Braun Says Inslee’s Veto of COVID-Related Provision in Racial Equity Analysis Bill Shows ‘Lack of Understanding’

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State Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, spoke out last week after Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed an amendment the Centralia lawmaker added to a bill that mandates a racial equity analysis in schools by the nonpartisan Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC).

Braun’s amendment, approved in the Senate by 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.

While vetoing the measure, Inslee said he would instead ask the Washington Student Achievement Council to conduct a broader review of racial inequities in K-12 education.

Braun said in a press release that the Washington Student Achievement Council’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,” Braun said in a prepared statement. “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.”

Braun said 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.”

“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,” Braun said. “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.”

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