SEATTLE – Gov. Jay Inslee today signed two bills into law that will continue to boost educational outcomes for foster youth and take additional steps toward closing the opportunity gap for students of color and English language learners.
HB 1999 will support foster youth as they work to complete high school and help them make plans for their future by increasing coordination among schools, social services agencies and government programs. The bill was signed into law during the Treehouse Champions for Foster Kids Luncheon.
The bill builds upon investments for foster children funded in the 2015–17 biennial budget that included $12.5 million to increase financial support for foster parents. That budget also included $6.4 million for more social workers and Child Protective Services workers to help foster children and added more than $16 million to provide critical mental health services to at-risk kids, including those in foster care.
“I am proud of the work we’ve already done to support foster kids, and this bill does even more to help them realize their dreams. Foster kids can accomplish amazing things when they have support such as educational mentoring and other services,” Inslee said.
“We are working to ensure that Washington’s foster students have the best opportunity in the nation for successfully completing high school and graduating from college. This bill is one more step in that journey, and we are not going to stop until we get there together,” said Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), a sponsor of the bill.
HB 1541 addresses structural problems in the educational system that disproportionately affect students of color. The bill was signed at Aki Kurose Middle School with students, legislators and community leaders in attendance.
“I have set a goal of reducing the opportunity gap for all students by half by the 2021 school year,” Inslee said. “This bill helps us break down some of the institutional barriers and obstacles that many Washington students and their families face in their efforts to be successful in school and in life. This will help us take steps to address the disconnect between students of color and their educators.”
“Every child in Washington is guaranteed the right to an equitable education under our state constitution. Right now, we are not delivering on this promise. Closing the opportunity gap is the single most important step we can take to ensure that every student has a meaningful opportunity to learn,” said Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-Seattle), a bill sponsor. “Today we move our state closer to eliminating the inequities in our educational system and giving our students the opportunities they need to succeed.”
“This bill moves the needle toward creating an educational system that works for each and every student in Washington. Requiring schools to develop plans for students to return to school after a suspension or expulsion, collecting better data and ensuring students receive an education while they are out so that they don't fall further and further behind are all positive developments,” said Sharonne Navas, co-founder and executive director of the Equity in Education Coalition and member of the Green River Community College board of trustees. “These are the proactive steps our educational system needs to take to ensure that each and every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential. We applaud the passage of HB 1541.”
“Washington is taking crucial steps to close the achievement gap. HB 1541 gives students of color the opportunity to improve their performance and provides vital tools to help all students,” said Kevin Washington, community leader and chair of the Seattle YMCA Black Achievers Program.