I hope that you are all well.
Thank you to all who contacted my office since the beginning of session, and to everyone who made the effort to come all the way to Olympia. It was such a pleasure to see you!
I apologize to the many of you who were unable to meet with me in person due to my heavy schedule. I do hope that should you travel down next year, we have a chance to talk, and I’ll see you back home in the district this summer.
We are now on day 78, almost three quarters of the way of the 2015 session. This coming Thursday, we will vote on the budget as proposed by our House Democrats.
This is a budget I am very proud to support. It aligns with our shared values and makes real investments in the future of our economy and the well-being of our children, families, and communities. After years of cuts and tough economic times, we are proposing a budget that supports an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.
While many good bills have passed the house, in this e-letter I will focus on the three areas that I have received the most communication from you.
Cradle to Career Education
Every child deserves a chance.
It shouldn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, black or white, Asian or Hispanic—every kid should get the same great education in Washington state.
Our constitution spells this out, saying that a basic education for every child is the “paramount duty of the state.”
One of the best tools we have to give all Washingtonians the opportunity to succeed is a quality education system, from cradle to career.
That investment gives every child in the state access full-day kindergarten. We are funding class size reductions for students in grades K-3. We provide funding for tools students need in order to learn – textbooks, classroom supplies, and school operating costs.
The budget also invests in college and career readiness programs so that students graduate from high school ready to take on their next step. Our hard-working school employees, from teachers to bus drivers get a long overdue cost-of-living increase.
We are meeting our constitutional obligation to fully fund our schools as required by our constitution and our Supreme Court. Our budget also reaches beyond just providing the minimum. We are making investments in early learning and higher education.
The House passed and funded Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos’ Educational Opportunity Gap bill that prohibits long-term suspension or expulsion as a form of discretionary discipline.
Children won’t get a fair shot in school and life until we close the opportunity gap. One of the best ways to do this is to provide high quality early learning.
We are improving the quality of early learning opportunities through programs like Early Achievers and the Early Start Act.
The budget are also making sure that families can access early learning opportunities by expanding funding for programs like Early Intervention, Working Connections Child Care and Early Childhood Education Assistance Program (ECEAP).
College should be affordable and accessible for all students. Unfortunately, rising tuition rates are leaving too many middle-class families struggling to choose between their retirement and their children’s future or leaving students to fund their dream of going to college with student loans.
Our budget freezes tuition for the next two years, doing so responsibly by increasing funding for colleges and universities so that institutions can continue to provide students with quality education programs and services.
The budget proposal also puts money into financial aid programs so more students have the opportunity to get a college degree. We invest in educating our future workforce in high-demand areas in computer science, engineering, and cybersecurity. Many of these students will graduate ready to take on the 23,000 high-paying jobs in computer science that are currently open in Washington.
Will are investing $100 million to repair our broke mental health system. Our communities are safer and stronger when we make sure that our family, friends and neighbors are able to get the services they need when in crisis. New tools, like Joel’s Law, will help us help our family members who are in crisis. Funding for mental health intervention and treatment will give law enforcement, emergency responders and mental health service providers the tools needed to better address people who are experiencing a mental health crisis.
Everyone deserves dignity and respect, and unfortunately our current mental health system is leaving too many people with mental illnesses in prisons or emergency rooms because there is no room at our mental health facilities. By funding more beds in community mental health facilities and state hospitals, we can make sure that people are getting the treatment they need.
Repairing Our Safety Net
No matter how much money we invest in K-12 education, we all know that hungry children can’t learn and homeless children can’t do homework. Not only must we provide opportunity in the classroom, we must also every kid the best chance to take advantage of that opportunity.
I was deeply grieved by the huge cuts we were forced to make during the great recession. We made cuts to programs that help children, families and seniors. Cuts to these programs not only hurt the people who depend on them, these cuts were detrimental to the economic and social well-being of our entire state.
Our budget restores funding to the State Food Assistance Program to help feed hungry kids, families and seniors. As more families struggle to put food on their plates, food banks have seen an increased demand. Our budget puts more state funds in to local food banks through the Emergency Food Assistance Program.
I hear all the time from hard-working moms and dads who are struggling to pay their bills each month. By reinstating the child support pass through, many families will be able to get about $100 more per month in child support. We are also giving families who are working to get back on the path to success a little help by not taking away assistance immediately when their income goes up.
I know that by investing in our children, our families and our communities, we are creating a better Washington and an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.
Moving our state forward is a shared task. We need to work together to build an economy from the middle class out.