Good and bad for children, schools in 2016, State Rep. Kagi says

State Rep. Ruth Kagi says that she saw good and bad results for children and for education in the 2016 legislature.

She said Monday that the supplemental budget that the legislature passed this year provides outreach services and youth shelter beds for the first time and expanded family reconciliation services to bring homeless youth and their families together whenever possible.

However, she said, “The primary disappointment of the session was the legislature’s inability, once again, to fully fund education.

“Not much progress was expected in the short session, and very little was made. We did pass a bill committing to developing a plan for next session, and funding that plan. The funding challenge is immense. Much of the interim will be spent devising strategies for new revenues to be considered next session. We must find a solution to this funding impasse and fully fund our public schools in the next legislative session.”

She noted that the supplemental budget also includes money to address what she called “a critical foster-care crisis in this state.”

Democrat Kagi is chairwoman of the State House committee on early learning and human services and a member of the Appropriations Committee. She represents the 32nd Legislative District, including Lynnwood, Woodway and nearby unincorporated areas, parts of Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace, all of Shoreline and part of northwest Seattle.

She noted that the purpose of a short session is to pass a supplemental budget and to address major issues and emergencies that were not funded in the biennial budget.

“Although it took us a few weeks longer than planned, we passed a budget to address the dramatic increase in homelessness, the mental health crisis we are facing, the fires that ravaged Eastern Washington, and, to some extent, the teacher shortage,” she said. “Every year I focus on specific bills and budget proposals to help children and youth succeed, and particularly to help children facing serious barriers.

“Because Washington has seen a dramatic increase in the number of homeless youth on our streets, this session I focused on foster care and homeless youth.”

Kagi said that she and other legislators appropriated money to help with problems in the mental health system, problems that have been in the news.

“The legislature passed a bill to provide oversight of Western State Hospital, and appropriated $41 million for additional nurses, doctors and other needed staff at Western State hospital to stabilize care,” she said. “But pouring money into the state mental health institutions is not the solution. We must catch and address mental health issues much earlier, and intervene before they worsen.”

Kagi pointed out that she had sponsored a children’s mental health bill during the session that she said would improve access to assistance when problems first appear; so parents and children can get early support rather than waiting until serious mental health problems develop.

Evan Smith can be reached at schsmith@frontier.com.

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