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Senate reaches deal on Initiative 1351, high school biology exams

by caprecord

Senate Democrats and the Majority Coalition Caucus have reached a deal on two key education issues that pave the way for the Legislature to adjourn the third special session.

The agreement reached Wednesday morning suspends the state’s high school biology graduation requirement for two years, according to a press release.

About 2,000 students failed the biology test in the first year it has been required to graduate high school. The Democrat-controlled House three times passed House Bill 2214 eliminating the graduation requirement, but the measure was not taken up by the Republican-majority Senate.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Democratic Rep. Chris Reykdal, said in a statement the deal is “excellent news” for the thousands of students who can now attend college or pursue careers. “I’m happy for the 2,000 seniors who will receive their diplomas, but this compromise only delays a serious problem that must be fixed,” he said.

A new bill suspending the requirement for two years must pass both chambers.

The Senate also agreed to delay Initiative 1351, a class size reduction measure passed by voters last year that is estimated to cost $2 billion in the current budget cycle. The budget signed on June 30 by Gov. Jay Inslee does not include funding for the measure. Without action by the Legislature, it would leave a $2 billion hole in the operating budget.

The House passed House Bill 2266 suspending Initiative 1351 for four years until 2019. Several Senate Democrats voted against the bill in a 5 a.m. floor debate, and it failed to garner the two-thirds majority required to alter an initiative.

The Senate will meet Thursday afternoon to vote on the biology exam bill and the measure delaying Initiative 1351, as well as “any other bills necessary to complete its work,” according to the caucuses.

TVW will carry the debate live.

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