With the Washington state legislature currently in 5th gear, we're seeing a lot of bills aiming for many ideals and new laws.

At issue for this article are two bills making their way through Olympia that focus on the time students will spend in school each year. Though it seems that lawmakers can't decide as to which direction they'd like to go.

The first bill introduced, SB 5505, looks to increase the school year by 5 days. Legislators like 12th district Republican Brad Hawkins think it's a good idea.

"The academic calendar in our public schools is based on this archaic, agrarian matter, where kids took 3 months off in the summer. It seems very inefficient to me." The senate Republican leader adds that there needs to be a renewed focus on paying for schools, as well. "...funding basic education it's a paramount duty; it's written right in the Constitution."

SB 5505 has bipartisan support, though six of the eight sponsors are Democrat.

However, saying that an "agrarian" system in Washington is archaic ignores the fact that a substantial portion of the state still work daily in agriculture. Though he notes that students taking 3 months off in the summer can hamper the learning process, he still feels it should remain in place, if not shortened by up to a month.

Meanwhile, the second bill introduced this session, SB 5054, would look to cut the number of learning hours for students by four hours a week.

According to Liv Finne, Director of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center, "the sponsors of SB 5054 say the purpose of their bill is to promote and facilitate the use of professional learning communities. The text of the bill, however, indicates its effect would be to reduce classroom learning time for public school students by four hours a week."

Current state law requires that every Washington state school districts provide at least 1,080 hours of classroom learning time in grades nine through 12, 1,000 hours of classroom instruction time for grades one through eight, and at least 450 hours of classroom time for students in kindergarten. SB 5054 would reduce classroom learning time by four hours a week by changing the legal definition of “instructional hours” to which students are entitled.

SB 5054 also holds bi-partisan support, including Sen Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley), Sen Steve Conway (D-Tacoma) and Sen Jim McCune (R-Pierce Co), as well as others.

Interestingly, a third bill introduced, SB 5257, would ensure students receive a minimum of 45 minutes of recess during each school day that lasts longer than 5 hours. The sponsors of that bill, Senators T’wina Nobles (D-Fircrest) and Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), say the law is needed because Washington currently has no law that defines recess time statewide.

It is widely understood that Washington is a uni-party state legislature, dominated by Democrats. With that in mind, it is interesting that their priorities seem so diametrically opposed. Though, considering two of the three bills introduced share bi-partisan support is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Sine Die (the end of session) this year will be April 24th.

Wenatchee's Pybus Market

Pybus Market on a sunny day in the Wenatchee Valley

Gallery Credit: Source: Mark Rattner with KPQ Newsradio 560


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