Hawkins sponsors bill to address learning loss

Following a challenging school year for students, parents, and schools and anticipating significant learning loss across Washington state, 12th District State Sen. Brad Hawkins has introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at reforming “outdated” school year calendars that leave students with nearly three months each year with no school instruction.

Hawkins, the ranking Republican member on the Senate’s Early Learning and K-12 Committee, is sponsoring Senate Bill 5147 to explore alternative school calendars. His lead co-sponsor is 41st District Sen. Lisa Wellman, who chairs the committee and works closely with Hawkins on education policy.

As proposed, the bill would create opportunities for up to 50 school districts (30 from western Washington and 20 from eastern Washington) to voluntarily participate in year-round school. In Hawkins’ bill, school districts selected to participate in implementing alternative school calendars would receive an additional 30 days of funding beyond the 180 days that the state currently provides. The bill also includes financial incentives for districts seeking to spread their existing 180 days over a 12-month school calendar. If this program works well, the Legislature could consider expansion to all schools in future years.

Hawkins says reforming the school calendar is long overdue. “The school calendar that most districts use is rooted in an agrarian economy where families needed children to take long breaks in the summer to assist with farming. That no longer makes sense, and a change is long overdue,” says Hawkins.

“Now is the time – following this pandemic – to think big about reforming the system and to get serious about addressing the learning loss of our students. Long summer breaks, requiring significant reteaching in the fall, is the last thing our kids need in the years ahead. I hope a program that encourages lawmakers and districts to consider transformational reforms will be thoughtfully discussed and debated,” says Hawkins. “Our students deserve that.”

“Through no fault of the educators, students, or parents, there has been learning loss this year and often during summer breaks for many students. This is the perfect time to explore options about how we can recover from learning loss. We need to keep all our options on the table to give our students all that they need,” says Wellman.

The bill will be referred to the Early Learning and K-12 Committee, where it is expected to receive a hearing early in the session. Hawkins and Wellman look forward to receiving testimony and public input. The 2021 legislative session began Jan. 11 and is scheduled to last 105 days.

(CAPTION: Ranking Republican member Brad Hawkins (12th District) and Chair Lisa Wellman (41st District) of the Senate’s Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee are teaming up to address student “learning loss” by exploring alternative school calendars in Senate Bill 5147.)