate for smaller class sizes in K-3 classrooms without funding the construction that allows for the required reductions.”
House Bill 2797 passed with a 90-7 vote after members from both parties spoke in favor of the legislation, which focuses on building classrooms for the youngest students: kindergarten through third grade, where research suggests smaller class sizes are critical.
“Kids need classrooms,” said Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish), chair of the Capital Budget Committee. “We’re creating 7,000 jobs from Aberdeen to Walla Walla while building good classrooms for our youngest students, and we did it by working together, across party lines.”
Rep. Monica Stonier (D-Vancouver), a teacher, said she works in a school built decades ago that basically has regular student access to two working bathrooms for 1100 students. Students need basics like schools with enough bathrooms and class sizes small enough for one-on-one time.
“As a mother and a teacher, I see that moment when the light goes on in a child’s eyes, when they’re full of the wonder and delight of learning, and you have to capture that moment,” Stonier said. “But you can’t do that in an overcrowded classroom. Kids need that one-on-one time.”
School districts across the state are in need of additional classrooms to offer their students smaller class sizes, including 346 additional classrooms needed in Seattle alone, 150 in Spokane, 120 in Vancouver and 57 in Snohomish. A list of school districts and their reported classroom needs can be found here.
The House also passed a supplemental capital budget, Senate Bill 6020, which could create as many as 2,500 jobs while cleaning the environment, building mental health facilities and helping schools, including nutrition equipment to move school lunchrooms away from deep fried food and instead chop fresh fruits and vegetables.
“It’s great for kids, it’s great for parents trying to get their kids to healthier foods and it’s great for our local farmers,” said Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane). “This is also a small step in the fight to reduce childhood obesity and diabetes.”
SB 6020 passed on a vote of 92-4.
Both bills are now in the Senate for further consideration.