The 2016 legislative session has come to a close. The supplement to the 2015-17 budget contains new spending including $190 million from the state’s emergency fund to address damage from the last round of wildfires, $28 million for the state’s mental health hospitals, and $7 million for teacher recruitment and retention. The Business Alliance led the effort to create a compromise alternative to the carbon tax proposed in Initiative 732, engaging broadly with industry, utilities, and the environmental community. The alternative was not adopted, and the original I-732 will go to ballot in November. That said, expect to hear more about the alternative soon as a starting point for future negotiations. The Business Alliance continues to solidify its standing as an influential and solutions focused leader in this policy space.

In the education policy arena the Business Alliance partnered with the League of Education Voters, Manufacturing Industrial Council, and others to advocate for fixing the shortfall around Career Tech Education. Funding is weakening every year, leaving school districts under increasing pressure to scale back career-connected learning. Next year’s legislative session will focus on resolving the McCleary mandate. Our work this year was to ensure Career Tech Education is a top priority in the eyes of legislators. By establishing a network of advocates that can be activated next session, we softened the earth for big wins going forward.


Public Charter School Fix to Become Law

“I could not be prouder to see one of the strongest charter school bills in the country become law in Washington State. Following the chaos of the Supreme Court’s ruling last fall, it is a relief to know that all of our state’s public charter school students are able to continue receiving the high-quality public education that they deserve. The real credit goes to all the students, families, educators, and community members who worked tirelessly to ensure that policymakers knew exactly what was at stake with this bill – their access to a high-quality education. Washington’s eight charter schools are all in their first year of operation, and they are primarily serving students who were below grade level in reading and math. Most importantly, early achievement data suggests that these schools have already started to close achievement gaps.”

  • Lisa Macfarlane, Washington State Director of DFER (Democrats for Education Reform)

“I remain deeply concerned about the public accountability and oversight provisions of this bill. At its foundation, our public school system relies upon locally elected boards to oversee the expenditures of taxpayer money. This bill provides an option for similar oversight, but would ultimately allow unelected boards to make decisions about how to spend public money. I can think of no other situation where the Legislature or the people would condone that, especially when we are fighting to meet the needs of the almost one million children in our public schools. Despite my deep reservations… I will not close schools.”

“As we celebrate this major win for children and families across Washington, we applaud Sen. Steve Litzow, Rep. Larry Springer, and many of their colleagues from both sides of the aisle for choosing a future of innovation and accountability for Washington’s public schools. These legislative leaders are true champions for Washington students, especially for students in communities that historically have had few high-quality educational options and for whom public charter schools are making the difference. We are grateful for their leadership and courage to set politics aside, listen to the needs of students and families, and honor the will of the voters.”

  • Tom Franta, CEO of the Washington State Charter Schools Association

Senate Deliberates on Carbon Tax Initiative 732

People in Washington want something done about climate change…The question is: what? What we need is a comprehensive plan. One that both reduces carbon and strengthens our economy

We’re shooting for the art of the possible… Carbon WA has been very generous by putting ideas forth into this draft…If others have ideas, the time to put them on the table is now.

Businesses and Students Pressure Legislators: Fund Career Tech Education

Business needs excited and prepared young adults ready-to-launch into apprenticeships, certificate programs, or 1- and 2-year degree programs, not just 4-year universities. Companies are willing to do their part to invest in local school programs.  But the funding needs to be allocated so schools will train our kids to be the workforce of tomorrow: productive, globally competitive, productive, and anchored by the success of a large middle class.

When [True Blue] needs workers our customers need them even more… This is a severe problem in part because during the 1980s and 1990s, blue collar work really started getting demonized in high school career counseling… If you go into CTE, you’re going to have a good career. The problem is we’ve removed that funding particularly from middle and high schools… I’m asking you to please support this bill as the very first step in enhancing CTE in Washington State.”

Failure to fund CTE has an immediate and human cost. For many students, it’s their only viable pathway to a diploma, a family-wage job, and a postsecondary degree or certificate.

Analysis and Opinion