State Senate Republicans and Democrats have reached a deal on the budget that could finally wrap-up the legislative session and send lawmakers home. Last week, Senate Democrats decided to backtrack on an agreement to delay funding on the Washington Education Association’s (WEA) so-called smaller class size initiative, I-1351. In return for their vote on delaying I-1351, Democrats insisted lawmakers pass a separate WEA-backed bill that would water-down high school graduation requirements.
Essentially, Senate Democrats created a hostage situation. They threatened to blow a $2 billion hole in the state budget—the budget assumes savings of $2 billion by not fully funding I-1351 for the next two years—if Republicans would not go along with their effort to appease the WEA.
Just to be clear, the WEA-backed bill would not merely lower testing standards on high school biology tests (as reported in the media). It would lower testing standards across-the-board. Here’s why even Democrat state Rep. Ross Hunter said he could not support the bill:
“In addition, it essentially removes any objective measure of knowledge in English Language Arts and Mathematics from graduation requirements. I voted “no” on this bill in the House, but I was part of a relatively lonely minority – I think it passed 92-7. I believe we could significantly reduce the number of tests required of our high school students and remove the biology requirement until we have a more comprehensive science exam, but I am not willing to completely eliminate the expectations that our students will have at mastery of at least a minimal level of algebra and be able to read with comprehension and write effectively.”
The deal Senate Republicans and Democrats made would delay a requirement for high-school students to pass a biology exam for this year and 2016. The agreement will not eliminate the graduation standards. It would only delay them for two years. Lawmakers will vote on the deal today. The vote will allow legislators to wrap-up session by the end of the week.
Senate Republicans said they did what needed to be done to “plug a $2 billion hole” in the state budget. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats kept insisting that a “student is more than one day and one test”—a lie, of course, because it’s not just “one” test… it’s, as Hunter points out, multiple tests.
It’s interesting that the so-called party of science doesn’t think students in our state should have to pass a science test in order to graduate.