Rolfes bill to improve educational opportunity enacted into law

Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County - Photo courtesy of the Washington State Legislature
Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County
— image credit: Photo courtesy of the Washington State Legislature

OLYMPIA – In a year that saw few significant steps to improve basic education in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee has signed into law a critical education bill sponsored by 23rd District lawmaker Sen. Christine Rolfes.

“Setting a 24-credit graduation minimum means increased opportunity for our students, and a decreased opportunity gap for Washington,” said Rolfes, a Bainbridge Island Democrat.

“No one should work hard to graduate from high school, only to find they lack the credits to get into college or get a job,” she said.

The current 20-credit requirement is set by the Washington State Board of Education, although individual schools and districts can opt to increase the threshold for graduation. Some argue this exacerbates the opportunity gap, or the deficit of opportunities between low and high income students and districts.

This graduation requirement increase has been a priority for legislators on both sides of the aisle, as well as parents, school districts and stake holders.

"The 24-credit requirement is essential for improving basic education in this state," said Frank Ordway of the League of Education Voters.

"There were a lot of different perspectives to consider and this has been a huge priority for years," Ordway said. "I’m so grateful for the hard work that Sen. Rolfes and the other legislators put in to achieve this major step forward for Washington."

Roughly $58 million of flexible funding was added to the 2014 supplemental budget for school districts to use for maintenance, supplies, and general operating costs.

Rolfes’ bill, Senate Bill 6552, also provides flexible funding for districts to implement the increase in graduation requirements, by incorporating a previous mandate of increased instructional hours into the 24-credit model.

“As much as we want to give our kids the world, they should be able to find a job near home,” Rolfes added.

“Washington is considered the most innovative state in the nation, yet we import people from other states and countries in droves for lack of qualified workers here. When all students in Washington have equal opportunities to get into college or technical school, it will be to the advantage of everyone,” she said.



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