The state House of Representatives convened today without the type of controversy that was simultaneously brewing in the Senate.
Instead, the Democrat-controlled House, led by Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, started with an opening message from Pastor John Rosenberg of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd and a flag ceremony by members of the Washington State Patrol honor guard. Timberline high school student, Malachi Jones, sang the national anthem.
Chopp said the House was fortunate two of its newest members are active teachers. He went on to say that in addition to the challenges facing the Legislature in regards to the McCleary decision mandating the Legislature amply fund K-12 education:
To close the opportunity gap we must address poverty. Because education involves more than just the classroom… The health of the student is directly connected to the education of their minds. To do well in school, kids need to be healthy and ready to learn.
Chopp also singled out higher education, saying the “downward direction must be reversed.”
Chopp also touched on the mental illness issue. He said that while the mentally ill have faced stigma and shame in the past, nowadays “everyone has a friend or family member who has experienced the despair of mental illness.”
Mental illness is not a lifestyle choice or the result of any bad decisions .We have got to leave the Middle Ages when thinking about the health of our brains. … Mental illness affects not just individuals, but entire communities as well. We need to translate this awareness into action.
Chopp also said that there should be clear goals the House sets for itself; goals that he calls “progress points.” He said the percentage of students graduating high school, the percentage of children with health care coverage, and the percentage of jobs filled by Washington State residents are all progress points. He said lawmakers shouldn’t stop there, though.
“We should have a top 10,” Chopp said.