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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 Senate Votes To Delay Class Size Measure, Biology Exam Requirement

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
Washington state senators watch the vote tally as the roll call is taken on a bill to suspend a voter-approved class size measure for four years.

The Washington state Senate voted Thursday afternoon to delay a voter-approved class size measure and a biology test high school graduation requirement.

The votes pave the way for the legislature to adjourn its third special session Friday.

It was quintessential political horse-trading. A group of Senate Democrats said they would only vote to delay the class-size initiative if Republicans agreed to delay the biology exam requirement.

After behind the scenes negotiations, a deal was struck. As a result nearly 2000 high school seniors who didn’t graduate because they didn’t pass the biology test now should. Senate

Democratic leader Sharon Nelson invoked one of those students, named Jesus, in her floor speech.

“And both times he took the biology test he failed it, Mr. President, by one point,” Nelson said. “Today he will have his diploma and we have opened a new door.”

Opponents said delaying the biology exam requirement was equivalent to having low expectations of students.

The vote to delay the class size measure for four years was necessary to keep the new state budget in balance. It isn’t funded in the budget and comes with a hefty price tag.