The Senate passed a bill that would add equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism curricula to existing cultural competency training for school board directors, district staff and school staff. SB 5044 also directs school districts to prioritize one of three professional learning days to focus on these topics.
“This past year underscored how important it is that we all continue to educate ourselves and one another about implicit biases and systemic inequities,” said Sen. Mona Das (D-Kent), the bill’s sponsor.
“If we do nothing, structural injustice in our education system will continue to result in disparities – who graduates, who gets disciplined, who can access AP courses,” Das said. “Educators see that problem and want to be part of the solution.”
SB 5044 would direct the Professional Educator Standards Board to update a list with anti-racism model standards, in addition to cultural competency model standards, with the Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee. It would also revise the current definition of cultural competency to include anti-racism standards, an equity framework and culturally responsive instruction. If passed, the bill would become effective 90 days after the adjournment of the 2021 legislative session.
“This legislation is an important step toward making our schools welcoming and inclusive for our families of color,” said Washington Education Association vice president Janie White. “We thank the senators for moving quickly on this critically important bill.”
“I wonder what would’ve happened to me had this bill been passed in the early ‘70s,” said Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens), in a moving speech during Senate floor debate on the bill’s final passage. Sharing his experience as a young student of color and expressing support of the bill, he added, “Maybe I wouldn’t have had to suffer like that. Maybe I wouldn’t have been beaten down so many times.”
“School board members, administrative staff, teachers and students have championed this legislation statewide,” Das said, “because they understand that we can rebuild an education system where all students can succeed, if educators are given the tools they need to dismantle inequity.”
SB 5044 was passed in the Senate by a vote of 30-19. The Senate floor debate can be viewed here. The bill now moves on to consideration in the House.