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Washington superintendent asks for state to cover the cost of school supplies

Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal has asked state lawmakers to allocate $30 million next legislative session to cover the cost of school supplies for all students.

Reykdal said the state should consider supplies apart of basic education, and requiring parents to cover them create inequities.

“It will clearly, clearly make an expectation of young people that everyone is welcome at our doors and there isn't a barrier the moment they arrive for the basic things they need, papers, pencils, pens and other things to be a successful student in our system,” he said.

Reykdal said schools may also be able to get a better deal on supplies than individual parents through buying in bulk.

He said if the legislature approves his request, he’ll create guidelines around the funds to ensure they can only be used on supplies, and forbidding local districts from requiring parents to cover things like notebooks, and pencils.

Reykdal has also asked lawmakers to expand the state’s kindergarten preparedness programs.

The program currently only operates in a few regions of the state, such as Walla Walla, and serves families that don’t qualify, or live near low-income preschool programs, but can’t afford private preschool programs.

Wade Smith, superintendent of Walla Walla Public Schools, told reporters Thursday that the program means that most parents that to prepare their children school, have access to a program.

“Now just two years after implementation, the number of students coming to kindergarten prepared, based on WA kids’ data has doubled in Walla Walla,” he said.

He said data the district tracka shows children who went through the program have exceeded state, and national averages as they move through the school system.

If lawmakers move forward with expanding the program, Reykdal said it will launch in areas of the state have a high number of children who aren’t being served by other programs, or have no pre-school options.

Reykdal also proposed expanding the state’s partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which is a program the country singer launched to provide free books to young children. He said if the state invests about $2 million, every family in the state can sign up to have a book mailed to their child every month.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.