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State Legislature Considers Learning Devices for All Washington Students

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A new bill that would provide one electronic learning device for every K-12 student in the state has passed the House in Olympia.

The bill was prompted by the Covid pandemic and the closure of many, which have relied on remote learning for students isolated at home.

The bill would require the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop a technology grant program to accomplish several goals. Those include providing a learning device for each student and technology training for school and district staff.

Democratic representative Monica Stonier of Clark county testified the legislation is overdue.

“Long before Covid, Washington was conducting our state tests online,” Stonier said, “so students who did not have access to technology were falling further and further behind because they did not have the tech skills they needed to take that test to the best of their ability, so school districts were moving to one-to one as quickly as they could but the resources were not there, this bill provides that opportunity.”

It's believed that even prior to the pandemic, nearly one in 10 students lived in households without learning devices, with low-income and students of color most likely to lack these devices.

Opposed to the measure was Republican Representative Joel Kretz, from rural Northeast Washington, who felt the bill put the cart before the horse:

“You can buy all the equipment you want, all the computers, all the devices,” Kretz said, “if you don't have reliable internet, or fast enough internet, it doesn't help a bit. And so until this body is willing to address those inequities and actually make some investments in improving the internet system, I can't see any point in voting on this”

The bill passed by a vote of 59 to 39, and now heads to the senate for consideration.

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