2017 State Legislative Session Update: STEM = STRONG

Earlier this month the Washington Legislature made some big decisions for public education by passing the 2017 operating budget and the McCleary-K-12 funding plan, both signed by Governor Inslee.

 

Washington STEM worked in partnership with our STEM Networks and over 100 community, business, and education leaders to advocate for the support of STEM education. We’re pleased to share that within the operating budget and the McCleary plan are some strong investments supporting STEM education, and we thank the Legislature for investing in Washington students’ success.

 

As you might know, the Legislature adjourned without passing a capital budget. We continue to advocate for the re-up of a capital investment program to provide students across the state access to STEM classrooms and labs.

 

Here are some notable updates from the operating budget and K-12 funding plan:

 

  • Support for computer science education funding was maintained at a $2 million public investment matched 1:1 with a $2 million private investment level. As computer science is essential for many 21st century jobs, we’re glad the Legislature continues to support professional development, upgraded technology, and innovative efforts to engage underrepresented students and girls in computer science. We particularly thank Representative Drew Hansen for his leadership on this issue.

 

Washington STEM estimates this funding will provide access for approximately 22 percent of students throughout the state. We’re committed to going back next year to ask the Legislature to invest $6 million matched 1:1 with a $6 million private funds to ensure that 50 percent of Washington students have publically funded computer science education.

 

  • While Washington STEM’s other big push, career connected learning, was not funded through the state’s operating budget, our efforts secured $2 million in funding for career connected learning – $1 million federal funds and $1 million through JPMorgan Chase. We’re committed to continuing to work with the Legislature to ensure young people have hands on, real world opportunities that allow them to enter the workforce engaged and prepared.

 

  • STEM and CTE received a big bump through McCleary. Career Technical Education (CTE), part of a strong career connected learning continuum, received $191.8 million to reduce class sizes, meaning students will have more focused attention leading to better classroom experiences. Additionally, school districts will have the option to give up to a 10 percent salary over the maximum for educators teaching in STEM fields – a strong recruitment and retention tool for these sometimes hard to fill but crucial opportunities.

 

  • In other key areas,

 

  • Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) was funded at $14.73 million which will allow them to continue to deliver scholarships for Washington students going into STEM and medical fields. We’ll continue to work with WSOS to support scholarships for students going to community college.

 

  • LASER, which supports K-12 science education, maintained funding at $714K

 

  • Washington MESA, which supports underrepresented students in STEM, received a $1.5 million grant to expand to six additional community colleges in the state

 

 

We thank the Governor and Washington Legislature for making significant steps forward to support students during a busy year. If you have any questions about Washington STEM’s policy efforts, please contact Jesse Gilliam, Washington’s STEM’s Communications Director.

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