Vandana Slatter

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Washington House passes bill to release college transcripts regardless of fees

College graduates could get their transcript even if there’s a hold on their account due to unpaid parking or library fees, under a bill that passed the House.

“We want them to take the next step to building their future, to go into the workforce or complete their education,” said bill sponsor Rep. Vandana Slatter, D-Bellevue.

Universities and colleges couldn’t deny students their transcripts because of unpaid fees under the bill. Universities could only withhold a transcript if a student has not paid tuition fees and could only withhold registration privileges if there’s unpaid tuition or room and board.

A proposed amendment would have required a study on the withholding of transcripts and collected information on what colleges did before their unpaid fees were sent to debt collectors, said Rep. Luanne Van Werven, R-Lynden.

“We heard in testimony that the average student debt is somewhere around $2,000 per student,” she said.

Withholding transcripts for unpaid debt is an important tool for colleges to have, Van Werven said. If they can’t use that tool, they may send debts to a collection agency quicker, which will have long-term impacts on a student’s financial history, she said

But studying the system wouldn’t provide the assistance students need, Slatter said. “We need to begin by helping them now.”

Lawmakers are collecting information from universities across the state on withholding transcripts, Slatter said.

Van Werven’s amendment failed on a voice vote.

The bill that passed would require colleges and universities to report to the state annually on their transcript withholding practices.

Many colleges withhold transcripts, which limits a student’s ability to use them to apply for financial assistance or for jobs, Slatter said.

The bill was passed to the Senate on a 59-39 vote.

House passes bill to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

The Washington State House of Representatives passed a measure Sunday 55-41 that would aim to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Washington’s emission targets have not been updated since 2008.

“It is vital that our target for reduction of carbon pollution be scientifically accurate and reflect what we know. The consequences of falling short will be extremely harmful and can significantly impact future generations,” Rep. Vandana Slatter, the bill’s sponsor, said in a press release.

HB 2311 would also require state agencies to set long- and short-term goals for meeting emission reduction benchmarks, establish carbon capture and sequestration as state policy, and increase reporting about greenhouse gas emissions from wildfires and other sources.

New targets could come despite Washington falling short of meeting the current goals. Lawmakers argue that the aggressive emissions targets are necessary to integrate accurate information regarding climate change into policy, even if key players cannot always meet them.

“Based on the current science and emissions trends, as reported by the department of ecology and the climate impacts group at the University of Washington, the legislature finds that avoiding global warming of at least one and one-half degrees Celsius is possible only if global greenhouse gas emissions start to decline precipitously, and as soon as possible,” the bill states.

Updates to the bill expedite emissions deadlines by 5-10 years.

Two lawmakers were excused from this weekend’s vote and the bill now moves on to a Senate committee for consideration.

Washington STEM Announces Legislators of the Year

After a statewide nomination process, Washington STEM is pleased to announce that the 2019 Legislator of Year award is being given to Representative Vandana Slatter (LD 48) and Representative Mike Steele (LD 12).

Washington STEM’s Legislator of the Year Award is presented annually to members of the State Legislature who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership in advancing legislation and policies that promote excellence, innovation, and equity in science, technology, engineering, and math education for all Washington students, especially those furthest from opportunity. To be considered for the award, legislators must demonstrate an awareness and interest of equity in STEM education in their respective communities, actively engage in Washington STEM’s two focus areas- Career Pathways and Early STEM, and advocate for improved policies and practices as they relate to STEM education.

Rep. Vandana Slatter, District 48

Representative Vandana Slatter represents the 48th Legislative District, which includes parts of Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland and all of Clyde Hill, Medina, Yarrow Point, and Hunts Point. She currently serves on three House committees: College & Workforce Development; Innovation, Technology & Economic Development; and Transportation. She is also the founder and Co-chair of the Science, Technology and Innovation Caucus, and serves on the Future of Work Task Force, the Electric Airplane Working Group, and the Sustainable Aviation Biofuels Work Group. Rep. Slatter was a primary sponsor of the Career Connect Washington legislation during the 2019 session, which has the goal of 100% of Washington students participating in Career Exploration and Career Preparation activities, and 60% of all students participating in a Career Launch program by 2030. Rep. Slatter is also a leader within the Members of Color Caucus.

Rep. Mike Steel, District 12
Rep. Mike Steele, District 12

Representative Mike Steele represents the 12th District, which includes all of Chelan and Douglas counties and parts of Grant and Okanogan counties. He has been a committed legislative partner with the Apple STEM Network for the last five years. Rep. Steele is passionate about education, early childhood learning, career connected learning and STEM, and family-wage career pathways. Last year, he was the primary sponsor for house bill 2SHB 1424, which empowers students to use career and technical education courses, and career preparation work, to fulfill high school graduation requirements. Rep. Steele currently serves on three House committees: Education, Appropriations, and Capital Budget. He is deeply committed to making responsible policy that serves students in rural areas as well as those in more metropolitan areas of the state.

Washington STEM will be hosting a Legislative Reception on January 28 from 5:30 pm-7:00 pm at the WET Science Center in Olympia to thank these two legislators for their partnership in the 2019 Legislative session. The reception will include business, education, and community members from across the state.

Steer our students to the many paths for productive lives

For years, students, parents, employers and many other community leaders have been struggling with a question: In today’s thriving economy, why is the path to economic self-sufficiency and fulfillment difficult for so many young adults and students?

We know that today’s jobs require education beyond high school. But our graduation rate is still under 80 percent, and only 40 percent of our high school students earn a credential or degree after high school by the time they are 26 years old.

Meanwhile, businesses can’t find workers with the skills they need. This means that despite the state’s strong economic growth, thousands of Washington students are being left behind every single year.

The situation is serious and getting more urgent. In the next few years, Washington employers are anticipating 740,000 job openings with jobs that require technical certification, apprenticeship or college degrees. We need to get students ready.

Last month, we joined dozens of students, community leaders and lawmakers to celebrate Gov. Jay Inslee’s signing of legislation that will help our education system evolve to provide our kids with sound pathways to economic self-sufficiency in a 21st-century economy.

This bill helps close that gap by investing in free college and other important programs. One of these is Career Connect Washington, which provides a fundamental new framework for connecting students to high demand, high potential jobs, and higher education, job training and actual employment. Through a regional approach of supporting localized networks focused on the needs of our diverse state, each area of our state will be able to help students learn about, explore and prepare for their careers.

These regional networks will coordinate among school districts, employers, colleges and other community partners. This is where we expect to see the most innovation, as every region aligns pathway opportunities with the real jobs in the local economy. They will work on curriculum building for new programs, transferring and scaling existing strong programs, and evaluating and bringing forward “Career Launch” programs for endorsement that are already effective, providing a “quality seal of approval” that families can count on.

No one is wasting a moment, and it’s been thrilling to see so many partners already at work.

Career Connect Washington will also take the lead on spreading the word by reaching out to industry and to young people to encourage their continued participation in pathway programs. A state agency work group will help coordinate changes that are necessary within state government to remove barriers to implementation.

The end goal of this approach will be a career-connected learning system deeply embedded within the state’s K-12 and higher education system offering students multiple pathways to economic and life fulfillment. By braiding a student’s pathway, they can meaningfully explore their potential interests while earning academic credit and, in more advanced experiences, pay.

Other states are watching. This project has its genesis with Gov. Inslee’s leadership at the National Governors Association. Republican and Democratic governors across the country are actively studying the legislation to follow in our footsteps.

In a good economy, people have a real and fair chance to succeed with job opportunities that offer meaningful work, allowing people to support their families and come home every day with a sense of dignity.

As parents, students and workers, and leaders of education, government and industry, we must ensure that all people in our communities have the opportunity to participate fully in our future economy. Career Connect Washington is critical to ensuring that those doors are truly open to everyone.

New Sikh temple in Vancouver to host grand opening

Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, left, Rep. Vandana Slatter, D-Bellevue, Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent, visited the Guru Ramdass Gurdwara Sahib Sikh temple in Vancouver on Friday. Contributed photo

If you’re going to Saturday’s grand opening of the new Sikh temple in northeast Vancouver, don’t expect to leave with an empty stomach. One of the golden rules of Sikhism is to share your earnings and selflessly serve others. Saturday’s celebration at Guru Ramdass Gurdwara Sahib naturally includes a community meal, known as langar.

People are invited to walk around, enjoy the festivities and break naan bread with the Sikh community. There will be music and readings from the Sikh scriptures at the newly finished temple. Also, the congregation will honor community members and government officials who helped in opening the temple, a process that’s taken nearly a decade.

Spokesman Pawneet Sethi expects the gathering to attract at least 1,000 people with Sikhs traveling from as far north as Vancouver, British Columbia, and as far south as Salem, Ore., to take part in the celebration.

At about 21,000 square feet, Guru Ramdass Gurdwara Sahib in Vancouver’s Landover-Sharmel neighborhood is the second largest gurdwara in Washington after Gurudwara Singh Sabha in Renton.

The congregation outgrew its facility at 3600 O St. in the Rose Village neighborhood. After purchasing the site of the shuttered Landover Athletic Club and nearly finishing remodeling the building, it burned in October 2012. Federal investigators determined the fire was not arson.

It took several more years and about $5 million to complete the new gurdwara. Sikh-owned Barrier Construction, based in Burien, was the general contractor.

“We are sincerely grateful to the Divine for pushing our community to the limits and for the strength and motivation to rise from the ashes of the fire in 2012 that destroyed our 95 percent ready to move in facility,” Sarbjeet Teja, the temple’s board chairman, said in a letter.

Sikhism is a fairly new and progressive monotheistic religion that denounces the rigid caste system. Sikhs are often misidentified as Muslims due to the turbans and head scarves they traditionally wear.

The Vancouver gurdwara’s opening coincides with Sikhs worldwide celebrating 550 years of their faith. Founder Guru Nanak was born in 1469.

Washington state legislators push to develop, support electric airplane travel

Slatter’s bill argued that public support for electric aviation would not only preserve Washington’s longtime status as a global aerospace leader, it would offer other benefits like reduced greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft fuel and reduced traffic on state highways thanks to short-haul flights becoming price competitive with driving.

Read more here.

48th District town hall focuses on education, housing and gun control

Another personal story was Slatter’s, about how her hometown in Canada was affected by climate change. She said passing environmental bills is a priority for her caucus this year, referencing the 100 percent clean energy bill and Kuderer’s single use plastic straw bill.

Other subjects included housing and homelessness, along with health care, taxes and education — including the levy swap, higher education and special education. Kuderer said that she would like to see a mental health counselor in every school, and that the state has to increase its overall investment in behavioral health.

Slatter said that a more diverse and sustainable funding source, besides just property tax, is needed at the state level, and that discussions will continue after the House and Senate release their budgets this week.

Read more here.

New Washington state bill sets 2030 food waste goal

Co-sponsored by Reps. Beth Doglio, Vandana Slatter and Jake Fey, the proposed legislation calls for the Department of Ecology to prioritize a multitude of strategies to prevent and reduce food waste from residents and businesses. These include matching edible food with food banks and other distributors as well as supporting productive uses of inedible food waste — including animal feed, energy production through anaerobic digestion, and off-site or on-site management (i.e., composting, vermicomposting or biological systems).

Read more here.

State Legislature welcomes one of the most diverse cohorts on record, including women of color

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Legislature welcomed one of its most diverse cohorts of elected officials in state history on Jan. 14. The most recent class includes a female majority in the House Democratic Caucus with women of color serving in both the House and Senate leadership ranks.

Washington currently ranks fourth in the nation in terms of gender parity in the state legislature.

Read more here.

Immigrants vs rich, White incumbents – Sayu Bhojwani’s take on American politics

Oftentimes, there are cases of immigrants like Vandana Slatter, a Washington state representative who waited until she could afford to quit her job and her son was out of high school before she ran for the Bellevue City Council. Until December of 2016, Councilmembers made $19,800 a year, as salary had not increased for 16 years. The salaries increased in 2017, to $28,728.

Read more here.