WASHINGTON STATE

HOUSE DEMOCRATS

Rep. Sharon Shewmake aims to raise college completion rates in high-demand fields

OLYMPIA – More students will be able to complete their community, technical, or tribal college education in less time under the terms of a bill sponsored in the state House by Whatcom Rep. Sharon Shewmake (D-42, Bellingham). Shewmake’s HB 1303, which passed out of the House with a comfortable 90-6 margin, would remove an often-insurmountable hurdle facing single parents, generally young women, who hope to better their lives by pursuing certificates or degrees in high-demand fields.

Under current law, subsidized childcare for low-income parents working on their education is available, provided they are also employed at least 16-20 hours a week. Unfortunately, the combined demands of classwork, a job, and family life too often cause students to either drop out or fail to get the grades they are capable of – ironically, jeopardizing their childcare subsidy, which requires that students meet rigorous academic standards.

“This is counterproductive,” said Shewmake, who is a professor of economics at Western Washington University as well as a state lawmaker. “Every student who finishes their education is a win for all of us. It gives them better career and income prospects, obviously. It gives Washington employers a larger pool of talented and qualified candidates for jobs in high-demand occupations.  And what might be most important is that it helps these parents be good role models for their children.”

The fate of HB 1303 now rests with the Senate, which has until April 17 to approve it and send it on for Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature.