A state bill to help get children back into classrooms has been introduced by several Republican senators, just as a new report shows Washington is behind nearly every other state in providing in-person instruction, according to a Senate Republican Caucus news release.
Senate Bill 5464 was introduced Tuesday, Feb. 23 the same day Senate Republican Leader John Braun, of Centralia, wrote to Gov. Jay Inslee, encouraging him to do everything under his authority to reopen schools.
“There’s no question that the longer our children are barred from classroom instruction, the more they suffer academically, socially and emotionally,” said Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, the bill’s prime sponsor. “It’s also clear that the shortcomings of remote instruction are being felt disproportionately by rural and lower-income families and communities of color. This is the equity issue of our time.”
Under the bill, schools may not be closed for in-person learning beyond 10 consecutive school days without the approval of the governor, the secretary of health or a local health officer.
“We recognize that because of the pandemic there are added costs to operating our schools safely, and our Senate Republican budget proposal addresses that,” Wilson said. “We also know from the past year that being in classrooms is best for our children. Under this new bill, very few people would be able to stand in the way of that.”
Braun is among the co-sponsors of SB 5464. He noted an online school-opening tracker updated Wednesday, Feb. 24 has Washington ranked 47th among the states, with just 19.2 percent of its students receiving in-person instruction.
“Our children have a right to a level of education that many are still being denied,” Braun said. “Being 47th in the nation is equivalent to failure.”
Braun has seen mixed messages.
“It’s been encouraging to hear the governor’s recent statements that schools should be able to reopen safely, just as it’s been discouraging to witness some of the recent opposition to opening,” Braun said. “The intent of my letter to the governor was to point out some areas where he can help get students back into classrooms. This new legislation is aimed at the same thing – and at keeping them there.”