Thursday, August 11, 2016

USDA Releases Final Rules on Wellness Policies, Smart Snacks & More

Action for Healthy Kids has provided a summary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) press release on final rules on wellness policies, smart snacks and more. WSPTA will share more information from Action for Healthy Kids once their Wellness Policy Tool is updated to incorporate the new USDA rules. 

These new rules help to make healthy choices the easy choice for schools and students by:
  • aligning snack foods sold in schools with the nutrition standards for school breakfast and lunch;
  • ensuring robust implementation of updated nutrition standards for school meals, snacks, and beverages;
  • providing consistent messaging and marketing about healthy food and beverage choices in schools;
  • fostering a collaborative approach to local school wellness policies to improve access to healthy food and physical activity;
  • expanding access to school meals;
  • maintaining school meal program integrity through accountability and standards; and
  • strengthening efforts of parents, teachers, coaches, and school partners to help students reach their potential in a healthy school environment.
Access the July 21, 2016 USDA press release here, with links to the new rules.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Quick Survey from National PTA on Education Issues

National PTA President Laura Bay requests your participation in a Department of Education online survey (it’s only 5 questions!) on the most pressing educational issues (as you see them) and how the US Department of Education’s Comprehensive Centers can provide assistance to address those issues.  

The Comprehensive Centers program is authorized by Title II of the Educational Technical Assistance Act of 2002 (ETAA), Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) of 2002. The Department of Education funds these Centers to provide technical assistance to State education agencies (SEAs) that builds SEA capacity to: support local educational agencies (LEAs or districts) and schools, especially low-performing districts and schools; improve educational outcomes for all students; close achievement gaps; and improve the quality of instruction. 

Please complete the online survey at your earliest convenience. The survey closes on Thursday, August 18.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Low Turnout, Crowded Races: Primary Election 2016

With a dismal voter turnout, Tuesday's primary results provide only a brief glimpse into what may happen in November’s general election. The vote counts are still early, and majorities remain the same until after the next election. With 20% of votes counted, here’s a quick summary of the state legislature and statewide races.

Senate Republicans keep edge, House Democrats see slight increase

Going into the primary, Republicans controlled the Senate with a 25-23 party majority, and a 26-23 majority when Democrat Tim Sheldon joined the majority caucus. Based on primary results, it would appear that most Senators are holding firm, while two have a race on their hands in November that could mean a party change.

Seven of the 25 Senators who had terms expiring January 2017 are not returning to the Legislature, having decided to retire or run for a different office. In all of these races, current House members are running for the Senate seat. If the results today were the end, these seats would stay with their party of record.

In addition, six senators whose terms expire in 2019 filed to run for a different office last May; of those, it appears that only three will be moving on to the general election. If they are successful in November, county commissioners in those legislative districts would be required to select a replacement of the same party next December or January. The others will return to the Senate for the 2017 legislative session.

Primary result: 24 Republicans, 25 Democrats (but Sheldon expected to continue to caucus with Rs)

In the House, Democrats have a 50-48 majority, which means Republicans only needed to flip one seat to force a “tie government” come January. In addition to the seven House members running for Senate, seven are running for a different office or retired. House members must run every two years, which means that 14 open House seats were up for grabs in this election. In addition, both parties fielded some aggressive candidates, taking on incumbents in both Republican- and Democratic-held districts. Of the 98 seats up this year, three could change party hands, while several others remain in play November 8.

Primary result: 51 Democrats, 47 Republicans

Reykdal, Jones to face off in November
The top two “vote getters” regardless of party move onto the general election. Surprisingly, five of the nine separately elected statewide positions were open this year. On the education front, House Representative Chris Reykdal and educator Erin Jones will advance in the race to replace retiring Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. Other top two candidates advancing to the November election are (with 20% of vote counted, as of 9:37p.m. on August 2nd):

·         Commissioner for Public Lands: Steve McLaughlin R; Hilary Franz D
·         Treasurer: Duane Davidson R; Michael Waite R
·         Auditor: Mark Miloscia R; Pat McCarthy D
·         Lieutenant Governor: Marty McClendon R; Cyrus Habib D (NOTE: A crowded field of Democrats led a Republican, who has likely never been on the Senate floor, to take the lead and advance to the General)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

McCleary Update: Supreme Court's July 14 Order

You may be aware that today the Supreme Court issued an Order in the McCleary case setting a hearing for September 7, 2016.  Click here for a copy of the four-page Order. 

The Court also set a briefing schedule. The State’s brief is due August 22. Plaintiffs’ answer is due August 29, and the State may file a reply by September 2. Requests to file amicus briefs are due by August 3.

If you haven’t seen or don’t want to read the full Order, below is an excerpt from the Order regarding the issues the Court expects the parties to address:

Now, therefore, it is hereby ORDERED:

  1. The parties are directed to appear before the court on September 7, 2016, where the State will be expected to provide specific and detailed answers to the following questions:
    1. whether the State views the 2018 deadline as referring to the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, to the end of the 2017-2018 fiscal year, to the end of 2018, or to some other date;
    2. whether E2SSB 6195, when read together with ESHB 2261 and SHB 2776satisfies this court's January 9, 2014, order for a plan and, if not, what opportunities, if any, remain for the legislature to provide the plan required by that January 9, 2014, order;
    3. the estimated current cost of full state funding of the program of basic education identified by ESHB 2261 (RCW 28A.150.220) and the implementation program established by SHB 2776, including, but not limited to, the costs of materials, supplies, and operating costs; transportation; and reduced class sizes for kindergarten through third grade and all-day kindergarten, with the costs of reduced class sizes and all-day kindergarten to include the estimated capital costs necessary to fully implement those components and the necessary level of staffing;
    4. the estimated cost of full state funding of competitive market-rate basic education staff salaries, including the costs of recruiting and retaining competent staff and professional development of instructional staff;
    5. the components of basic education, if any, the State has fully funded in light of the costs specified above;
    6. the components of basic education, including basic education staff salaries, the State has not yet fully funded in light of the costs specified above, the cost of achieving full state funding of the components that have not been fully funded by the deadline, and how the State intends to meet its constitutional obligation to implement its plan of basic education through dependable and regular revenue sources by that deadline;
    7. whether this court should dismiss the contempt order or continue sanctions; and
    8. any additional information that will demonstrate to the court how the State will fully comply with article IX, section 1 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Ed Funding Task Force Sets Interim Schedule, Topics to Start

Members of the eight-member Joint Legislative Education Funding Task Force created by ESSB6195 during the 2016 session decided they would meet at least monthly starting in May, and would begin by “defining basic education.” The task force was created to identify a path forward for the state to reduce its reliance on local levies for funding obligations and to increase compensation so that it attracts and retains a skilled educator work force. A nifty chart shows the current responsibilities, and reports or recommendations from previous task forces or work groups, including links to resource information.

Seven members and the Governor’s representative, Policy Director Matt Steuerwalt, convened their first meeting April 20 (watch the 90-minute meeting here). In addition to setting an interim schedule, members agreed co-chairs should represent the majority Senate and House chambers and that Steuerwalt should continue his role as facilitator. Members also decided that they needed to see what kinds of data school districts could provide to better understand data limitations, and so that the task force can make requests for additional data collection or dis-aggregation that meets their needs in evaluating compensation issues. 

Based on a briefing by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) regarding accounting and data collection, the task force also indicated an interest in hearing from the State Auditor’s Office and OSPI to get preliminary recommendations on updating accounting procedures that would include revenue source to expenditure coding and school-level accounting data that might lead to better understanding and reporting for revenue and expenditures.

Lawmakers seemed surprised to learn that school districts didn’t have the authority to create separate funds to track revenue v. expenditures but were limited to a single general fund, and heard about the limits of separating funding streams by what they paid for. Lorrell Noahr of OSPI (formerly Senate Ways & Means staff) described it like a joint checking account – both parents deposit their paychecks into the account, so it’s impossible to tell whose dollar paid for their kid’s shoes. One suggestion was to include a panel of school district business officers at a future meeting to explain how accounting works at the local level.

The task force also heard that the Washington State Institute for Public Policy has issued an RFP for the compensation consultant, with a deadline of April 26th for submissions. Members agreed that the task force co-chairs should be involved in reviewing the top proposals. The consultant analysis will include reports, such as Washington Learns and the 2012 Compensation Technical Working Group report. The consultant has an initial deadline of September 1, 2016 for a report on compensation, and a final report of November 15, 2016.

Legislative members attending Wednesday’s meeting were: Senator John Braun, R-20; Senator Andy Billig, D-3; Senator ChristineRolfes, D-23; Representative Kris Lytton, D-40 (by phone); Representative Chad Magendanz, R-5; Representative NormaSmith, R-10; and Representative Pat Sullivan, D-47. Steuerwalt said that Senator Ann Rivers, the eighth member of the task force, was unable to attend.

The next meeting will be scheduled the second week of May. Members identified the second week of the month as a target week to schedule future meetings. Public comment was not listed on the agenda, but was offered as an opportunity, and will likely be offered at other meetings. The general consensus was to hold meetings in Olympia to keep costs lower. Materials will be available on the legislative web site.  

Marie Sullivan
WSPTA Legislative Consultant

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

2016 Legislative Session Summary

When legislators convened for the start of the 2016 session on January 11, everyone expected lawmakers to finish on time or even a little early. Sadly, it was not to be. On March 10, Governor Jay Inslee called a special session just 30 minutes after the regular 60-day session ended so that lawmakers could pass supplemental operating and capital budgets.

The special session ran 20 days before the Legislature agreed to compromises on budgets and bills, including $34 million in K-3 classroom facility spending (HB 2380, capital budget) and about $15 million in K-12 education spending (HB 2376, operating budget). The supplemental K-12 funding included $3.5 million for beginning teacher support (SB 6455), $1.75 million for professional development in the 2016-17 school year for paraeducators, and an additional $3.7 million for students who are homeless or in the foster youth system and to help close the opportunity gap. A net of about $4 million was appropriated for the charter schools legislation (SB 6194).


Left undone this session were large investments in basic education or K-12 construction, with legislators pointing to investments during the 2015 session and the lack of increased revenue to make increases in 2016. Also proposed but not acted upon were bills to increase beginning teacher compensation by closing a few tax loopholes, extend increased school district levy authority an additional year, allow school districts to build schools outside of the urban growth boundary under certain conditions, and create a “breakfast after the bell” program in high poverty schools. 

WSPTA Legislative Priorities Scorecard

Fully Funding McCleary
As mentioned above, no significant investments were made in basic education to meet funding obligations ordered through the McCleary lawsuit. In the short session, legislators said there just wasn’t enough time or information to move forward on reducing the state’s reliance on local levies for basic education and to increase teacher compensation.

SB 6195 was one of the first bills passed and signed into law. The bill formalized the Education Funding Task Force, a group of eight legislators who began meeting with the Governor’s Office last fall after the Washington Supreme Court found the Legislature in contempt of McCleary and ordered a fine of $100,000 a day.

The newly anointed task force will focus on levy reform and teacher compensation, along with making recommendations on a number of thorny issues such as statewide collective bargaining for teachers and creating a state-run educator health care plan. On their schedule is also an independent salary study to determine competitive wages and benefits to help districts attract and retain high quality educators. The consultant’s preliminary salary recommendation is due September 1st, with final data and analysis provided by November 15th. The task force must submit its report and recommendations to the Legislature by January 9, 2017.

Legislators failed to act on the informally called “levy cliff,” instead opting to include what they said was a backstop in case the Legislature didn’t act quickly enough in 2017. Section 515 of the supplemental operating budget requires the task force to determine by April 1, 2017 whether the Legislature is on track to meet its obligations regarding teacher compensation and levy reform by April 30th or to introduce legislation that will extend current levy authority for at least one calendar year, with the objective of passing the legislation by April 30th. Many legislators were not appeased by the language, and voted against the operating budget on final passage. Without action, districts stand to lose access to about $450 million across the state in local levy funding and may be forced to issue layoff notices next spring or cut programs to make up for the shortfall. Look for a discussion of how to eliminate state reliance on local levies to be a central component of the Education Funding Task Force work this interim. 

Social and Emotional Learning
Bills that were associated with social and emotional learning failed to pass by various deadlines, but found their way into two other policy bills that passed the Legislature and were signed into law April 1.

E2SHB 2439 includes creating an inventory of mental health services provided to school age children, including funding sources; and one-day suicide prevention “train the trainer” session, with ongoing support if funded.  ESB 6620 includes a requirement for OSPI to create and maintain an online social and emotional training module for educators, administrators, and other school district staff by September 1, 2017.

Increasing Capital Funding
The compromise supplemental capital budget includes a $34.5 million bump to the $200 million investment in K-3 classroom facilities that the 2015 Legislature adopted. The budget also adds $34.8 million to the School Construction Assistance Program, and creates a pilot project of $5.5 million for five districts to build modular classrooms from cross-laminated timber.

Considered this year but failing to secure more than an hour-long public hearing were HB 1941 and HCR 4210, bills that would have sought changes to the requirement for a 60 percent vote to pass bonds. HB 1941 would have lowered the threshold to a simple majority for November general election bond campaigns, while keeping the higher threshold for bond campaigns at other times of the year. HCR 4210 would have put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to enact the new threshold. A coalition has emerged around the legislation and the issue is expected to be back in the 2017 session.

A bipartisan House Capital Budget Committee drafted HB 2968, a bill that would have directed one-half of one percent of funds sent to the emergency reserves fund to support grants to fund additional capacity for smaller K-3 class sizes and the expansion of all-day kindergarten, each biennium through 2025. The Senate majority was opposed to dipping into emergency reserves for anything other than last summer’s forest fires, and the bill failed to get a vote by the House. 

However, to track the progress of the K-3 grant program and review data on school construction costs with the intention of forming a Joint Legislative Task Force on School Construction in 2017, the supplemental capital budget includes Section 6018. The new section requires a technical work group to compile key elements and identify issues for the Legislature to consider to improve how state assistance is provided to school districts to design, build, and maintain public schools. An initial report is due January 15, 2017.

Increased Access to Higher Education
Several bills were introduced during the 2016 session that supported making higher education more affordable and accessible to Washington students and their families. One bill would have made it “free to finish” college if an individual was within 15 credits of graduation and had been out of school for three years. Another bill would have made community college free to eligible students.

In the end, lawmakers invested an additional $8 million to maintain the tuition reductions enacted in the 2015 session and $18 million for the State Need Grant. Policies adopted include SSB 6354, which will start the process of figuring out how to “reverse transfer” academic credits from four-year institutions to community and technical colleges, and E2SSB 6601, which creates a new college savings plan.

Breakfast After the Bell
Even with enormous stakeholder and legislator support, E3SHB 1295, the Breakfast after the Bell bill, failed to gain traction in the Senate again this session. A compromise bill, HB 3009, was introduced on March 24th and would have clarified that time spent in a classroom offering a morning meal could count as instructional time as long as instruction was taking place at the same time as the meal. There was no mention of breakfast, no mandates on districts, and no funding required. Unfortunately, the compromise came too late in the process and lawmakers failed to act on it when they returned to business on March 29th

WSPTA Platform Issues
The following bills have been signed by Governor Jay Inslee:
  • HB 1345 would require the development of a consistent definition for professional learning.
  • 2SHB 1408 would direct the Office of the Education Ombuds and Education Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee to develop a consistent definition and framework of responsibilities for family engagement coordinators.
  • 4SHB 1541 would implement many recommendations of the Education Opportunity Gap Oversight & Accountability Committee for closing the achievement and opportunity gaps. Elements include data dis-aggregation; school discipline; requiring ELL endorsements for teachers in the state-funded Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program; cultural competency; and more. 
  •  E3SHB 1682 would focus on improving educational and housing opportunities for homeless youth.  
  •  4SHB 1999 would increase support for students in the foster youth system. 
  • SHB 2394 would make a goal of extending to all counties the existing Parent to Parent program by 2021. It would define in statute what the Parent to Parent Program is, including clarifying that the program applies both to individuals with developmental disabilities and/or special health care needs. 
  • HB 2597 would expand the plan that school districts must adopt for recognition, initial screening, and response to emotional or behavioral distress in students to include indicators of sexual abuse. 
Other K-12 Legislation of Interest That Has Been Signed Into Law
  • SB 6245 would require school districts to offer near and far vision screening.
  • SSB 6273 would require OSPI to develop best practices and recommendations for instruction on digital citizenship, Internet safety, and media literacy, and report strategies for statewide implementation of the best practices and recommendations to the Legislature by December 1, 2016. The bill also would require school districts to update or adopt policies in time for the 2017-18 school year. 
  • E2SSB6455 would begin to address the teacher shortage issue. If funded, the bill includes recruitment campaigns, fee, scholarship and loan repayment programs, an ability for school districts to hire retired teachers, expansion of the state’s teacher mentor program, and development of plans for alternative route programs to teaching between teaching colleges and school districts.
  • ESB 6620 would require an evaluation of how Washington and other states have addressed the funding of school safety and security programs, with a report due December 1, 2017. In addition, it would require annual safety summits, and would allow ESDs to implement a regional school safety and security program.  This is the bill that was amended in the House to include the SEL training module requirements.  
Failure to Pass This Session
SB 6408, a bill that would have created a professional track for paraeducators, failed to pass the House budget committee. However, $1.75 million was included in the supplemental budget for professional development during the 2016-17 school year. Look for supporters to resume advocacy this interim and next session. 

Marie Sullivan
WSPTA Legislative Consultant









Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Budget Deal Struck, Legislature Returns to Work

The state Senate returned to Olympia Monday afternoon, starting with overrides on 27 Senate bills vetoed by Governor Jay Inslee March 10th.  Inslee issued the vetoes as a way to encourage legislators to get supplemental budgets completed, and has indicated that with an agreed-upon operating budget, he would not object to either chamber overriding the vetoes. 

The Senate bills now move to the House for its consideration of override votes. Bills that receive the two-thirds override in both chambers will not  go back to the Governor, but go to the Secretary of State’s office to be assigned a chapter law number.

House members also returned Monday afternoon to get a briefing on the proposed compromise supplemental operating budget.  A number of bills have been pulled to the floor, including the budget bills.  Look for HB 2380 (capital budget) and ESHB 2376 (operating budget) to move first in the House. House members begin work Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. The House is expected to go to caucus after it convenes, but should vote on the budget bills today and send them to the Senate for action.

Also of interest to WSPTA members is the newly introduced HB 3009 (on March 24th) which would allow time spent eating a morning meal in the classroom to count as instructional time if instruction is also taking place. This bill replaces the “Breakfast after the Bell” bill, which failed to pass by the end of regular session. No funding is included in the compromise operating budget for one-time start-up grants at schools that adopt a morning meal program after the school day starts. 

The compromise operating budget also includes funding for beginning teachers, students who are homeless, students in the foster youth system, and to implement aspects of the education opportunity gap bill - all of which passed during the regular session. The bill also includes about a net of $4 million for charter schools (SB 6194), which has not been scheduled for a Governor bill signing yet. 

Legislation to extend an increase in school district levy authority from 2018 to 2019 will not be proposed during the special session. The compromise operating budget includes Section 515 which states the legislature's intent to adopt compensation and levy reform measures by April 1, 2017, or to introduce legislation to extend the authority another year if action by the end of session seems unlikely. 

If all goes according to House and Senate leadership plans, work should conclude by the end of Tuesday, the 20th day of the first special session. 

Marie Sullivan
Legislative Consultant
LegConsultant@wastatepta.org

Monday, March 14, 2016

Special Session Called, Budget Still to Be Done

After the Legislature gaveled the 2016 regular session to a close around 9:30 p.m. March 10, lawmakers found themselves called back into a special session about 30 minutes later. Governor Jay Inslee called the special session after vetoing 27 of 37 Senate bills that had come to his desk under a “five-day rule,” saying the vetoes were a message to lawmakers to focus on their primary job of updating supplemental operating and capital budgets.


Senate Republicans unveiled an operating budget proposal to negotiators that evening, and held a public hearing on the revised spending plan on Friday at 2 p.m. While both House and Senate Democrats said the proposal addresses some of their issues, they indicated that more work needed to be done before they had a deal. It was expected that budget negotiators met over the weekend.

Policy issues left unaddressed in the K-12 world include a bill that would extend increased levy authority another year (SB 6353 or HB 2698), increased compensation for beginning teachers, and siting schools outside of the urban growth area.

WSPTA Top Priorities
Fully Fund McCleary
The final 2016 supplemental operating budget is not expected to include new investments in K-12 basic education. In fact, the Senate Republican proposal would shift about $17 million in “unspent” K-3 funding appropriated last session to other spending priorities this session.

As previously mentioned, the levy cliff bills have not been passed by the Senate. One of the challenges is that extension of the levy authority through January 2019 will cost the state about $93 million in levy equalization in the 2017-19 biennium. Under a four-year balanced budget requirement, legislators must account for that spending in the 2016 supplemental budget. House Democrats proposed using money from the Budget Stabilization Account (the state’s emergency reserves) to balance the books. Senate Republicans have been reluctant to use the BSA for anything other than last summer’s wildfire needs.

In a move designed to keep the issue in play, Senator Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, called for the Senate to move to the 9th Order of Business to pull SB 6353 to the floor. While some Republicans will vote with Democrats (and vice versa) on bills, they hold the partisan line on procedural actions and the motion failed. That said, in voting to concur with House changes to ESHB 6194, the charter schools bill, Senator Brian Dansel, R-Ferry County, voted against the measure citing his concern that the levy cliff had yet to be addressed. Many believe the levy cliff issue will be resolved as part of the final negotiations, while others say the issue can be addressed by the 2017 legislature.

Promoting Social and Emotional Learning
During the legislative process, WSPTA tracked SB 6243 regarding Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). When the bill failed to pass out of the House Appropriations Committee several weeks ago, supporters got creative. All three elements of the bill reside in either a Senate or House bill that passed both chambers.

E2SHB 2439 now encompasses two elements: creating an inventory of mental health services provided to school age children, including funding sources; and one-day suicide prevention “train the trainer” session, with ongoing support if funded. The school safety bill, ESB 6620, now includes a requirement for Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to create and maintain an online social and emotional training module for educators, administrators, and other school district staff by September 1, 2017.

Increasing Capital Funding
Unlikely to move this session is HB 2968, a bill that would direct one-half of one percent that is sent to the BSA to support additional capacity for smaller K-3 class sizes and the expansion of all-day kindergarten each biennium through 2025. Last session the Legislature appropriated $200 million in capital funding for grants to school districts, and OSPI should be announcing recipients in the next month or so. Lawmakers are expected to wait to see how those grants work before making more investments in school construction and capacity.

The Senate changed SHB 2985 to apply only when a school district has failed a bond in the past five years. The bill would allow former school buildings that have been previously removed from a district’s inventory, to continue to be excluded from the School Construction Assistance Program inventory if they are used to support all-day kindergarten and/or reduced K-3 class sizes. The House concurred with the changes.

Increased Access to Higher Education
One of the bills vetoed by the Governor last week was SSB 6354, which would have begun a process to figure out how to reverse transfer academic credits from four-year institutions to community and technical colleges. If the Legislature chooses to bring the bill back during the special session, the veto requires a two-thirds vote of lawmakers for an override.

Funding to continue to back-fill the tuition reductions adopted last session was included in the latest Senate Republican proposal.

Breakfast after the Bell
There is a potential light at the end of the tunnel for E3SHB 1295, the Breakfast after the Bell bill. While it failed to pass out of the Senate budget committee, it is possible that lawmakers will adopt an alternative that would make the program voluntary and cap the amount of the one-time $6,000 grants to a total of $500,000. Since the bill didn’t pass the Senate by the end of the regular session, it returns to the House Rules Committee. However, if it is part of final budget negotiations, it would likely be modified in the House, passed to the Senate for approval, and then to the Governor’s desk.

WSPTA Platform Issues
The following bills have passed both chambers and have been delivered to the Governor’s desk:
  • HB 1345 would require the development of a consistent definition for professional learning. Sponsors say this is a step needed before funding professional development days. 
  • 2SHB 1408 would convene a work group to develop a consistent definition and framework of responsibilities for family engagement coordinators. 
  • 4SHB 1541 would implement recommendations of the Education Opportunity Gap Oversight & Accountability Committee for closing the achievement and opportunity gaps. Elements include data dis-aggregation; school discipline; requiring ELL endorsements for teachers in the state-funded Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program; cultural competency; and more.
  • E3SHB 1682 would focus on improving educational and housing opportunities for homeless youth. 
  • 4SHB 1999 would increase support for students in the foster youth system. 
  • SHB 2394 would make a goal of extending to all counties the existing Parent to Parent program by 2021. It would define in statute what the Parent to Parent Program is, including clarifying that the program applies both to individuals with developmental disabilities and/or special health care needs. 
  • HB 2597 – would expand the plan that school districts must adopt for recognition, initial screening, and response to emotional or behavioral distress in students to include indicators of sexual abuse.
Other K-12 Legislation of Interest
  • SB 6245 would require school districts to offer near and far vision screening. 
  • SSB 6273 would require OSPI to develop best practices and recommendations for instruction on digital citizenship, Internet safety, and media literacy, and report strategies for statewide implementation of the best practices and recommendations to the Legislature by December 1, 2016. The bill also would require school districts to update or adopt policies in time for the 2017-18 school year. 
  • E2SSB 6455 would begin to address the teacher shortage issue. If funded, the bill includes recruitment campaigns, fee, scholarship and loan repayment programs, an ability for school districts to hire retired teachers, expansion of the state’s teacher mentor program, and development of plans for alternative route programs to teaching between teaching colleges and school districts. 
  • ESB 6620 – would require an evaluation of how Washington and other states have addressed the funding of school safety and security programs, with a report due December 1, 2017. In addition, it would require annual safety summits, and would allow ESDs to implement a regional school safety and security program. This is the bill that was amended in the House to include the SEL training module requirements.
Possibly in Play
2SSB 6408, regarding paraeducator certification and endorsements, did not pass out of the House and therefore returns to the Senate Rules Committee. The bill may be dead for the session. In the original Senate Republican budget, funding was provided for implementation. In the Senate Republican proposed spending plan released last Thursday, no funding was included. If the bill does not pass this year, look for a renewed focus in 2017.

Dead For This Session
Fully Fund McCleary
Bills that would have closed tax loopholes to increase beginning teacher pay as proposed by Governor Jay Inslee failed to gain traction this session. In fact, on the final day of session the Senate passed a bill that would grant a sales tax exemption on construction for an aerospace company. Legislators on the Education Funding Task Force created by E2SSB 6195, which has been signed by the governor, are expected to grapple with the funding issues and bring forward recommendations for the 2017 session.

Increasing Capital Funding
HB 1941 would have allowed a simple majority to pass school district bond measures at the November general election. Bond votes at other times of the year would remain at 60 percent. HJR 4210, was the constitutional amendment to allow for simple majority on bonds. The measures had a public hearing in February but there was no widespread political support to pass this session. Representative Mia Gregerson, D-Seatac, is interested in keeping the momentum going this interim and bring the bills back in 2017.

Increased Access to Higher Education
Bills that would have created the Washington Promise Scholarship (two years of community college) or the Free to Finish program (paid tuition to those who are within 15 credits of a degree) didn’t gain the support needed to pass the Legislature this session.

Marie Sullivan
Legislative Consultant
LegConsultant@wastatepta.org

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sine Die Day!

Sine Die day dawns with no budget agreement.

Today marks the 60th day and the end of the regular session, and while budget negotiators say they have agreed on the "size of the box" for the budget, don't look for an agreement and voting by both chambers today. While no one has an exact date, it would appear that the Governor will call legislators back in on Friday to complete their work, which could take up to another week.

In a positive sign of movement, the Senate Ways & Means Committee held a hearing and voted on a handful of bills Wednesday afternoon. None of the bills was related to WSPTA priorities

However, of interest to WSPTA members is that Breakfast after the Bell may be unstuck, and part of the final negotiations in the operating budget. Lawmakers in the Senate were stuck on the mandate of the bill, which required all school districts with students who meet a 70 percent eligibility for free and reduced price meals to offer an expanded breakfast program. Some legislators balked at what they saw as another unfunded mandate for school districts.

Senator Bruce Dammeier (R-Puyallup) offered a compromise of a voluntary program, with one-time start-up grants capped at a total of $500,000. The amendment to the bill, if adopted, would pass after or at the same time as the operating budget. While not everything  advocates had hoped for, a bill this session would at least begin the program in another 83 or more schools across the state.

Small increases in K-12 construction funding may be part of the 2016 supplemental capital budget, which as of Wednesday afternoon hadn't been finalized. Typically the capital budget and the bond bill that supports it will be the final bills of the session, wait - special session.

House Democrats spent most of Wednesday closeted in caucus discussing the charter schools bill, SB 6194. The bill passed with all House Republicans voting for it along with 10 Democrats. The Senate spent a good portion of the last few days recognizing the retirements of Lt. Governor Brad Owen, Senators Benton and Fraser, and long-time legislative employees. 

The House returns to the floor at 10 a.m., while the Senate begins work at 11 a.m. The main work of the day is to concur or dispute any bills that were changed in the opposite chamber, and send bills to the Governor's desk. Only a handful of bills met the 5-day rule under which Governor Inslee threatened a veto. Bills that are delivered today are given 20 days to be signed or vetoed before they become law. Bills become law 90 days after today, unless they have a different effective date.

Marie Sullivan
Legislative Consultant
LegConsultant@wastatepta.org

Monday, March 7, 2016

Legislature Down to Four Days Left in the Regular Session

Friday, March 4 was the final day for bills to pass out of the opposite chamber from which they were introduced. The exceptions are bills that have been labeled “Necessary to Implement the Budget” or NTIB. In addition, a few policy bills might find new life in the final days of session, depending on various agreements between the two chambers.


Here’s a quick review of what’s still alive and what might resurface by March 10, the end of the regularly scheduled 60-day session:

WSPTA Top Priorities

Fully Fund McCleary
E2SSB 6195 was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on February 29th. The bill creates a nine-member Education Funding Task Force, with eight legislators and one non-voting member of the Governor’s office who will serve as the facilitator. The task force is directed to return by the 2017 legislative session with recommendations on compensation, revenue to meet basic education funding obligations, and levy reform.

The levy cliff bill, HB 2698, is still in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. The bill would extend a bump in levy authority granted during the 2010 session another year, through January 2019. While Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) Randy Dorn has always been opposed to the legislation, saying that not extending the levy authority will force the 2017 legislature to act on levy reform and compensation, school districts have argued for the one-year extension to prevent chaos in budget and school-year planning.

Perhaps providing some measure of relief, the Senate passed HB 2023, which would give school districts until June 15 to issue layoff notices if the operating budget isn’t passed by the end of the regular session. The bill has been signed by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate, so is ready to be delivered to the Governor.

Operating budget negotiators have been meeting, but no one expects significant additional funding for basic education in the 2016 session. Efforts have been made to increase Career and Technical Education (CTE) Materials, Supplies, and Operating Costs (MSOC) funding, but so far neither budget includes a boost in CTE funding. Because the supplemental operating budgets were so far apart philosophically, many are starting to suggest that it may take up to an additional week to seal the deal.

Promoting Social and Emotional Learning
2SSB 6243, a bill related to suicide prevention training, failed to pass out of the House Appropriations Committee by February 29th. One element of the bill remains: a one-day summit on suicide prevention as a “train the trainer” approach. Along with ongoing assistance from Forefront of UW for ESDs if funded, the suicide prevention training sections were added Thursday on the Senate floor to E2SHB 2439, a bill on youth mental health services.

Increasing Capital Funding
HB 2968, a bill that would direct one-half of one percent that is sent to the budget stabilization account (aka Rainy Day Fund) to support construction of smaller K-3 class sizes and the expansion of all-day kindergarten from this July through 2025, remains on the House floor calendar. As written, the bill would divert $187 million during this budget cycle from the Rainy Day Fund to the Education Construction Account. The word on the ground is that last year’s K-3/All Day Kindergarten (ADK) grant program was a pilot program and lawmakers will wait until the 2017-19 biennial capital budget to tinker with the policy and the funding source.

The House passed SHB 2985, which would allow former school buildings that have been previously removed from a district’s inventory, to continue to be excluded from the School Construction Assistance Program inventory if they are used to support all-day kindergarten and/or reduced K-3 class sizes. The exclusion would apply for state assistance on new construction awarded from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2021. The bill has not been heard in a Senate committee but may get a favorable response from the Senate and still secure the necessary votes to land on the Governor’s desk this session.

Increased Access to Higher Education
On its way to the Governor’s desk is SSB 6354, which would require four-year institutions of higher education to work with the State Board of Community & Technical Colleges to develop plans that would facilitate the reverse transfer of academic credits from four-year institutions to community & technical colleges. If funded, E2SSB 6601 would create the Washington College Savings Program, which would establish another college savings program option in Washington state. The bill was modified in the House, so will return to the Senate for concurrence with the changes.

Failing to make cutoff was SB 6626, which would create a “Degree in Three” work group to consider how to graduate in three years as way of cutting down on the debt associated with four or five years of college.

Breakfast after the Bell
E3SHB 1295 had a solid hearing in the Senate Ways & Means Committee February 29th, with parent advocate Heather Lindberg traveling to Olympia for at least the fourth time to speak in favor of the bill. The Breakfast after the Bell legislation is stalled in the fiscal committee, but still may be part of final negotiations if the Senate agrees to fund it in the final supplemental operating budget.

An alternative emerged on the 29th by Senator Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, which would make the program voluntary and cap the amount of the one-time $6,000 grants to a total of $500,000. While this doesn’t go as far as advocates would like, it would at least keep the concept moving and provide additional breakfast opportunities to at least 83 schools and their high-need students.

As individuals, WSPTA members may want to contact their senators and ask them to bring the bill to the floor and support its funding and passage.

WSPTA Platform Issues

The following bills have passed both chambers and are in varying stages of concurrence, dispute, or delivery to the Governor’s desk:

  • HB 1345 would require the development of a consistent definition for professional learning. Sponsors say this is a step needed before funding professional development days. Passed and signed by both chambers and ready to be delivered.
  • 2SHB 1408 would convene a work group to develop a consistent definition and framework of responsibilities for family engagement coordinators. The bill passed the Senate 43-3.
  • 4SHB 1541 would implement recommendations of the Education Opportunity Gap Oversight & Accountability Committee for closing the achievement and opportunity gaps. Elements include data dis-aggregation; school discipline; requiring ELL endorsements for teachers in the state-funded Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program; cultural competency; and more. The bill returns to the House for concurrence with Senate changes. 
  • E3SHB 1682 would focus on improving educational and housing opportunities for homeless youth. This bill will return to the House for concurrence. 
  • 4SHB 1999 would increase support for students in the foster youth system. Passed and signed by both chambers and ready to be delivered. 
  • SHB 2394 would make a goal of extending to all counties the existing Parent to Parent program by 2021. It would define in statute what the Parent to Parent Program is, including clarifying that the program applies both to individuals with developmental disabilities and/or special health care needs. The bill will return to the House for concurrence. 
  • HB 2597 – would expand the plan that school districts must adopt for recognition, initial screening, and response to emotional or behavioral distress in students to include indicators of sexual abuse. Passed and signed by both chambers and ready to be delivered.
Necessary to Implement the Budget (NTIB)
2SSB 6408 regarding paraeducator certification and endorsements, did not pass out of the House Appropriations Committee by the 29th. The bill has a small appropriation and is sponsored by Senator Andy Hill, R-Redmond, who is the Senate budget chair.


And while the WSPTA hasn’t acted on any of the bills in play to address the teacher shortage, the one bill that has passed both chambers is E2SSB 6455. The House changed the bill substantially, which means it will return to the Senate for review and either agreement or dispute of the changes. Bills with changes that cannot be agreed upon can end up in a conference committee to work out the differences. When the agreed-upon bill emerges from the conference committee, the vote by both chambers is simply an up or down vote.

Worth a Look

Not on the platform, but passing both chambers are:

  • SB 6245 would require school districts to offer near and far vision screening
  • SSB 6273 would require Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to develop best practices and recommendations for instruction on digital citizenship, Internet safety, and media literacy, and report strategies for statewide implementation of the best practices and recommendations to the Legislature by December 1, 2016. The bill also would require school districts to update or adopt policies in time for the 2017-18 school year. 
  • ESB 6620 – would require an evaluation of how Washington and other states have addressed the funding of school safety and security programs, with a report due December 1, 2017. In addition, it would require annual safety summits, and would allow Educational Service Districts (ESD) to implement a regional school safety and security program. The bill will return to the Senate for concurrence.
Marie Sullivan
Legislative Consultant
Washington State PTA