Monica Stonier, State Representative for the 49th Legislative District in Vancouver, Washington is an unusual politician. Why? Because her day job is teaching.
“My work in the classroom and with teachers keeps me at the heart of implementation, so I have a way to craft policy that will be better implemented on the front end rather than on the back end,” she said, when interviewed this summer on how being a teacher impacts her role as a legislator.
Unfortunately, education policy and adherence to the McCleary decision was not all the representative had hoped for since the capital budget failed to pass the State Senate. K-12 has taken the brunt of the education policy attention, but Washington State University Vancouver students are still an enormous consideration for Stonier. She says students who have been on the waiting list for aid grants are receiving funding, through the new budget and the “bipartisan effort to fund student need grant” was even higher than in the past.
On the subject of the new science building to be built on the WSU Vancouver campus, Stonier admitted that the failure of the capital budget had an impact. She confirmed that the “WSUV science building is high on the priority list for capital budget” but it is unlikely that the budget would pass this year.
Washington State University Vancouver Chancellor Mel Netzhammer does not seem worried. At an event, he stated that his “sense is that [the life sciences building] will be approved in December or January,” and implied that he was not concerned about partisan holdups in Olympia. As far as education policy for primary and secondary students, the Chancellor elaborated on the status of outreach, remarking that WSU Vancouver has “great relationships with schools in our area,” and is focused on fostering opportunity and advancement. He cited academic research that finds that lack of skills is only part of why young people don’t attend college. Part of the problem is that people need to see college as a real possibility for them.
The chancellor said that strengthening K-12 education is part of the solution and stated, “there’s evidence that says if students don’t see the possibility for college by sixth grade, then they will never see the possibility.”
Stonier alludes to this difficulty, noting that “it’s not been the case for decades that someone who works with kids is making legislation that directly impacts them.”
Hopefully, the investments in early education can be realized. Stonier points out that although “significant investments” were made in the operating budget, the state is unable to “deliver services without capital to provide place and infrastructure” for new schools, smaller class sizes, better facilities, and other supportive organization.
As far as the chancellor and Stonier are concerned, these investments in early education are key to the future success of post-secondary education.