Perspectives on Policy

Chief Executive magazine rankings put Washington 32nd for business climate

We’re closing out the second week of May with some rankings… Chief Executive magazine released its 2015 “Best and Worst States for Business.” Texas, Florida and North Carolina came in top three. Washington ranks #32, earning three out of five stars for workforce quality and two out of five for taxes and regulations. Summary line from the analysis:

High tech and manufacturing continue to be strong with established companies, but Washington’s regulatory environment can stifle outside investment in new facilities.

Rankings like these, while subjective, can be a gauge of how the business climate of our state is perceived. They also beg the question, how can Washington improve? In our view, making Washington a great place to live and work depends on a balanced strategy that encourages both high quality of life and a healthy business climate. To that end, we developed the Benchmarks for a Better Washington in 2011 to track multiple measures covering innovation, quality of life and business costs. According to the Benchmark analysis, Washington has continued to do well on innovation – patent generation and job creation – but there’s room to improve in other areas, including education and transportation. Progress on those should be the focus of the tail end of this legislative session.

- May 19, 2015

Higher postsecondary attainment is key to state’s future success

In a recent report, A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, the Lumina Foundation finds that 43.8 percent of Washington state’s 3.8 million working-age adults (those between the ages of 25 and 64) hold a two- or four-year college degree. The percentage increased from 42.5 percent in 2010 and is slightly above the national rate of 41.6 percent.

The Washington State Board of Education provides another look at postsecondary attainment, with 2013-14 data that shows 52 percent of high school graduates attaining certificates, credentials, or completing apprenticeships prior to age 26 (2013-14 data).

Compare this to where we need and want to be as a state, and we know there’s work to do.

By the end of this decade, an estimated 70 percent of jobs in Washington state (as compared to 65 percent nationally) will require postsecondary training.  The state legislature last year adopted a postsecondary attainment goal: At least 70 percent of Washington adults, ages 25 to 44, will have a postsecondary credential by 2023. (See more details in the “Achieve” section of the Opportunity Washington roadmap.)

The decisions that the 2015 Legislature makes in the coming weeks will be important to reaching that goal. Lawmakers should prioritize higher education funding and position the state’s postsecondary system to support economic opportunity through better alignment with workforce needs and greater capacity for high-demand STEM programs.


Percentage of Washington residents, ages 25-64, who hold a two- or four-year college degree



- May 12, 2015

Washington by the numbers

Our state turned in some good economic numbers recently.  Washington added over 100,000 jobs from March 2014 to March 2015, according to the Washington Employment Security Department’s most recent monthly employment report. (Private sector added 88,900 jobs while the public sector gained an estimated 12,000 jobs.) The department also reported expansions in state economic growth outpacing that of the nation in its 2014 Labor Market and Employment Report released in March. And, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that personal income for Washingtonians rose to $350 billion, or about $49,600 per person, in 2014.

Those are good numbers.  However, as Opportunity Washington reports in its “Our View” blog, the national economy may be showing some signs of stalling  and “while the state economy, largely fueled by the Puget Sound metro area, remains relatively strong, continued declines in the national economy can exert a drag that affects all states.”

That’s why policies that will boost economic opportunity throughout Washington state continue to be important. Get more detail at Opportunity Washington or download our coalition roadmap for expanding prosperity and opportunity to all of Washington state.

- April 30, 2015

New Report: Washington’s Top Transportation Challenges

We’re lucky to live in a growing state. However, the evidence that our state is outgrowing its current transportation system keeps stacking up.

Released today, a new report by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation organization finds Washington state faces, “numerous challenges in providing a transportation system that is safe, well-maintained, efficient and adequately funded.”

The report, Washington’s Top Transportation Challenges: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Efficient Mobility and Economic Vitality finds:

  • 34% of urban pavements and 22% of rural pavements are in poor condition
  • Washington drivers spend $2.9 billion ($551 per driver) on vehicle operating costs related to rough roads (accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, increased fuel consumption and tire wear)
  • 22% of the state’s bridges don’t meet current highway designs standards
  • Major economic corridors are experiencing significant increases in delays

Additional costs, delays and safety concerns choke commerce and commutes.

In a recent op-ed, Roundtable President Steve Mullin urged state lawmakers to agree on a bipartisan package to improve Washington’s transportation system and fund projects important to Washington families and employers.

“Lawmakers have a real opportunity, the first in a decade, to make strategic transportation investments that would pay substantial dividends for decades to come.”

Without an investment in transportation this legislative session, Washington will miss out on opportunities for economic growth and face reduced quality of life for its citizens.  The clock is winding down on this year’s legislative session. The legislature needs to take action on this critical issue.

- April 21, 2015

Smarter Balanced is a critical academic check-up

This spring, students across Washington are taking the Smarter Balanced assessments in math and English language arts for the first time.  There’s a lot to know about what the tests measure, how they are administered, and what to expect when the results come in.  Ready Washington, a statewide coalition of education agencies, associations and advocacy organizations, has developed some great informational materials to help answer many of these questions.

Take four minutes to check on this video on what Smarter Balanced is and how the results can be used to ensure students are on track to career and college readiness:

Or spend two minutes watching this video to get a run-down on what kind of assessments are included in the Smarter Balanced system:

Will these test be fun?  As Stand for Children CEO Jonah Edelman wrote recently:

No one loves tests though, of course, life is full of them. But if tests align to what students are learning in the classroom and are smart, they’re incredibly useful.
They can help parents really know whether their children are on track in math and English language arts so parents can partner with teachers to address kids’ challenges when they’re still resolvable and before their kids can’t get into college, struggle in college, or can’t get or keep good jobs.

The tests can also help teachers know where they’re solid and where they might need to improve, and also help the next grade’s teachers know what kind of support incoming students might need.

Finally, they can help administrators know which teachers and schools are exemplary and which need extra attention and support.

In a nutshell, that’s why these tests are so important. They help families, teachers and school administrators gauge progress, course correct when needed, and ensure students are on track to career and college readiness. 

As The Seattle Times recently editorialized:

By no means do tests provide a full picture of a student’s achievements, but they are an important tool for determining what students have learned and their skill levels, where they need to improve and how they rank among their peers — within the same classroom and across the country.

Get more information from these resources:

- April 8, 2015

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