By Gordon McHenry
Washington state lawmakers must support Senate Bill 5850, which reduces barriers for students seeking to reengage with their education. The bill’s passage would give young adults without jobs or high school diplomas the credentials they need to succeed in the workforce.
Imagine trying to succeed in high school while parenting, experiencing homelessness, working to support your family, struggling to pay for testing or course fees—or all the above. That is the reality for more than 14,000 youth in King County each year, and that’s why many leave high school without diplomas and find it challenging to return to school.
Since 2015, United Way has invested more than $20 million to address this issue. We partner with private and philanthropic organizations to supplement Washington’s Open Doors high school reengagement programs in King County. We have provided more than 17,000 youths with the support necessary to keep them in school.
We believe Senate Bill 5850 addresses a critical area of need. Washington’s reengagement system serves mostly low-income students, and those participants are more likely than the general student population to be:
· Youth of color
· English language learners
· Special education students
· Foster youth
· Youth who have experienced homelessness
Though still facing hurdles such as GED testing fees, inadequate housing, child care expenses and transportation, these students continue to work toward their education goals. Senate Bill 5850 provides students with resources to address these barriers.
The state is trying to increase high school graduate and college enrollment rates. Reengagement is an important strategy to achieving those goals; we see it as a major component to disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline, a means of investing in our youth rather than perpetuating policies and practices that may push them toward the juvenile justice system.
The state legislature is making substantial investments in reengagement, but results could be better. With additional investment, the state could see significant improvement. This is an investment in more effective reengagement and a commitment to equity for students who face barriers not of their own making. Contact your state representatives and insist they pass and fund Senate Bill 5850. Click here to find your representatives, then click their names and the link to email them. Or call the Toll-Free Hotline: 1-800-562-6000 (TTY for Hearing Impaired 800-833-6388).