The bill, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Bob Hasegawa, mandates a racial equity analysis by the nonpartisan Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC). Braun’s amendment, which was accepted by the Senate in a 47-2 vote, specifically required a racial equity analysis of the in-person K-12 education restrictions put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his veto message, Inslee said he would instead ask the Washington Student Achievement Council to conduct a broader review of racial inequities in K-12 education. The WSAC’s primary focus is higher education and not K-12, which leads to doubts about its ability to conduct the analysis with which the governor plans to ask of it.
“We need an even-handed, fair assessment of the racial equity impacts of the in-person K-12 education COVID restrictions. The governor’s veto of my amendment to Senate Bill 5405 shows a lack of understanding of the importance of the data the study would reveal. And his choice to bypass the independent review that JLARC would provide makes me wonder why he doesn’t want an objective assessment of his early K-12 pandemic proclamations. Instead, he plans to water down the results by giving oversight of a broader study with an entirely different set of criteria to an entity that is stacked with members who were selected by the governor, including the executive director.
“The racial and economic disparities that are a direct result of remote instruction under the governor’s proclamations during the COVID-19 pandemic are severe. It’s the equity issue of our time. And although I support the idea of a broad study of racial equity in our schools, we need to understand what inequities were exacerbated or created by our response to the pandemic. There is great value in learning from recent policies so we can do better if there’s a next time. Washington’s kids deserve better than what they got.”
The Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee (JLARC) is comprised of an equal number of House and Senate members, Democrats and Republicans. It is staffed by nonpartisan staff auditors and it is directed to seek answers independently. Its work is conducted by generally accepted government auditing standards. These standards ensure audit conclusions are independent, objective and accurate. That the amendment was accepted with a 47-2 vote shows that the Senate believes JLARC to be the most appropriate entity to conduct an analysis of K-12 equity deficiencies resulting from emergency gubernatorial orders.