Washington STEM 2021 Legislative Recap
During Washington’s 2021 legislative year Washington STEM, alongside our 10 regional STEM Network partners, and the 150-person Washington STEM advocacy coalition, worked to advance policies that focus on equity, STEM, and creating meaningful change for students who are furthest from opportunity in our state.
In total, 335 bills passed the Legislature in 2021. Washington STEM actively supported 40 bills, including 5 priority legislation.
OUR LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES AND OUR OUTCOMES IN 2021
Washington STEM brings together a broad set of stakeholders to ensure that the policies we are championing are equitable and feasible in a legislative cycle. With the support of our statewide partners, we focused on 5 policy asks prioritizing Washington STEM’s focus areas – Career Pathways; Early Learning; Statewide Office of Equity; Broadband expansion & Digital equity; and Equitable access to Dual Credit programs.
- Accessible, affordable, and high-quality early learning opportunities;
- Working conditions for early care and education providers that honor their expertise, increase retention and expand the workforce;
- Aligned systems across early learning, K-12, health, and mental health to connect and coordinate supports for families.
The outcome: Fair Start for Kids Act PASSED
- Establishes a new account for child care and early learning purposes.
- Makes child care more affordable for families.
- Expands eligibility and decreases co-payments in the Working Connections Child Care Program and expands eligibility in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program.
- Provides increased rates, training, grants, supports, and services for child care and early learning providers.
- Increases prenatal-to-three supports for providers and families.
- Provides resources and supports for Family Friend and Neighbor providers.
- Provides child care subsidies for families to resolve homelessness.
- Professional Development and supports for substitute provider pool.
- Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation.
Our ask: Maintain the Workforce Education Investment Account (WEIA) funding.
The outcome: House Bill 1504
- The Washington State Opportunity Scholarship’s cap limiting state match dollars for the WSOS Advanced Degrees Pathways Account is increased from $1 million to $5 million.
- Workforce development and career connected learning are added as allowable uses for the WEIA.
- Budget: WEIA account funding received a boost and expansion of opportunities for students.
STATEWIDE OFFICE OF EQUITY
Our ask: Appropriately staff the Statewide Office of Equity, established in July of 2020
- The outcome: This request was fully funded at $1.2 million in the budget for this year.
BROADBAND EXPANSION & DIGITAL EQUITY
Our ask: Expand equitable access to reliable, fast and affordable broadband to high speed internet and learning devices for students.
The outcome: HB 1365 PASSED
- Helps schools attain a universal 1:1 student to learning device ratio.
- Budget: $48 million for student learning devices and broadband connectivity.
- Budget: Connectivity ($23.1 million). A $25 per student increase to the material, supplies, and operating (MSOC) cost rate for technology is provided beginning in the 2022-23 school year to support broadband connectivity.
The outcome: SB 5383 PASSED
- Expands Broadband potential in rural areas by authorizing a public utility district or port district to provide retail telecommunication services in an unserved area.
EQUITABLE ACCESS TO DUAL CREDIT PROGRAMS
Our ask: Expand dual credit opportunities for students.
The outcome: HB 1302 “College in the High School” PASSED
- Expands the College in the High School program to allow 9th graders to receive college credit by completing college level courses with a passing grade.
- Requires high schools provide general information about the program to all students in grades 8-12 and to the parents and guardians of the students.
ADVOCACY IN ACTION
How does Washington STEM help create change through policy? Through partnership, collaboration, and hard work. Throughout the 2021 legislative session, we worked with organizations and stakeholders from across Washington to make change possible. Here are a few examples of what that looks like.
- Our CEO, Angela Jones, doubled down on advocacy for the Fair Start for Kids Act by giving testimony in the March 18th Public Hearing of the House Children, Youth & Families Committee.
- Our CEO, Angela Jones, also gave testimony for the House Education Committee in support of procuring and supporting computers and devices for public school students and staff (HB 1365) for their February 2nd Public Hearing.
- Jenée Myers Twitchell, our Chief Impact Officer, supported our legislative priority, the Fair Start For Kids Act, by giving testimony for the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Committee during their Public Hearing on January 22nd.
- Jenée Myers Twitchell, our Chief Impact Officer, helped to support the expanding of the college bound scholarship, by giving testimony in support of SB 5321 during the House College & Workforce Development Public Hearing on March 17th.
- Jenée Myers Twitchell and our Policy Director, Bish Paul, partnered up on February 4th to present, “Where are the Jobs? Statewide trends in unemployment and degree attainment” for the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee.
- Bish Paul, our Policy Director, gave testimony in support of expanding access to Computer Science degrees (SB 5401) on March 11th in the House College & Workforce Development committee.
We’re proud of what we’ve been able to do in the 2021 legislative session, but we know there’s a lot of hard work ahead. As we all continue to continue to navigate, and recover from, a public health emergency, you can count on Washington STEM to seek out and act on policies that will equitably benefit Washington students.
For more detailed session review information and updates, visit www.washingtonstem.org/advocacy.