Schoesler says passage of early-action school-construction bill reflects Senate coalition’s priorities

Legislation also would make $10 million available for school-security improvements

OLYMPIA… Sen. Mark Schoesler said the jobs-education-budget focus of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus is exemplified by a school-construction funding bill passed unanimously by the Senate today.Sen. Mark Schoesler

Typically money for school construction is part of the capital budget, which lawmakers don’t tend to adopt until late in a legislative session. Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said Senate Bill 5445 would make that money available much sooner, placing $475 million from bond sales into the state school-construction account as soon as the measure is passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor. That amount should cover the anticipated size of school-district requests for the next two years plus $10 million for school-security improvements.

“This goes to all three of our coalition’s top priorities,” said Schoesler, who is Senate Republican leader and was instrumental in creating the bipartisan coalition that sets the Senate agenda. “It’s good for education because, less than one month into the legislative session and on the eve of many school district bond-issue elections, the matching funds those districts need from the state will be available sooner.

“Getting the money sooner means construction can begin earlier, which is good for creating jobs. And it’s smart budgeting because it keeps school construction from being caught up in any other debates about spending on capital projects. On top of that we’re able to start addressing the heightened concerns we have about school safety.”

The school-security measures that would be supported by SB 5445 are outlined in Senate Bill 5197, also approved unanimously by the Senate today.

That bill would call for silent panic-alarm systems in schools to speed the response time of local law enforcement. It would also require that when schools are built or undergo more than a 40 percent remodel, an “optimal level of security” would be incorporated – for instance, security cameras or the installation of electric door locks.

Schoesler, who began serving the 9th Legislative District in the state Legislature in 1993, said he can’t remember such a forward-thinking approach being taken when it comes to school-construction funding.

“From the start our coalition has been about moving good ideas ahead, and this is one of the best ideas I’ve seen,” Schoesler said.