The federal election for president and Congress took a lot of attention this year, but we also had many races at the state level that will impact our ability to get more and better expanded learning opportunities (ELOs) for children and youth in Washington State. Below is an overview of what happened and what it means:
Governor Jay Inslee (D) comfortably won reelection. He has not given many specifics on his approach to education or revenue, so we will have to see where his priorities lie in his budget which will be released this month. Most of his appointees, including department heads and staff, will likely stay the same.
Chris Reykdal (Non-partisan) will be the new State Superintendent of Public Instruction. He has been a state legislator (D) and is a former teacher. SOWA met with him a few months ago and we are optimistic he will support and amplify expanded learning at the department.
The only loss came from Sen. Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island), who worked on ELOs and was the chair of the Early Learning and K12 Committee. He was a moderate Republican and lost to Lisa Wellman (D). The Democrats needed to hold all of their seats (which they did) and get at least two new seats to win control, which did not happen. The Republicans (who caucus with Democratic Senator Tim Sheldon) will control the Senate 25-24. There are many open leadership positions for both Democrats and Republicans including on the Senate Ways and Means and Early Learning and K12 committees.
The Democrats hold an identical majority going into 2017 as they did last year, 50-48. There is not expected to be many changes to party or committee leadership. One interesting note, Monica Stonier, a former legislator who lost reelection two years ago and now won a different seat this year, worked on ELOs in her previous term and will hopefully work on those issues again.
What does this mean for ELOs?
Basically, not much changed in our state government. The two parties will have to find compromise on the budget and McCleary, which will be no easy feat as two moderate Republicans and key negotiators will no longer be there (Sen. Litzow lost reelection, and Ways and Means Chair Sen. Andy Hill (R-Kirkland) passed away from cancer last month).
Also, several new senators are being appointed due to several senators’ departures. Former Republican gubernatorial candidate and state senator Dino Rossi will fill Sen. Hill’s seat during 2017, and we are still waiting to see who will take Sen. Pramila Jayapal’s (D-Seattle) seat after her election to Congress and Sen. Pam Roach’s (R-SE King/NE Pierce Counties) seat after her election to Pierce County Council. Whoever fills those seats will be from the same party as their predecessor.
Additionally, a very fiscally conservative Congress and an unknown federal executive administration may cause changes to federal funding and regulations that could also throw a wrench into the state budget mid-session.
Please join SOWA in fighting for ELOs this session by signing up for our Action Alerts. With your help we can get more high-quality expanded learning opportunities!