Washington State House Democrats


Rep. Orwall’s Mar 3, 2017 Legislative Update: New Town Hall Date / Education Funding / Student Debt

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Keeping our promise to one million school kids

After investing nearly $5 billion additional dollars in our public schools over the last six years, Washington is one step closer to keeping its promise to one million school kids.

The House of Representatives voted this week to approve HB 1843 to ensure our schools are fully funded and that every child receives opportunities to learn.


Every element of the bill was driven by this simple question – What’s best for kids?  And that’s why I was a proud YES vote for HB 1843.

Closing the opportunity gap

Our plan takes a significant step toward closing the opportunity gap and improving student outcomes in Washington state by making new investments in:

  • Learning assistance to help struggling students keep up with their peers.
  • Transitional programs to help bilingual students.
  • Class-size reductions for career and technical education and skill centers.
  • Parent-involvement coordinators and guidance counselors.

A high quality teacher in every classroom

It also addresses the teacher-shortage crisis through educator recruitment and retention investments. The bill makes a serious commitment to our educator workforce by paying new teachers a fair salary, providing additional professional learning opportunities, and ensuring their compensation keeps up with market rates.

Now that each side has offered proposals, negotiators will work on a path toward compromise that will ensure public schools are fully funded for Washington’s one million school kids.

Update on my bills

Did you know?

  • 7 out of 10 (69%) of public and non-profit college graduates in 2014 had student loan debt, and 42% of U.S. 18-29 year-olds have student loan debt.
  • In the U.S., 40 million students owe $1.2 trillion in debt.  Student debt is the second highest level of debt with only mortgages ranking higher.  The amount of student debt has increased 76% since 2009.
  • The average amount of student debt owed by U.S. students is $28,950, and is $24,804 for Washington state students.
  • 1 in 4 student loan borrowers are in default or delinquent.
  • Tuition and fees have increased 66% for public colleges and universities, 49% for private, non-profit colleges and universities, and 53% for community colleges in the last decade. Most average wages have remained the same or fallen since 2000, making student debt more difficult to pay off.
  • There are no consistent standards in the education loan lending market. The Bureau of Consumer finance reported 6,400 private student loan complaints in 2015, increased 23% from the previous year, and 2,300 debt collection complaints related to private and federal student loans.

These are some of the reasons I introduced HB 1169, the Student Opportunity, Assistance, and Relief (SOAR) Act, which will provide education and relief on student loan debt by:

  • Establishing a hotline and website for borrowers to receive assistance from student education loan debt counselors on student education loans.
  • Requiring educational institutions, lenders, servicers, and collection agencies for student education loans to send notices to borrowers about the student debt hotline, website, and counselors.
  • Repealing multiple provisions allowing suspension of a professional license due to student loan default.
  • Aligning critical consumer protections provided for federal loans, for private loans to protect people with student debt from excessive wage garnishment and high interest rates.

HB 1169 passed out of the House on March 1 and now heads over to the Senate!

I also sponsored another student loan debt-related bill, HB 1057, which provides education to students about education loans.  This bill establishes student loan transparency.  It entitles students who take out federal loans to notifications that include estimates on student loan amounts, payoff amounts, and monthly repayments.  It also requires a biennial report that shows how post- secondary institutions are complying with the student loan notification requirements.

The companion bill in the Senate, SB 5022, is the version that will move forward.

Thank you for reading my newsletter. If you need more information on any of these issues, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.