Agreement reached in state Senate for passage of ‘Dream Act’

OLYMPIA – Washington edged closer Thursday to helping undocumented immigrants pay for college when leaders of the Republican-led Senate majority ended their opposition to allowing the students to receive state financial aid.

Legislation introduced Thursday by Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, would make students brought to this country illegally as children eligible for taxpayer-funded aid through the State Need Grant program. Senate Bill 6523 also adds $5 million into the program.

The Senate is expected to pass the measure Friday morning then send it to the House, which approved a nearly identical bill, referred to as the “Dream Act,” by a 71-23 margin on the opening day of the session.

The flurry of activity comes days after Bailey, the chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, told reporters this was not a top priority and seemed unlikely to be acted on this year.

She insisted then it was unfair to enlarge the pool of eligible students when roughly 30,000 students are already on a waiting list for grants.

But her mind changed when she secured funding for the bill, she said at a news conference Thursday.

“We have always been focused on fairness and funding,” she said. “No more false promises. If you want to open up state need grants to more students, then fund it. That’s what we do with this bill and we make college a reality for thousands of students.”

She did not know how many additional students could be served by the bill because the size of the grants varies by student. The House bill didn’t contain any funding.

Also critically important to Bailey is an apparent commitment in the two chambers to pass a bill allowing veterans and their family members to pay the lower in-state tuition rate regardless of how long they’ve lived in the state. The Senate will vote on it Friday and the House, which didn’t act on it in 2013, is expected to consider it this session.

News of the financial aid bill — which Republicans dub the “Real Hope” Act — spread quickly around the Capitol and incited praise for the Majority Coalition Caucus.

Ricardo Sanchez, chairman of the Latino/a Educational Achievement Project, joined Bailey and seven other caucus members at the announcement,

“We see Senate Bill 6523 as unlocking the hope and aspirations and improved academic achievement for many, many students,” he said. “It is an act of courage and compassion.”

Several Democratic senators signed on as sponsors of the bill.

“It is a critical piece of legislation for children in our schools who work hard and graduate from high school to have access to college,” said Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell. “It will be a privilege if I have an opportunity to vote for the Dream Act.”

Gov. Jay Inslee, who’s made passage of such legislation a priority since taking office, thanked Senate leaders for “standing on the side of opportunity for all.”

“It is heartening that we now have a clear path to help more Washington students pursue their college dreams,” he said in a statement.

Republicans in both chambers still oppose the measure, even with the money.

“I don’t think my constituents will like this at all,” said Rep. Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe, who voted against it in 2013 and again on the first day of the session.

“It is an unfunded, false promise to kids who are hoping to find a way to pay for college,” said Scott, who serves on the House Higher Education Committee. “They believe the money is there and it is not.”

Those additional dollars won’t pay for the roughly 32,000 citizen students eligible to receive a grant last year who did not get one, she said.

“Even if we change the requirements and allow this new pool of students to qualify, it doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily get the money, and that will lead to disappointment to these students and their families.”

But two students who spoke at the announcement didn’t express any concern as they delivered heartfelt thanks to the senators.

“We promise you we will make you proud,” said Dulce Siguenza, a community college student from Seattle.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

Talk to us

More in Local News

Lynnwood
Lynnwood’s car tab fee and utility tax on chopping block again

City Council members will talk about repealing them. If they do, the mayor is prepared to veto their actions.

Most of Compass Health’s clinical employees at the Marysville, Monroe and Snohomish sites will transfer to its Everett locations. (Sue Misao / The Herald)
Lawsuit blames counselor’s ‘unethical’ relationship for Marysville man’s death

Joshua Klick was referred to a counselor at Compass Health. Two years later he was shot and killed.

Marysville
Smokey Point Boulevard stretch closed for crash investigation

The road was closed between 136th Street NE and 152nd Street NE after a possibly fatal collision.

Doug Ewing looks out over a small section of the Snohomish River that he has been keeping clean for the last ten years on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at the Oscar Hoover Water Access Site in Snohomish, Washington. Ewing scours the shorelines and dives into the depths of the river in search of trash left by visitors, and has removed 59 truckloads of litter from the quarter-mile stretch over the past decade. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Diving for trash in Snohomish River, biologist fills 59 pickup beds

At Thomas’ Eddy, Doug Ewing estimates he has collected 3,000 pounds of lead fishing weights. And that’s just one spot.

Melissa Batson unfurls a Groundhog Day flag designed by her niece Wednesday, May 11, 2022, at her home in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Flags tell Monroe woman’s transgender journey — and more

The flagpole in her front yard is a visual for Facebook posts about who Melissa Batson is and how she got there.

Alyssa and Hart Bleifuss own and operate the newly opened Pie Dive Bar in Snohomish, Washington on May 17, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Pie Dive Bar opens in Snohomish. Yep, it’s exactly how it sounds.

Open a dive bar, but make it a late night pie bakery.

News logo for Food Forum. 20220418
A classic and simple recipe for sorrel soup

Visit your favorite farmers market to buy sorrel for this springtime recipe.

Wade Brickman works through a call with trainer Lars Coleman Friday afternoon at SNO911 in Everett, Washington on May 20, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
‘Difference between life and death’: New 911 tech saves vital seconds

Snohomish County is the first in the nation to get the new technology, which reduces delays on emergency calls.

Nuno Taborda
Former Rolls Royce executive to lead Everett aerospace firm

magniX, which builds electric aircraft motors, has hired Nuno Taborda as its next CEO.

Most Read