OLYMPIA – September could be declared as the month of the kindergartner, encouraging elementary schools to celebrate young students as they begin their lives in education.
Senate Bill 5028 was co-sponsored by Senators Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County and Claire Wilson, D-Auburn.
Hunt introduced SB 5028 with a push from Mary Clift, a fifth-grade teacher from Bordeaux Elementary School in Shelton. The longtime teacher has supported this bill for many years, Hunt said at a public hearing on Friday.
Rep. Dan Griffey, R-Allyn, introduced the same bill in 2017, but it did not move from the floor. Clift, originally from Olympia, reached out to Hunt to give the bill a second chance.
“There is no cost to this bill,” said Clift. “It’s a no-brainer.”
The elementary teacher teaches English language arts and civics. Her students wanted to propose a bill with a focus on school kids and the importance of making them feel wanted and welcome, explained Clift.
Testimonies were given by three of Clift’s previous students who now attend Oakland Bay Junior High School in Shelton School District. Graysen Reveal, 14, Ethan Roberts, 14, and Anthony Pagel, 13, spoke in support of SB 5028.
“As a class, we created an idea for a bill and we hope it will become a law in Washington state,” said Roberts, former class president of the elementary school.
With the help of Clift, her class of fifth-graders created this bill three years ago. They reached out to senators and representatives, lobbied for the bill and talked to Gov. Inslee in his office about next steps, explained Roberts during the hearing.
Reveal, a current eighth-grader, believes this bill will help kindergartners get off to a great start as they begin their years in education.
“It is my hope, along with my fellow classmates, that this bill will help all kindergartners across the state,” said Reveal. He wants all students to begin the learning process with a positive start, in addition to forming friendships and creating life experiences.
Hunt clarified that the description of the bill should be altered to specify the beginning of a child’s K-12 education, rather than their education as a whole.
“This is the start of their K-12 education, but certainly not the start of their education,” said Hunt at the hearing.
Madeline Coats is a reporter with the WNPA Olympia News Bureau.