Impacting Kids & Education Across Our State
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It’s the tenth week of the legislative session–and it’s been so wonderful operating in-person and interacting with so many of you face-to-face. One of the most important parts of my job is informing you about what we’re working on in Olympia—and hearing from you about what’s important to you. Thank you to those of you who have already reached out to share your input—I really appreciate it.
we’re over halfway through! We’ve been very busy on the House floor the last few weeks, running bills late into the night to push our priorities forward. I’m honored to share that we passed 328 bills, 60% of which were passed unanimously, and 78% of which were passed with 80 votes or more. We’re working hard to better support housing opportunity, workforce development, behavioral health support, education, and climate resiliency in Washington. I’m delighted to invite you to our upcoming 47th Legislative District Telephone Town Hall where you can learn more about our work, ask questions, and provide feedback.
If you haven’t already, reminder to mark your calendar and register for our Telephone Town Hall on Wednesday, March 22nd, at 6PM.
A conversation with Larry Jefferson Jr. from the Office of Public Defense
Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Larry Jefferson Jr., the Director of the Office of Public Defense to discuss how the Office operates and how the State Legislature can best support their work. You can watch me interview Larry here.
Empowering students through their basic needs
Students can’t learn effectively unless their basic needs are met. In 2020, the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) reported that six out of 10 community or technical college students in Washington State experienced hunger or housing insecurity in the previous year, even though most of them were employed. According to the executive director of the SBCTC, students were sleeping in cars, crashing on couches, holding down jobs, and getting food from food banks to make their way through college, understanding that this education would improve their future opportunities. Students of color, students identifying of LGBTQ, and students who had histories of foster care and incarceration were disproportionately represented in the study. Students who are hungry or wondering where they’ll sleep at night have a harder time concentrating on their studies.
This year, I’ve sponsored House Bill 1559, which establishes the Student Basic Needs Act at postsecondary institutions. This bill implements Student Basic Needs task forces in higher education institutions, requiring them to develop Hunger-Free Campus Strategic Plans. In each plan, the task force must analyze gaps in student needs, design a Benefits Resource Hub, provide access to a campus food pantry, create and update methods to identify food-insecure students, and provide reports to detail the findings. Students need food, water, nutrition, shelter, clothing, physical health, and mental health. These needs should not create barriers to an education for anyone in Washington. I am happy to share that this bill passed in the House and will continue to the Senate for further consideration.
State and Federal collaboration to support students
Last month I had the opportunity to visit Washington DC and share this information with members of the Washington federal delegation, including Rep. Marilyn Strickland and Rep. Adam Smith.
As a member of the Board of Trustees I also had the honor of meeting President Biden to talk about these policy areas and talk about federal and state efforts in collaboration. We briefly discussed fully funding Pell Grants, providing food assistance to hungry students and student loan debt forgiveness.
Expanding access to higher education
The College Bound Scholarship program was established in 2007 to provide a guaranteed four-year tuition to students from low-income families. Eligible students are those who qualify for free or reduced lunch programs, are independent from their parents, or are in foster care. Beginning in the seventh grade, eligible students are automatically enrolled, creating valuable accessibility to this program. This year, I’ve signed on as a co-sponsor to House Bill 1232, further expanding access to this program, and further expanding access to higher education for all students in Washington. This bill has passed in the House and is now being considered in the Senate!
Breaking the cycle of poverty
Many low-income students are forced to forgo education to meet the immediate needs of themselves and their families. Although this is often a decision of necessity, it prevents low-income young people from accessing future opportunities that an education can provide. I signed on as a co-sponsor of House Bill 1094, establishing the Washington Future Fund to create a pool of money that every child born under the state’s Medicaid program could access upon adulthood to use towards homeownership, education, or entrepreneurship. One in 10 Washington households have zero or negative net worth, and Washington has severe and longstanding racial and economic inequities. About half of all births in Washington are covered under the State’s Medicaid program, and about 57% are children of color. This fund could disrupt generational poverty, provide invaluable opportunity, and change the trajectory of people’s lives. Unfortunately, this bill did not advance beyond committee this session, but lays a framework for this valuable work to be continued next year.
A conversation with the Allison Krutsinger from the Department of Children, Youth, and Families
I recently sat down with Allison Krutsinger, Director of Government Affairs and Community Engagement for the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF). Watch me interview Allison to ask her about DCYF’s work and how the State Legislature can best support children, youth, and families in Washington.
Thank you for taking the time to read. I am honored to be working here for you—please don’t hesitate to send me an email or give us a call at (360) 786-7918.
Rep. Debra Entenman