Lawmakers and education leaders all seemed to agree that this would be the year we finally did something to address the needs of students with disabilities in our schools, particularly given our state’s very poor ranking – near the bottom nationally – in important special education measures.
And the State Senate did act decisively. It passed two bills unanimously, one focused on funding while the other focused on important policy changes.
That policy bill – co-sponsored by Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia) and Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) and later amended by the House Education Committee (where it also passed unanimously) – supported specific programs with the aim of improving outcomes for students.
Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) spoke in strong support of the bill, describing the advocacy supports for parents as “really, really important.” And Rep. Monica Stonier (D-Vancouver) had this to say: “It’s one of my favorite bills of the year.”
Yet that policy bill with unanimous support never even got a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee (the most important committee – they write the budget). When asked why, House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (D-Covington), according to The Seattle Times, gave the verbal equivalent of a shoulder shrug, claiming they didn’t have enough time.
I wish I was making this up. Everyone knows there was plenty of time to pass this bill. House Majority leaders just didn’t want to.
The Seattle Times took the House Majority leadership to task for dropping the ball in a scathing piece, calling their failure to act a “moral outrage” and their ran-out-of-time excuse as “not credible.”
These are the things that Rep. Sullivan and House Majority leaders are denying students with disabilities by failing to move this bill forward:
- training in inclusive practices for all teachers and staff
- access to an advocate to help families navigate the special education system
- improved transition supports to help students exit high school successfully
- establishing local advisory committees in every school district to give families a predictable way to work directly with their district administrators
- creating Demonstration Sites at certain schools to help teachers, administrators and staff learn inclusive practices
Here’s what you can do to help.
Rep. Drew Stokesbary (R-Auburn) has filed an amendment to a current bill that can fix this. Contact your Representatives and urge them to vote for the amendment. Also, contact the chair of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island) and ask her to support the House’s efforts.
Here is contact info for State Sen. Lisa Wellman: [email protected] or (360) 786-7641.
It’s time for lawmakers to do the right thing and act now for students with disabilities.