- Associated Press - Monday, March 7, 2016

SEATTLE (AP) - The Washington Senate has approved a House bill aimed at closing the achievement gap between students of different ethnic groups. The measure calls for an end to long-term and open-ended suspensions and expulsions. It also improves bilingual instruction and calls for more cultural competency training for educators.

House Bill 1541, which passed the House of Representatives in February, was approved by the Senate on a vote of 38-10 and returns to the House for final approval.

Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, a Democrat from Seattle, has been pushing this legislation for several years as chairwoman of the House Education Committee. A similar measure also was proposed this year by the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Steve Litzow, a Republican from Mercer Island.

Washington state has one of the largest achievement or opportunity gap in the nation.

Ending long-term suspensions and expulsions is expected to help because minority students are disproportionately punished in this way. Educators and advocates like to say that students can’t learn if they aren’t in the classroom.

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