The state House passed a bill Thursday to remove a biology test from the state’s high school graduation requirements in an effort to provide diplomas to nearly 2,000 students who did not pass the test this year.
The class of 2015 is the first class required to pass the biology test or an alternative to graduate.
“This is so much bigger than a biology test,” said Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater. He said the state loses out on $370,000 in lifetime earnings each time a student fails to obtain a high school diploma.
Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, spoke against the bill, saying the state should not back away from its school reforms.
“I’m worried that as we retreat from some of these requirements, we’re not holding students accountable,” Orcutt said. “Accountable for learning, accountable for preparing themselves to be ready to go into the world and be successful.”
House Bill 2214 passed 83 to 6, and now heads to the Senate. The bill also passed during the first special session, but did not advance in the Senate before the Legislature adjourned for the second special session.
Republican Sen. Steve Litzow, who chairs the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, released a statement saying the bill is “not a good lesson for our children.”
“Lowering standards is a poor excuse for a decades-long failure to create an education system that works for everyone,” Litzow said.
Earlier in the day, Reykdal and Rep. David Taylor held a press conference to draw attention to the issue. High school student Jesus Celes from Franklin Pierce School District is one of the 2,000 students who did not pass the biology exam this year.
“Not only for me, but for my classmates, we all work hard and just to see this thing holding us back is heartbreaking for me,” Celes said.
Watch the press conference below: