Friday, March 14, 2014

Sine Die Edition of the E-Wire!

Last evening was Sine Die – the End of the Regularly Scheduled Legislative Session.

The agreed upon budget has been released, voted on and sent to the governor.  The following is the highlights from the legislative session.  It’s not comprehensive, but it incorporates the key issues that the PTA has been following all session long.  Usually, the E-wire’s friend Erik has his own comments over at Washington State Wire, but he’s still asleep.  We’ll share his additional thoughts and those of WA State School Directors Association's Government Relations Director Marie Sullivan on Monday.  Until then, this is what we have:

PTA Priority Bill - HB 2207 – Passed the Senate last night, but was almost derailed over a broader fight on the Capital Budget.  WSSDA and PTA worked the doors in a frantic effort to get this critical rural funding piece put into place.  This was a PTA Priority bill to allow rural and timber based school districts the ability to keep Federal Timber Dollars in addition to basic education dollars from the state.  In the past, Washington has deducted these federal funds when calculating basic education funding for these districts.  This bill starts the process to change that unfair practice.

PTA Priority Bill - SB 6552 -the omnibus education reform act, has passed both the House and Senate and is on the way to the Governor for signature.  This means 24 credit is now the framework for obtaining your high school diploma in Washington State.  Fixes in the House make for flexibility on the local level to take into account funding, special needs, and ELL students.  All in all, a good compromise bill that left most people surprisingly happy.

PTA Priority Bill - SB 6129 - The Paraeducator Bill  - is funded in the budget, has passed both houses, and is on its way to the Governor’s Desk for signature.  This was another PTA Priority bill.

PTA Priority Bill – HB 2335 – Foster Care Services Expansion was whittled down from its broader category to now only cover kids who are working at least 80 hours a month.  It is a start, and for a broad policy change like this, we are lucky to have it funded in an off-year budget at all.  Kudos to Region 2 Legislative Team which kept in regular touch with their senators (at times, sending 4 e-mails a minute) to ensure passage.  The end result, it was funded in the final budget, but the policy bill was not passed by the Senate.  After working with allies to drive home the need for the bill, the Senate Ways and Means Committee held a special 3 minute hearing, passed it out, and it was sent to the floor where it passed and is now on the Governor’s Desk.  Drama is great if it is SOMEONE ELSES BILL. 

PTA Priority Bill - HB 2540 – Career and Technical Education Course Equivalencies – This bill was incorporated into SB 6552 and passed the legislature.

PTA Priority Bill – HB 2536 – Breakfast after the bell – passed the House and was included in the House budget but did not have enough support in the Senate.  Already, we are working on how to pass this policy bill and fund it in the 2015 session.

PTA Priority Bills 2797 and 6483 – Capital Funding for School Construction – neither of these bills passed and SB 6483 did not even come up for a vote in the Senate.  There is already discussion about working on a bi-partisan, bicameral solution over the interim.

PTA Priority Bill – The Dream Act – Passed and is funded.  In addition to the $5 million provided to fund the Act, an additional $25 million in match funding for private donations is provided to expand the opportunity scholarships statewide.

PTA Ally Priority Bill – Healthiest Next Generation Bills HB 2643 and SB 6383 – Both bills dealing with Childhood Obesity died in the Senate, but parts of the bill survived in the final budget.  Allies are already regrouping and it is hopeful that some arrangements can be made to move in this direction next legislative session.


MSOC (maintenance, supplies, and operating costs) were funded at a higher rate than we expected.  The dollar amounts were not fixed into statute, so there are no strings on how the school districts have to spend the money.  This allows for flexibility in case some districts come up short on funding needs but it is intended as a down-payment for moving ahead on McCleary.  The total increase per student is $66.32 per FTE and is distributed proportionately across all seven categories.  In addition, to help finance the costs of going to 24 credit, MSOC is increased $164.25 per FTE for grades 9-12.  In addition to more MSOC money for grades 9-12, there is funding provided for more guidance counselors and enhanced funding for high school laboratory science courses.  This money is flexible, but districts should be warned that the legislature will be reviewing how the money is spent, so best to use a good smell test when allocating, ok?

Movement on larger policy documents to close the opportunity gap failed to pass this session.  However, the budget did provide for $245,000 in initial one-time start-up costs to begin the discussion on cultural competency, best practices in handling expulsion, and ELL accountability.  The results of which may provide a framework for a path forward in the 2015 session.

Funding was also provided to expand the teacher mentoring program through OSPI, the Beginning Educator Support Team (BEST), to the tune of $2 million.

The Biliteracy Seal Bill authored by Representative Luis Moscoso and Senator Pam Roach passed and is funded in the budget.  Both members of the legislature have been advocates for increasing the language capabilities of our children in Washington State and this latest effort will allow High School Diplomas to reflect high proficiency in a language other than English.

Cost of Living Adjustments for teachers was funded in the House, not in the Senate.  It may be taken up next legislative session unless there is an initiative to the voters this fall mandating it.  Watch your ballot box folks, it’s going to likely be more than guns and Tim Eyman initiatives this year.

The vaunted transportation package is dead, so are bills to close tax loopholes.

There is a ton more in the Budget – so why not take a gander for yourself here and here to check it out.

Short E-wire today since, well, most of my legislative colleagues and fellow policy makers are probably still tucked into bed at this time.  PTA hero Chris Reykdal is on the House floor cleaning out his desk at the moment (I love how Facebook allows us to keep in touch real time with our elected leaders).  We’ll reconnect with a few of our best and brightest over the interim.  The PTA is fortunate to have allies in the House and Senate from both parties without whom we would have had far less a successful session.  Get some rest guys, the 2015 Session starts in 306 days….

Top Story aside from the legislature being out of session, the Teacher Evaluation Fix failed to materialize which places us into something of a limbo with the Federal Government on our state waiver.  Up to $40 million in Title 1 money will be affected.  In some cases, the money can be made up with MSOC dollars, but in Tacoma Schools where the Title 1 money was used to open pre-schools to close the opportunity gap in low income areas, it will be difficult to maintain those facilities next school year.  Here is more on the story.  And a little bit more here and here.   After a lot of drama, the Veteran’s Educational Benefit bills and the Homeless Funding bills passed as the legislature was winding down.  Read about that here and here.

Oh, yeah, and we finally got the 24 Credit Diploma bill!  Last minute changes in the House which were pushed by a coalition of PTA and State School Directors led to a compromise agreement that is on its way to the Governor’s Desk.

The Everett Herald opines on the marathon discussion of climate change in the Senate over the weekend.

Property tax law is convoluted and sometimes has unintended consequences.  This is a problem in both rural and non-rural counties.

Peter Callaghan on Open Meetings Act. 

See you next week!!!

The E-Wire is written by PTA Legislative Staff and Edited by Director Sherry Krainick.

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