Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Breakfast after the Bell Among Bill Survivors

As the legislature counts down to the March 10th end of a regular session, the schedule for bill deadlines is becoming even more compressed. Last Wednesday, February 17 marked the cutoff for bills to pass out of the chamber in which they started. The next cutoff is Friday, February 26, when bills must have passed the opposite chamber’s policy committee to remain in play.

At cutoff, the Senate abandoned its efforts to change elements of a pre-session agreed-upon bill that would create a legislative work group to resolve compensation issues and reduce state reliance on local levies. Adopting the version (ESHB 2366) that came over from the House, the Senate voted 26-23 to pass E2SSB 6195.

In a surprise move last Thursday, where the bill didn’t get a hearing or follow the regular bill vetting process, E2SSB 6195 passed the House 66-31. The bill is waiting for signatures from the Speaker and President of the Senate before being delivered to the Governor. The Governor will then have five days, not including Sundays, to sign or veto the bill.

A couple of bills that failed to make the February 17th deadline included SHB 2820, the Washington Promise Scholarship, and SHB 2955, creating a free-to-finish college grant.

Here’s a quick look at bills WSPTA has been tracking.

WSPTA Top Priorities

Fully Fund McCleary
In addition to E2SSB 6195, the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee will hear the levy cliff bill on Monday, February 22 at 1:30. HB 2698 would extend additional levy authority one more year, through January 1, 2019. This would give school districts another year before they are required to adjust their levy authority down by four percent, with an additional two percent reduction in state-funded local effort assistance. The bill also sets up a Transitional LEA Account for the 2017-19 biennium.

Promoting Social and Emotional Learning
SHB 2381 would direct the Professional Educator Standard Board to convene a 10-member task force on school counselors, psychologists, and social workers. The task force would review: (1) the projected need of school districts for school counselors, psychologists, and social workers; (2) the capacity of the state for meeting this need; (3) alternative certification routes for school counselors and social workers; and (4) school counselor, psychologist, and social worker preparation programs. Recommendations from the task force would be due by December 1, 2016. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing at this time.

2SSB 6243 would require Educational Service Districts to work with Forefront of the University of Washington to develop a two-day youth suicide prevention training program for middle and high school administrators, teachers, counselors, psychologists, social workers, and parents or guardians.

Other elements of the bill include:
  • By September 1, 2017, OSPI would create and maintain an online social and emotional training module for educators, administrators, and other school district staff, based on the recommendations of the Social and Emotional Learning Benchmarks Workgroup.
  • School districts and ESDs would report one-time data to OSPI on how many students are served by mental health services in each school, school district, or educational service district; how many of these students are participating in Medicaid programs; how the mental health services are funded, including federBal, state, and private sources; information on who provides the mental health services, including district employees and contractors; and any other available information related to student access and outcomes. OSPI would compile this data into an inventory of the mental health service models available to students through schools, school districts, and educational service districts. An inventory report would be due October 31, 2016.
The House Education Committee will take public testimony on the bill Monday at 1:30 p.m.

Increasing Capital Funding
HB 2968 recognizes the pressure that smaller K-3 class sizes and the expansion of all-day kindergarten have had on school districts and sets a goal of making $1 billion in construction and facility grants available over the next 10 years. In an attempt to meet the demand for the K-3/all-day kindergarten grant program created in 2015, the bill would add $187 million during this budget cycle, and would divert one-half of one percent from the budget stabilization account (Rainy Day Fund) to the Education Construction Account through 2025. The bill passed out of the House Capital Budget Committee and is likely to be paired with the 2016 supplemental capital budget for a vote on the House floor.

On Friday, Heidi Bennett represented Washington State PTA on a panel in support of HB 1941/HJR 4210, legislation that would allow bonds to pass by a simple majority when conducted at the November general election. The nearly hour-long hearing included stories from students, school administrators, parents, school advocates, and school board members – all of whom urged the House Education Committee to act on the legislation this session.

Increased Access to Higher Education

As mentioned above, the Washington Promise Scholarship and the Free to Finish grant program did not pass the House in time to remain under consideration. The Senate kept several bills alive, all of which are up for executive action February 24.

These include:
  • SSB 6354 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.
  • 2SSB 6601 would establish the Washington College Savings Program to provide an additional financial option for individuals, organizations and families to save for college. 
  • SB 6626 would create a “Degree in Three” work group to develop a set of institutional best practices to promote a student’s ability to successfully graduate with a baccalaureate degree within three years at Washington public regional universities and The Evergreen State College.
Breakfast after the Bell
The Senate education committee will take public testimony on E3SHB 1295, on Tuesday, February 23 at 1:30 p.m. The bill would require schools that have 70 percent of students meeting federal eligibility for free or reduced price meals to offer school breakfast after the school day starts, beginning in the 2017-18 school year. The program would not be considered basic education for ongoing purposes. School districts would select which of the types of breakfast after the bell programs it wants to implement. In addition, the bill calls for schools to receive a one-time start-up grant of $6,000 to implement the program.

The bill also includes a couple of amendments that were added on the House floor and that are opposed by the School Nutrition Association. One that appears somewhat problematic for school districts is a requirement to serve breakfast items that can’t be more than 25 percent of their weight in sugar. A typical Clif bar is 31 percent sugar by weight. The association has several amendments it will seek on the bill that return it to pre-floor amendment status.

The Senate bill that incorporated a similar program failed to pass by the February 17th deadline. The House Bill is expected to pass out of the Senate policy committee, but could run into issues in the Senate budget committee or on the Senate floor due to opposition. The United Way of King County is holding a “virtual day of advocacy” on Thursday, February 25th to encourage all supporters to contact their senators and ask them to support HB 1295.

WSPTA Platform Issues
  • 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. The bill was heard February 18 and had no opposition. 
  • 2SHB 1408 would convene a work group to develop a consistent definition and framework of responsibilities for family engagement coordinators. Sponsors say securing a common name, definition and framework will make it possible to enhance funding for these positions in schools across the state and at all grade levels in 2017. The bill is scheduled for public hearing on February 23rd in the Senate education committee. 
  • 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 is scheduled for public hearing on February 23rd in the Senate education committee. 
  • 4SHB 1999 would increase support for students in the foster youth system. The bill was heard February 18. 
  • SB 6245 would require school districts to offer near and far vision screening. It is scheduled for public hearing in the House Education Committee on Monday, February 22 at 1:30 p.m. 
  • 2SSB 6408 would require a certificate/licensure for paraeducators, including training and alternative routes to teacher certification, and a one-year field test for interested school districts. It is also scheduled for public hearing February 22 in House Education.
House Supplemental Budgets to be Released this Week

Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, the House Appropriations Committee Chair, plans to release his 2016 supplemental operating budget on Monday about noon, hold a public hearing at 3:30 p.m., vote the budget out of committee on Tuesday, and vote the budget off the House floor by Thursday. Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, the House Capital Budget Chair, plans to release a bipartisan-crafted 2016 supplemental capital budget on Wednesday, with a possible committee vote on Friday at 1:30 p.m. The House has tentatively scheduled floor action for Saturday.

Friday also marks the last day for policy bills to pass out of committee for opposite chamber bills; Monday is the fiscal cutoff, and March 4 at 5 p.m. is the final day for bills to pass out of the opposite chamber.

For its part, Senate Ways & Means Committee Chair Andy Hill, R-Redmond, may release his version of the 2016 supplemental operating budget this week (rumor has it Wednesday) or he could wait until the following Monday. The Senate capital budget will be released soon afterwards.

Marie Sullivan
WSPTA Legislative Consultant

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