OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The state House of Representatives on Wednesday advanced a dramatic change in Washington's high school graduation requirements.
House Bill 2214, which would need to pass the Senate on Thursday or die when the special session ends, would temporarily eliminate the need to pass a science test for graduation. This year's high school seniors would be included in that provision. Lawmakers estimated about 2,000 students would not get a diploma this spring if the bill doesn't pass.
But the bill would also simplify the state testing system, getting rid of all the complicated alternatives to passing high school exams. Instead, students who do not pass the statewide tests in high school would just be required to take more classes in those subject areas in order to earn a diploma.
Sponsor Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, says his hope is that this new way of doing things will actually help kids gain more skills in math and English and avoid remedial classes in college.
He estimated the change would help tens of thousands of students who are facing new, challenging tests that judge how much of the so-called national Common Core standards they have learned in English language arts and math.
Reykdal says there have been so many alternatives to testing that calling the tests a graduation requirement was almost meaningless.
"Legislators and our communities are hungry for test simplification," he said.
Other lawmakers echoed that sentiment, adding students and parents and teachers to the list.
Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, said she recently had a meeting with teachers and principals and one woman broke down in tears, speaking about her 10th grader who was under incredible stress to pass all her tests.
"When we have folks crying over education, we need to make some changes," Walsh said.
Also Wednesday, the House passed a compromise $7.6 billion transportation package that will keep the state ferries moving, the State Patrol on the road and continue road- and bridge-repair projects into the next fiscal year.
The current projects transportation budget will now go to the Senate for a vote before the special session ends on Thursday.
Lawmakers are expected to take up a handful of bills in the next few days that appear to have the votes to pass both the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled House.
Bills that are not approved by the end of the special session will need to go back through some of the process when lawmakers begin a second special session, likely Friday.
Proposals that may come up for a vote before the end of the day Thursday include a bill that would eliminate a science test as a state graduation requirement and a proposal on the drought.
Bigger issues before the Legislature that are not expected to come up for a vote this week include the state budget for the next two years and a transportation budget for new projects.
The transportation budget approved in the House would set aside $7.6 billion for capital projects, operating expenses and debt service. It includes money for road, bridge, ferry and ferry-terminal repair. It would put millions into construction of the new State Route 520 floating bridge, the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement and widening of Interstate 90.
The current projects transportation budget proposal does include some money for new work, including dollars to start tolling on Interstate 405 through between Lynnwood and Bellevue. The bill includes $17 million to improve transit in the Seattle area to make up for traffic disruption from the project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
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