What is ESSB 5044?

ESSB 5044 (which created a new section of 28.345 RCW) titled AN ACT Relating to equity, cultural competency, and dismantling institutional racism in the public school system, is a bill passed by the Washington state legislature and signed into law by the governor in April 2021.

Among other things, the law requires WSSDA to identify or develop and periodically update governance training programs that align with Cultural Competency, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion standards for school director governance. This bill has no component of training or curriculum for students.

What do the terms equity, diversity, and inclusion (sometimes referred to as DEI), and cultural competency mean?

Those terms are defined in ESSB 5044 as follows:

  • Diversity describes the presence of similarities and differences within a given setting, collective, or group based on multiple factors including race and ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, age, educational status, religion, geography, primary language, culture, and other characteristics and experiences;
  • Equity includes developing, strengthening, and supporting procedural and outcome fairness in systems, procedures, and resource distribution mechanisms to create equitable opportunities for all individuals, and also includes eliminating barriers that prevent the full participation of individuals and groups; and
  • Inclusion describes intentional efforts and consistent sets of actions to create and sustain a sense of respect, belonging, safety, and attention to individual needs and backgrounds that ensure full access to engagement and participation in available activities and opportunities.
  • Cultural Competency includes knowledge of student cultural histories and contexts, as well as family norms and values in different cultures; knowledge and skills in accessing community resources and community and parent outreach; and skills in adapting instruction to students’ experiences and identifying cultural contexts for individual students. Culturally Competent educational leaders have a mindset and behaviors that enable them to foster policies and practices that provide the opportunity to effectively engage with and serve diverse students, educators, and community members.
Is critical race theory included in the training topics/required in ESSB 5044?

Critical race theory is not named in ESSB 5044, nor is any specific curriculum.

Our equity training for staff includes learning experiences organized around these four elements as they relate to the role of educators:

  • Dismantling institutional racism and discrimination
  • Promoting diversity and inclusion
  • Developing cultural proficiency
  • Addressing equitable opportunity

What do the terms equity, diversity, and inclusion (sometimes referred to as DEI), and cultural competency mean?