We are in week four of the 105-day legislative session. Here is a snapshot of what I have been working on here at the Capitol.
Send us your teen for a week!
Every year, students ages 14 to 16 come from all over the state to serve as legislative pages at the House of Representatives. Pages perform a wide variety of responsibilities, from presenting the flags to distributing amendments on the House floor.
In addition to contributing to the efficient operation of the legislature, pages receive daily civics instruction, draft their own bills, and participate in mock committee hearings.
Pages are sponsored by members of the Legislature, usually from the district in which they live.
Taking part in the page program is a great opportunity for young people to gain a unique perspective of the legislative process. If you have a teen who could benefit from this experience, I encourage you to consider sending him or her to Olympia for a week.
For more information, please visit the House Page Program website.
Bipartisan partnerships to siting secondary airport locations and wild fire prevention
This week I am reaching across the aisle to solving problems around airport noise pollution and protecting against wildfires. I have been working with Rep. Tom Dent from the 13th Legislative District to co-sponsor these bills:
- HB 1165 which would allow condo owners to plant drought resistant plants on their property – reducing the risk of fire statewide. This bill was brought to my office by a constituent who currently is part of a home owners association (HOA) and wants to bring more water efficient landscaping to their residence.
- HB 1683 which creates a state commercial aviation coordinating commission which would help in planning secondary sites for new airport locations on both the east and west side of the state.
Ask Tina: Protecting our environment
Every few weeks during session, I try to post “Ask Tina” where I respond to the emails you have been sending to my office. This week I talk about some bills that help protect our environment.
Helping our kids: suicide prevention and language access
Washington State has been a leader in addressing the public health crisis of suicide, but much more work is needed to fortify our school system’s ability to provide services for students with mental health concerns.
For youth aged 10 – 19, suicide is the second leading cause of death. The Centers for Disease Control reports that since 2007 suicide rates among 10 – 19 year olds increased by 56 percent .
According to the 2016 Washington state Healthy Youth Survey, 21% of Washington state tenth graders have considered attempting suicide.
Mental health issues are one of strongest predictors among adolescents for engaging in self-harm and suicidal behavior. Despite 1 in 5 Washington students having a diagnosable mental illness, only one-third of that 20 percent receive mental health services.
Given the substantial unmet need throughout the state, it is necessary to strengthen our schools and school-based mental professionals’ capacity for engaging, assessing, intervening and evaluating students with mental health issues experiencing treatable suicidal ideations.
Another bill I’m very excited about is my bill relating to addressing language access in public schools, HB 1130.
The Office of the Education Ombuds reports that roughly 85% of school districts serve students with non-English home languages. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) reports that 11.1% of all students are enrolled in the Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program, and more than two hundred different languages are spoken in students’ homes.
Our own local school districts reflect these statistics.
Federal and state civil rights statutes prohibit school districts from discriminating on the basis of national origin. This includes providing equitable language access services for students and families with limited English proficiency.
Despite this imperative, students of color and English as a second language (ESL) students continue to underperform on achievement tests and are over-disciplined comparative to their white peers.
Despite the urgent need to improve student outcomes, many immigrant and refugee families have difficulty communicating with their children’s schools.
This legislation would provide the OSPI with the staffing capacity to implement and monitor Language Access in schools in consultation with community advocates and diverse families. To address the shortage of qualified interpreters, the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges will convene a workgroup including interpreters, educators, language access experts and families to create a curriculum for interpreters.
To enable all communities to support their children’s education, families need to learn their rights and schools need the tools to engage all families. It’s not only the right thing to go, but it’s the law.
Rep. Tina Orwall