Education: Our Top Priority



Ruth Dowies third grade class at Fort Stevens Elementary School in Yelm, Washington.

More about the Education Equality Act

The Education Equality Act, Senate Bill 5607, which is our solution to fully fund education, recently passed the Senate with a vote of 25 – 24. The plan has been debated in the press and Thursday, the director of the governor’s budget office confirmed that no schools would lose money under our plan.

While he also said that some districts see a property tax increase, it’s important to know that this is in districts where the property-tax rate has been less than that of other districts which currently receive less money. Our plan applies a flat tax rate statewide so that everyone pays the same rate. Those with higher property values pay a little more. This is part of making education more equitable across Washington.

The Education Equality Act also provides a minimum of $12,500 per student. If a student meets additional criteria, additional funds are added on top of that $12,500. For example, if a child has special needs, we add another $7500 to the amount the school district receives. Additional funds also are added for students who live in poverty, are homeless, are in the English as a Second Language program or are highly capable. We also double the amount of money going to career technical education (CTE).

Want to know how the plan would affect you? Here’s how the numbers stack up for the school districts in the 2nd Legislative District. For a full-page version click here.



Making telemedicine more accessible

Two of my bills received a hearing this week. Both pieces of legislation support the expansion of telemedicine statewide.

Senate Bill 5436 would expand patient access to telemedicine services by allowing patients to choose the site where they receive the service, which can include at home. Current state law only allows them to receive it doctor-to-doctor. I firmly believe that as long as it doesn’t compromise patient safety or the quality of care, patients should have the widest access possible to telemedicine.

Senate Bill 5457 addresses the need for parity in payment for telemedicine services. It would require health carriers to reimburse telemedicine providers at the same rate as if the service was provided in person. SB 5457 also allows a site that is providing telemedicine service to negotiate a facility fee with health carriers. There’s no reason why telemedicine sites should not be paid just the same as physicians who provide the same care in their offices.

Telemedicine is a great way to expand care to rural communities and I hope to report later that the legislation passes both the Senate and the House. Stay tuned!

Further protections for whistleblowers

Another bill that is very important is Senate Bill 5374, which further protects whistleblowers. Simply put, the bill clarifies that the state auditor may review cases involving allegations of improper ex parte communication between an agency and a judge.

Ex parte communication is any communication between a judge or juror and a party to a legal proceeding or any other person about the case, outside the presence of the opposing party’s attorney.

SB 5374 addresses a situation that popped up a couple of years ago with the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. In that case an administrative law judge was refusing to decide cases in accordance with the agency head’s policies. She was eventually disciplined as part of her employee evaluation and subsequently fired. It got a lot of attention in the press and we had a number of work sessions on it in the Senate Law & Justice Committee.

This legislation has already been heard in committee and will soon come to the Senate floor for a vote soon.