Lawmakers OK 24-credit diploma, bill now heads to Inslee

Staff writerMarch 12, 2014 

CHARLES REX ARBOGAST — Associated Press

Today’s seventh graders will be required to earn more credits to graduate from high school under a bill headed to Gov. Jay Inslee.

Senate Bill 6552 requires most school districts to implement a 24-credit graduation standard starting with the class of 2019. A 24-credit diploma is something lawmakers identified as a goal five years ago, but never have required.

Current policy allows schools to set a minimum graduation standard of 20 credits, rather than 24.

The state Senate approved the final version of the bill to implement the 24-credit graduation requirement on Thursday, the final day of the 60-day legislative session.

The bill as amended allows school districts to apply for a waiver that would allow them to delay the 24-credit graduation requirement until 2020 or 2021.

Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, said the option for delay was important because many districts don’t have the funding or staffing to start offering extra courses by 2019.

The 24-credit graduation standard developed by the State Board of Education would require an additional credit of laboratory science, as well as additional foreign language and elective classes.

“It is an issue of, ‘Does the current system have the capacity?’” said Santos, who chairs the House Education Committee. “Do we have all the teachers in place? Do we have all the classroom space?”

In addition to setting a 24-credit graduation standard, Senate Bill 6552 would also scale back a requirement that schools offer a minimum of 1,080 instructional hours per year. Right now, schools are supposed to increase instructional hours from a minimum of 1,000 hours per year to 1,080 hours per year starting in 2014-15.

Under the bill that passed the Legislature Thursday, schools throughout a district would have to offer — on average — only 1,027 hours of classroom time per year.

Making that change will free up about $97 million that lawmakers budgeted last year for school districts to boost instructional hours. School districts would be directed to instead use that money to implement the new 24-credit graduation standard.

“As long as the districts get to 24 credits, that’s what we want,” said Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup.

The bill also would establish new course equivalency standards for career and technical education classes throughout the state. With those in place, it will be easier for students to take career and technical courses within the 24-credit graduation framework, lawmakers said.

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