The Odessa Record -

Legislative happenings this month


Last updated 3/30/2019 at 6:08pm

The State House of Representatives recently passed two bills sponsored by 13th District Rep. Tom Dent and one bill by newly appointed Rep. Alex Ybarra (who fills the post vacated by Matt Manweller). Senator Judy Warnick’s bill to fund rural skill centers was also approved unanimously and sent to the House.

Dent’s House Bill 1866 would give childcare centers until August 1, 2024, to comply with changes to professional development requirements being required of them.

“Childcare providers need more time to meet the education requirements being asked of them. Centers are struggling and if there are too many requirements, they might go underground or simply close their doors,” said Dent, R-Moses Lake.

House Bill 1605 would require traumatic brain injury screenings for children entering the foster care system. The Department of Children, Youth and Families would evaluate the screening tools to be included with other existing screens for children in out-of-home care. It would allow for treatment actions following identification of such an injury. The department would report back to the legislature by Dec. 1, 2019.

“Foster youth sometimes exhibit symptoms of traumatic injury, and it is appropriate for these youth to have screenings so that steps can be taken earlier to address that injury,” said Dent. “The screening process would be added on to a screening that already occurs for foster youth. We are not talking MRIs or other extensive testing. We are talking a series of questions and other basic screening tools that are also currently used in youth sports.”

Both bills passed the House unanimously and now head to the Senate for consideration.

The 105-day legislative session is scheduled to adjourn April 28.

Rep. Alex Ybarra, R-Quincy, submitted a bill addressing basic skills assessment for teacher preparation programs which was also unanimously approved by the House.

Ybarra’s House Bill 1621 would make adjustments to the basic skills assessment requirements for acceptance into teacher preparatory programs. It would give more flexibility to universities and colleges when considering whether to admit applicants to their education programs.

Ybarra says the changes could help attract more students into the teaching profession. “My bill allows for a more holistic approach when determining if someone is capable of successfully completing an education program,” said Ybarra. “Instead of being tied to a single test, colleges and universities can look at work experience, volunteerism, GPA, and other relevant skills. This would encourage more people to apply for these programs.”

The bill would require applicants to a teacher preparatory program to take a basic skills assessment, as well as report their score to the Professional Educator Standards Board. Their score would help determine their eligibility for a program of study. However, a low result would not bar someone from being accepted.

“When most people remember their favorite teacher, they think of someone who helped them through a difficult period or got them to think differently. No written test can measure the ability to do that. With the changes outlined in my bill, universities and colleges could capitalize on an applicant’s overall experience, enthusiasm for the profession, knowledge and basic skills.

“Non-traditional applicants, such as working professionals looking to change jobs or even para-educators who want to take the next step in their career, have a different skill set than someone younger who is entering a course of study through a more traditional, campus-based program. Removing the dependence on any one single test can help the application process be less intimidating for many of those folks,” continued Ybarra.

House Bill 1621 now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

Legislation sponsored by Senator Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, that would improve funding for rural skill centers, was also unanimously approved by the state Senate on the day before the deadline to pass bills originating there.

Senate Bill 5874 would require direct funding of certain satellite skill centers in rural areas. The concept for the legislation was brought to Warnick’s attention by the Davenport School District.

“These are important assets for rural communities,” said Warnick. “They help develop our skilled workforce in areas like construction trades and health care, but funding can be a struggle. This legislation will help ease the burden on local districts for operating these satellite centers and offer even more programs in our communities.”

Currently, the Davenport School District operates a satellite skills center in partnership with the Spokane School District, providing career and technical education to high school students. However, some of the programs may be too expensive or specialized for one school district to operate alone. Warnick’s legislation would allow direct funding of these centers if they can secure agreements to enroll students from two or more school districts.

“This is a technical fix that will open a world of opportunity for rural communities,” Warnick said. “Skill centers that meet the rural definition now have more options to deliver quality educational opportunities without additional administrative and financial burdens.”

There currently are 14 skill centers in Washington state, many serving rural communities. The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.


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