Friday, November 18, 2011

Save the date: Wylie's pre-session town hall is on Nov 22

Education Reform: New graduation requirements on the horizon for the class of 2016

For the last several years, education reform has been, and will continue to be, an important issue in Washington state. Over half of all students who enroll in community or technical colleges directly after high school need to take at least one remedial course to catch up. We need to do a better job making our students college and career-ready by the time they graduate from high school.

House Democrats have championed reforms aimed at improving our K-12 education system. During the 2011 legislative session, Rep. Marcie Maxwell (D-Renton) sponsored House Bill 1443 that proposed a number of reforms. Although the bill failed to receive Legislative approval, the Washington State Board of Education adopted some of the bill’s components through changes to the Washington Administrative Code.

Repealing the time-based definition of credit is one of the changes adopted by the board. Currently, most high school students received a full course credit by spending 150 hours in the classroom. By removing the time-based definition of credit, local school districts will now have more flexibility in measuring student achievement.

The board approved this change last week. The board also approved new high school graduation requirements that will take effect for the class of 2016 and beyond. The new requirements will:
  • Increase English from 3 to 4 credits.
  • Increase social studies from 2.5 to 3 credits and require .5 credit of civics.
  • Decrease electives from 5.5 to 4 credits.
  • Make successful completion of Washington State History and Government a non-credit requirement.
  • Clarify that the 2 credits of health and fitness includes .5 credits of health and 1.5 credits of fitness.
  • Create a “two for one” policy that would enable students taking a CTE-equivalent (career and technical education) course to satisfy two graduation requirements while earning one credit.
The revised language on the new graduation requirements can be found on the Board of Education site here. One-page flyers and summaries can be found here and here.

To read this blog post in Spanish, please click here.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

State’s budget situation continues to deteriorate – but at a slower pace

The Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released its quarterly revenue forecast Thursday morning, and it indicated that, although there are some bright spots on the horizon, our economy is still not back on track. 

The council’s executive director, Dr. Arun Raha, reported that the revenue forecast for the 2011-2013 biennium is now $122 million lower that it was just two months ago, bringing the current budget shortfall to about $2.1 billion. That’s the difference between the spending outlined in the biennial budget adopted by the Legislature earlier this year and the now-anticipated revenue for the period, allowing for an ending balance of about $400 million as a reserve.

During his report, Dr. Raha made the following points:

·         Our economic recovery is threatened by events outside the state of Washington – mainly, the European debt crisis and the political gridlock in Congress.

·         Washington’s employment numbers are not great – but Boeing is doing well, as is the software industry. 

·         State and local governments are shedding jobs, including  900 from the state’s liquor system due to the imminent privatization of hard-liquor sales under the ballot initiative approved by voters this month.

·         Consumer confidence is still weak.

The Legislature will begin a special session Nov. 28 to address this budget situation.  Our budget writers have been working for several weeks now developing options, finding more efficiencies and cuts, and looking for additional reforms.

To read this blog post in Spanish, please click here.

Workers want $2 billion construction bonds to create jobs

A blog post by Jordan Schrader of The News Tribune says the State Labor Council is supporting $2 billion in bonds to create construction jobs across Washington state.
You can read the piece here:
A key passage from the story:
The State Labor Council also is pushing for a bond measure to stimulate the job market through construction on state, college and public-school buildings, on storm-water pollution control projects and more, all across the state.
Rep. Hans Dunshee has been working with stakeholders, including workers, businesses and schools, on such a similar idea to create jobs.

To read this blog post in Spanish, please click here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Save the date: Orwall - Hasegawa Joint Town Hall this Saturday!

Governor rolls out action agenda for aerospace industry

With a strong emphasis on enhancing our state's education system and workforce development, Governor Gregoire announced her strategy proposals today to ensure Washington remains the preeminent hub of aerospace design and manufacturing and keeps growing good-paying jobs.

The strategy developed by a partnership of business, labor and government leaders, was rolled out at Renton Technical College this morning.

“There is no question that Washington state is the best place in the world to build the Boeing 737-MAX jetliner,” Gregoire said. “And I believe that when all is said and done – Boeing will make the best decision and build this game-changing aircraft in this state. But I never take anything for granted – especially in a global market where business can go anywhere at a speed unknown even a decade ago.”

Gregoire’s proposal includes:
  • Investing $450,000 to expand the governor’s Launch Year program and provide 12 high schools with aerospace curriculum support to prepare high school students to enter the workforce. The investment would also provide two Skills Centers with aerospace manufacturing support to help train additional high school students;
  • Spending $250,000 to add “Project Lead the Way” courses at 10 high schools – courses where students learn to problem-solve using their science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills;
  • Putting $7.6 million toward expanding capacity at the University of Washington and Washington State University to enroll 775 more engineering students; and
  •  Investing $1.5 million, with additional support from companies, foundations and donors, to create a Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation at UW and WSU to support university research that will grow the aerospace sector and lead to new jobs in our state.
Gregoire also proposed creating a new Governor’s Aerospace Office to provide focus, direction, oversight and coordination to grow Washington state’s aerospace industry. The office will also gather industry intelligence to advise the governor in advancing Washington’s competitiveness nationally and globally.

Gregoire's plan also includes asking the Legislature to extend an existing aerospace tax incentive for pre-production expenses from 2024 to 2034 to realign the lifespan of the incentive to match the anticipated production duration of the 737-MAX.

Click here to read Gregoire's news release.  

For handouts and presentations, click here.

Legislators urge Congress to increase funding for food allergy research

For some kids, ingesting a trace amount of peanuts can be deadly.

For others, the enemy could be wheat, or egg, or dairy products.  Or any other common food that turns up in lunchboxes or at birthday parties. 

Food allergies have been called a "sleeping enemy...ready to threaten the lives of nearly 8 out of every 100 children in America every minute of every day."  That's about two kids in every single classroom across the nation.  Nearly 40 percent of these children have already experienced a severe, potentially fatal reaction to a food.

But although there is currently no cure for food allergies, one lies within reach.   Through Congressional funding specifically for food allergy research, oral immunotherapy is being explored as a way to desensitize someone to a particular allergy.  This funding comes through both the Department of Defense and the National Institutes for Health, and is appropriated each fiscal year by Congress.

Two of Washington's legislators have recently written letters to Congressman Norm Dicks - who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense - urging his support for increased funding for food allergy research.  You can read the letter from House Majority Whip Kevin Van De Wege here.  When he's not busy with his legislative duties, Rep. Van De Wege is a professional firefighter and EMT who throughout his career has responded to plenty of emergency calls dealing with anaphylactic shock from food allergies.

Rep. Laurie Jinkins also wrote a letter to Congressman Dicks.  She is vice chair of the House Health Care & Wellness committee, and Deputy Director of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.  Food allergies, she notes, are a growing problem not only in our classrooms, but for our military as well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Q’s & A’s

Rep. Sherry Appleton
Reps. Sherry Appleton and Drew Hansen, along with Sen. Christine Rolfes, head for Poulsbo tonight to meet the press, and the public, and members of the North Kitsap School Board. (Sherry won’t have far to go; she calls Poulsbo home. The brand-new Rep. Hansen, who replaced Christine when she moved to the Senate, hails from Bainbridge Island, as does the brand-new Sen. Rolfes, who replaced Phil Rockefeller.)

Rep. Drew Hansen
The trio of 23rd-district lawmakers will talk about the upcoming special legislative session, with an expected extra emphasis on education issues, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the North Kitsap School District boardroom, 18360 Caldart Ave. Tonight’s forum is free and of course open to the public.

Opportunity Internships means jobs

Opportunity Internship recipient Reese Holland (center)
How can we match up businesses needing skilled workers with students who want those skills – and those jobs?
Opportunity Internships is one solution that's working.  Meet Reese Holland, a student in Rep. Tim Probst’s community.
Reese is pursuing a career in engineering, and instead of simply taking math and science classes in high school, he got hands-on training and experience at the local Frito Lay plant. Interns like Reese check the settings of dozens of machines and programs at the plant, which is constantly trying to do things more efficiently. They track waste in the tenth of a percentage range.
Opportunity Internships are a creative way to match students up with good careers and to boost our state’s economy. Many skilled jobs get filled by people from out of state because our high schools and colleges don’t produce enough graduates in those fields.
So it makes sense to emphasize STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in our high schools and colleges, because our students should be getting those skills – and those good jobs.
The idea behind Opportunity Internships is simple: match up interested students with the right businesses and make sure they get the skills -- and on-the-job experience -- they need. The business gets a highly skilled employee that they already know is a good worker. The student gets a career with a future. And our state economy gets a boost.  Great idea, huh? 
As students like Reese can tell you, the idea is working. Read more here.

How would you solve the state's budget problem?

That's the question House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan is asking his 47th district constituents to discuss tomorrow evening when he hosts an electronic town hall meeting at 6:00.

Most housholds in the district will be called directly starting at about 5:55 pm, and residents will be invited to stay on the line and join the conversation.  But if you don't get called for some reason (like you don't have a land line) you can still participate by calling 1-877-229-8493 and entering 18646.

Here is Rep. Sullivan's column from the Kent Reporter.  It contains background info about the current budget situation and more details about the teleforum.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Prescription drugs must always get into their intended, appropriate hands

A recent Vancouver Columbian article ("New rules could leave chronic pain patients in a world of hurt") throws into stark relief the highly important balance that needs to be struck between:
  • Helping chronic pain-sufferers get medications they need; and
  • Halting prescription drugs from getting into the wrong hands.
State Rep. Jim Moeller knows that "prescription-drug abuse is a public-health emergency, exploding on us here in the Pacific Northwest." Moeller prime-sponsored a measure (House Bill 2876) in the 2010 Legislature that required health-care boards and commissions to adopt rules regarding pain-management, including rules covering the prescribing of opioids.
An addictions-treatment counselor for more than a quarter of a century, Moeller said he’s seen a big upswing in opiate addictions. Indeed, a recent regional crackdown on the illegal distribution of pain medications included the investigation of a Vancouver clinic.

"Although fewer and fewer people are using illegal, fundamentally bad stuff such as meth, heroin and cocaine,” Moeller said, “more and more folks are abusing ostensibly legal medications such as oxycodone and oxycontin.
"Our society has a moral responsibility - and health-care professionals have an ethical responsibility - to recognize the very real pain that many patients are suffering,” Moeller stated. “But let's also respect the fact that we cannot always help people simply by giving them pills."
The 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health said that well over four and a half million people that year used a variety of prescription medicines nonmedically for the very first time. Our state of Washington is in fact a national leader in death by opioid. We're at or near the top in two awful national rankings: prescription-drug abuse and opiate deaths.