By Evan Smith
State Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self’s first bill to pass the House of Representatives reached the State Senate Ways and Means Committee Monday after the Senate Education Committee recommended that the Senate pass the bill.
Ortiz-Self said after the bill passed the House in mid-February that the bill is aimed at improving student success statewide.
The bill would allow the State to gather statewide data on how family stressors affect academic performance.
“I believe children do not come to us in a vacuum, they come to us with multiple needs and many of them with traumatic experiences,” said Ortiz-Self, a counselor at North Middle School in Everett of her first bill. “The geographic analysis required in this legislation will map out the areas where there is high vulnerability so that we can target interventions to those communities with high-risk factors.”
Under Ortiz-Self’s measure, researchers from the Area Health Education Center of Eastern Washington will carry out a study using existing data already collected in the K-12 system, to identify and map the areas where cumulative effects of family factors, such as health status and safety, correlate with academic and behavioral indicators of student success.
“We know hungry and hurting children cannot learn to capacity. And while we have numerous personal stories of how our children come to our schools, it’s not good enough to address these problems effectively,” said Self, who said that her work helping students tends to be reactive. “We need hard data so that, instead of putting out fires, we can be proactive and develop different approaches depending on what these children are lacking and where they are located.”
The report, which would be due to the Legislature by Jan. 31, 2015, would include prevalence of family and community health, safety, and stability factors relevant to student success; resilience factors that are correlated with improved population outcomes; correlation of these factors with community variation in academic, behavior, and graduation outcomes; and implications for policy targeted at improving academic performance.
“My bill moves us a little bit closer to ensure that every child has the opportunity to succeed academically in our schools,” Ortiz-Self added.
Ortiz-Self is a Democrat representing the 21st Legislative District, which includes most of Edmonds, unincorporated areas north of Edmonds and Lynnwood, all of Mukilteo and part of south Everett.
She joined the Legislature by appointment in January to replace Democrat Marko Liias, who moved to the Senate to replace former Sen. Paull Shin.