OLYMPIA – With mere hours left in the 2016 legislative session, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation to increase eligible educational space for students across Washington state. The bill, HB 2985, gives school districts more classrooms by changing an out-of-date state law that bans use of old facilities even after they’ve been replaced.
“This first came to my attention from a situation in the Mead School District, where existing space was being replaced but not being utilized simply because the law didn’t allow it,” said Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane), prime sponsor of the legislation. “Washington needs smaller class sizes, we need all-day kindergarten, and utilizing existing facilities temporarily is just common sense. Mead families have been particularly concerned that because of the unprecedented need for space students would have to be displaced from their neighborhood schools and bussed to other parts of the district. Neighborhood kids should be able to attend their neighborhood schools, and this bill will help Mead adhere to that. The parents put the call in to their legislators for help, and I am pleased we answered.”
Support came from both sides of the aisle and the rotunda, with Rep. Shelly Short (R-Addy), Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane), and Sen. Brian Dansel (R-Republic) collaboratively working with Rep. Riccelli to get this across the finish line while the clock was ticking.
“One of the most fulfilling parts of this job is hearing from constituents, working through their issue and finding a solution that fixes their problem,” said Rep. Short. “In this case, the timeliness was key. We were able to jump on this right away and work collaboratively in a bipartisan fashion that will make a real difference for students, parents and teachers in our region.”
Sen. Baumgartner added, “Washington needs more class space if we are to meet our goals to achieve the academic success we are striving for and this is a prudent measure to help us meet that need.”
“I am proud to have worked with Rep. Riccelli, Rep. Short and Sen. Baumgartner to deliver a common sense answer for the Mead School District. I have always believed that the best work is done in a bi-partisan manner,” said Sen. Dansel.
HB 2985 changes a state law that requires educational facilities to be taken offline once they’ve been replaced through new school construction. Instead, replaced school buildings can be used for instructional space to implement all-day kindergarten and reduce class sizes in K-3. Schools that require new space due to enrollment growth and have had failed bond elections within the past five years can also utilize this law to ease their overflow.
The House has concurred with the Senate’s amendments and the bill will be transmitted to the governor for approval.