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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Lawmakers Announce Deal To Suspend Biology Exam, Class Size Measure


Washington Senate Republicans have agreed to suspend a biology exam requirement that’s keeping nearly 2,000 high school students from graduating.

In return, Senate Democrats will vote to suspend a voter-approved class size measure. That bipartisan deal announced Wednesday should pave the way for lawmakers to adjourn their third special session by the end of the week.

For students who didn’t graduate high school because they couldn’t pass the end-of-course biology exam in the 10th grade, this deal is like a get-out-of-school-free card. For lawmakers, it’s more like a get-out-of-the-Capitol-free card. It means the students will get their diplomas and lawmakers will finally get to go home for good – after a record-long session.

The terms of the deal are pretty simple. The biology exam requirement will be suspended for two years -- something Senate Republicans didn’t want to do. And the teacher union-backed class size measure will be delayed -- something Senate Democrats balked at.

Lawmakers plan to return to the Capitol this week to vote on the deal and some remaining measures related to the state’s capital construction budget and a gas tax package.

Governor Jay Inslee, in a statement, called the deal “great news.”