High school students could earn elective credit through paid work experience under a bill that has passed the state House of Representatives 93-4 and is now in the Senate.
“Financial education is a priority for young adults and families,” said bill sponsor Rep. Clyde Shavers, D-Oak Harbor. “That means how to open a checking account or a savings account, how to invest, how to take out a loan. Let’s make sure financial literacy is a part of every young adult’s life; let’s give them the financial knowledge and the tools so that they are better prepared for life outside or after high school.”
Under current law, high school students in Washington need 24 credits to graduate. Seven are electives. Shavers' bill, Substitute House Bill 1658, would authorize students over age 16 to earn up to two elective credits for paid work experience beginning in the 2023-24 school year.
A proposal for earning credits for work experience would need to be approved in advance and in writing by the school counselor or principal and a work-based sponsor who would be the point of contact and participate in supervising the student during their employment.
Under the bill, a one-half credit will be awarded for every 180 hours of paid, verified work a student completes if the work meets the requirements.
Shavers said nearly 30% of high school students work statewide, and some of those need jobs to support their families.
Some students carry such a heavy academic schedule that they don’t have the chance to pursue job opportunities that expand upon workforce training and professional development, he said. Regardless, students need 24 credits to graduate, he said.
“Let’s provide our high school students the flexibility to pursue these job opportunities, to gain the work experience, the leadership skills, to support their family without harming their academic performance or jeopardizing their graduation,” Shavers said.
Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard, said she opposes the bill because she graduated high school at a time when many students who went to college were so far behind, they would have to take an entire year before they could earn college credits.
Other bills approved in the Legislature grant waivers for graduation credits, Caldier said. If this was the only bill with a waiver, she said she would support it.
“But the problem is, is that it’s layered on top of all the other bills that we’ve passed,” she said. “All of the children that we did not properly educate during the pandemic, and that we have completely failed… in my opinion we’re going to continue to fail them.”
State Rep. Dan Griffey, R-Allyn, said he agrees with Caldier that educational standards are declining but supports the bill.
What’s missing is that students aren’t ready to do the jobs, he said.
“If we can get our kiddos involved and earlier ready to do the jobs, we have to do everything we possibly can,” he said. “This is the one that can get us closer to career readiness.”
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