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Every child deserves a world-class education that prepares them for a healthy, productive future. Supporting the full continuum of education, from early learning through post-secondary and workforce training, ensures that students are prepared to pursue their goals and keep Washington’s world-class economy strong.

Gov. Inslee's proposed 2019-21 budget invests heavily in teachers, special education and school counselors, nurses and social workers to support students. It supports local levy funding to enhance K-12 programs. It also fully funds the Washington College Promise, guaranteeing financial aid for all students and increases funding for Career Connect Washington to create pathways between high school and good paying jobs.

Current Work

  • Provide career training pathways and options for all Washington students. Gov. Inslee’s Career Connect Washington initiative is a partnership between business, labor, government and education leaders to provide all Washington students access to real-world training and education opportunities that connect them to high-demand, high-wage careers.
  • Free college for qualifying students. The Workforce Education Investment Act provides an unprecedented expansion of free college and financial aid for students. The new program will allow students from families of incomes up to $50,000 a year to attend college tuition-free. It also expands eligibility for partial grants to students with incomes up to the state’s median family income (approximately $92,000 for a family of four). Students can use the scholarship to pay for higher education costs to obtain a certificate, associate or bachelor’s degree, or apprenticeship at one of Washington’s qualifying higher education institutions. Funding is provided through an agreed-upon surcharge for certain businesses in industries that have a demand for a highly-skilled workforce.
  • Give our kids a strong early start. High-quality early learning is proven to help young students succeed. Gov. Inslee is dedicated to increasing access to early learning for more families and affordable, high-quality child care options. 
  • Promoting student health and safety. Students shouldn’t worry more about bullying or gun violence than they do about their algebra homework. Gov. Inslee is working with educators and students to make sure students have access to more social workers, counselors, psychologists and nurses in our schools.
  • Results Washington. Gov. Inslee is measuring our progress in providing a world-class education to Washington students. Learn more about his Results Washington education goals.

Key Successes

  • Free college for qualifying students. The Workforce Education Investment Act provides an unprecedented expansion of free college and financial aid for students. The new program will allow students from families of incomes up to $50,000 a year to attend college tuition-free. It also expands eligibility for partial grants to students with incomes up to the state’s median family income (approximately $92,000 for a family of four). Students can use the scholarship to pay for higher education costs to obtain a certificate, associate or bachelor’s degree, or apprenticeship at one of Washington’s qualifying higher education institutions. Funding is provided through an agreed-upon surcharge for certain businesses in industries that have a demand for a highly-skilled workforce.
  • Expanding the Career Connect Washington initiative. Building on work Gov. Inslee started, the Workforce Education Investment Act continues efforts to expand a statewide study-and-work system so students can get real-life work experience and high school or college credit at the same time. The goal of this public-private partnership is to connect 100,000 of Washington’s young people with employer internships, registered apprenticeships, career exploration programs and other learning opportunities. The act also increases capacity for high-demand degrees such as computer science, engineering and nursing, and funds the Guided Pathways program at community and technical colleges that help more students finish college and connect to a career.
  • Restoring levy authority for local communities. To ensure communities and voters maintain the ability to enhance K-12 funding in their local districts, Gov. Inslee signed a bill to restore school district levy flexibility while also increasing Local Effort Assistance funding to make sure districts don’t experience deep budget reductions while the new levy policies go into effect during 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years.
  • Increasing funding for special education. Gov. Inslee signed legislation to update the formula for determining how much special education funding districts receive, resulting in an additional $130 million for direct special education services to students. In addition, the legislature is providing districts $25 million to improve the inclusion of special education students in the general classroom and provide professional development on inclusion practices. The law also streamlines the process for school districts to receive additional “safety net” funding.
  • Improving school safety and student well-being. Gov. Inslee worked with educators and students to determine strategies for improving school student services to better help students with social and emotional challenges. The 2019-21 budget includes $5.6 million for the state’s nine educational service districts to establish school safety centers and expand behavioral and mental health support services for students. Funds are also provided for school resource officer training and for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to convene a statewide social-emotional learning committee.
  • Recruitment and diversity of educators. Gov. Inslee signed a bill to update recruitment and retention programs for K-12 educators, and expand financial incentives such as the Pipeline for Paraeducators conditional scholarship that encourages paraeducators to pursue a teacher preparation degree. The bill also creates a new conditional scholarship to expand the career and technical education workforce. 
  • Supporting early learning providers and new parents. The 2019-21 biennial budget boosts the state’s early learning system with a 6 percent rate increase to help improve pay for providers in the state early learning program. The budget also expands a program that provides intensive home visiting services for families to help determine if the program needs additional resources and support.
  • McCleary obligation.
    • The 2017 - 2019 budget included a K-12 funding overhaul that fully meets the state’s basic education obligation for the first time in more than 30 years. 
    • Part of the effort to increase basic education funding includes increasing educator salaries to improve the state’s ability to recruit and retain good educators. Additional state funding has increased starting salaries by $3,500 per year, and most educators’ salaries have increased, on average, approximately 12 percent during the past two years.
    • K-12 spending now comprises more than 50 percent of state spending with additional basic education funding in place for special education, smaller class sizes, materials and supplies, and support for struggling students. Because students deserve more than just a basic education, the governor and legislators continue to look at additional investments and policies to help schools meet the needs of all their students and families.
  • Career Connect Washington. In February 2018, Gov. Inslee launched his planning effort to create a career-connected learning and apprenticeship program for the state. 
  • Reinvest in higher education. When it comes to higher education, affordability is vital. Gov. Inslee has worked to improve affordability and access, boost financial aid and focus new investments in high-demand areas that support our economy. The 2015 College Affordability Act, directed that tuition increases be capped at 2% a year. In addition, the Washington has continued to support equity of opportunity with one of the most robust state financial aid program in the county. In 2018, $320 million in financial aid awards was provided to over 70,000 students.
  • Early Learning. A child care collaborative taskforce was created to provide recommendations that will incentivize employer-supported child care and improve access to affordable high-quality child care. The taskforce will also provide best practices for “Bring Your Infant to Work” programs in the public and private sectors. The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) will have more flexibility in meeting the needs of children and families. 
    • There currently is a cap of 10% of the total enrollment of the number of children and families that may enroll in ECEAP but do not meet the income threshold of 110% of the federal poverty level. SB 6149 will expand that cap to 25%, which will enable the state to serve more children and families who exceed the income limit, but who are homeless or experiencing other risk factors.
  • Department of Children, Youth, and Families. Washington opened the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families agency on July 1, 2018 to transform the way Washington serves at-risk children and families. This cabinet-level agency combines the Department of Early Learning and the Children’s Administration, which was formerly part of the Department of Social and Health Services. In July 2019, DSHS’s Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration will also join the new department.
  • Expanding two bilingual programs that help our schools meet the needs of our state’s diverse student population. 
  • Combat childhood hunger in our schools by expanding the “Breakfast After the Bell”.
  • Additional State Need Grant funding set to serve an additional 4,600 eligible students in 2019. 
  • Tackling the statewide teacher shortage. Washington state has an urgent teacher shortage with more than 40 percent of our schools unable to fill all their teaching positions. Gov. Inslee is committed to making progress on improving salaries and support programs to recruit and retain outstanding teachers. He signed SB 6455 that commits funding to increase the number of qualified individuals becoming teachers.
  • Closing the opportunity gap. Gov. Inslee signed HB 1541 to improve how we support homeless children, foster youth and students of color in our schools.
  • Helping low-income students pay for college. Washington state is a national leader in providing financial aid to students and their families. Gov. Inslee signed the supplemental budget that maintained funding for State Need Grant and College Bound Scholarships.
  • Education Funding Task Force. Gov. Inslee signed E2SSB 6195 to ensure continued bipartisan collaboration on full funding for basic education and commit the Legislature to adopting measures in the 2017 legislation session that finish the job of fully funding basic education. The bipartisan Education Funding Task Force will examine ways to eliminate dependence on local levies for paying for basic education and prepare recommendations about competitive compensation that help districts recruit and retain educators. The legislation also directs the task force to recommend sources of state revenue that could help support Washington’s program of basic education. 
  • Affordable college tuition. Gov. Inslee signed a historic tuition cut for students at state colleges, including community colleges.  
  • Early education. Gov. Inslee helped pass a landmark bill that will help more than 48,000 children get access to quality early learning. The Early Start Act includes historic levels of funding for Washington’s littlest learners.
  • Financial aid. State investments in both the Opportunity Scholarship and College Bound Scholarship mean a combined 8,000 more students will get tuition relief next year. 
  • Fair pay for educators. For the first time since 2008, we increased pay for teachers and state workers.
  • Investment in our K-12 education system. The 2015-2017 budget invests $1.3 billion into our K-12 system to make sure our kids get the education they deserve. These investments include: 
    • Class size reduction for grades K-3 
    • All-day kindergarten 
    • Teacher training and mentor programs 
    • Computer science education programs
  • Graduation opportunities. Gov. Inslee signed SB 6552 which boosts the high school graduation requirement from 20 to 24 credits beginning with the class of 2019. The bill incorporates Gov. Inslee’s legislation to provide students new options for fulfilling their math and science requirements to provide more pathways for students with different academic or career goals.
  • Education investments. Legislators approved several important supplemental budget items including an additional $2 million for new teacher mentoring and additional engineering and computer science slots at Central and Eastern Washington universities.
  • Financial aid. Gov. Inslee signed the Dream Act (SB 6523) which provides an opportunity for all aspiring Washington students to compete for state need grants financial aid regardless of documentation status.
  • STEM education. Gov. Inslee’s House Bill 1872 convened a new STEM alliance to expand STEM opportunities in our K-12 system and develop a system for measuring how well the state and our partners are preparing students for STEM-related opportunities after high school.