Legislative update: Better public schools and making college affordable for everyone

Our public schools, colleges and universities are a key reason why Washington state has the best economy in the nation today.

This session, we made important investments in education along with major reforms to help students succeed in school and life.

Better public schools

Graduation requirements

Too many smart, hard-working students had their dreams crushed because they couldn’t pass a single test. That included students who had a college acceptance letter in their hands.

It was wrong and I’m happy to say with the passage of House Bill 1599, we’re ending the days of high-stakes testing.

Now, students have more ways to meet our state’s tough graduation requirements.

Beginning with the class of 2020, students can earn their high school diploma via a number of pathways, including earning college credit in dual credit courses, achievement on the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) or ACT (American College Testing), qualifying to enlist in the U.S armed forces and other options.

School safety & well-being

Public schools need to be safe places for our kids and teachers.

House Bill 1216 gives our schools more resources, more coordination, and more support to improve training and safety measures.

Special education funding

The whole point of our public school system is to educate every child. That includes kids with special needs. This session, we passed Senate Bill 5091 to increase funding for special education and give school districts the flexibility they need to help those students.


Our state has more than 13,000 paraeducators in classrooms. They provide critical services such as one-on-one tutoring and translating. The passage of House Bill 1658 creates alternative pathways for paraeducators to become educators, additional training to boost professional development and additional flexibility for school districts to grow their professional paraeducator workforce.

Making college affordable for everyone

Free tuition for working families

With the passage of House Bill 2158, tuition at public colleges and universities will be covered by a new state grant for students from families making up to 55 percent of the state median income. That’s roughly $50,000 for a family of four.

The new Washington College Grant offers also funds partial tuition assistance to families making more and increases capacity for high-demand degrees such as computer science, engineering and nursing.

This is a huge change for higher education in Washington state. It means the dream of a college education can come true for hard-working students, regardless of income.

Expanding access to the College Bound Scholarship

A new law House Bill 1311 allows students to sign a College Bound Scholarship (CBS) pledge in the 9th grade if they were ineligible in the 7th or 8th grade.

It also prioritizes College Bound Scholarship students for Washington College Grant assistance.

Expands eligibility for students in the 9th grade and for families who are over the low-income threshold, but can’t afford college tuition on their own.

Helping college students through emergencies

House Bill 1893 establishes a grant program for community and technical colleges to provide assistance to students experiencing unforeseen emergencies like homelessness, medical bills or lack of food.

This is a great idea that will help countless students continue their studies and earn a college degree.

What do you think?

There are other new laws, reforms and programs we passed this session. If you’re interested in a specific issue or piece of legislation, please get in touch and we’ll get you the answers.

I’m also interested in your stories, thoughts and comments about public schools and higher education.

You can reach me by email (jake.fey@leg.wa.gov) or the toll-free Hotline (800-562-6000).

I hope to hear from you soon!