Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap of Faith, 10 Days Left in the 2016 Legislative Session

Last week’s legislative activities flew by, with House Democrats kicking off Monday by releasing their 2016 supplemental operating budget. The pace was quick, with the House Appropriations committee voting the budget out of committee on Tuesday, and off of the House floor Thursday by a vote of 50-47

On Wednesday, the House released a bipartisan 2016 supplemental capital budget, and passed the budget out of committee on Friday. The Senate Republicans released supplemental operating and capital budgets also on Wednesday, and followed that up with votes out of the Senate Ways & Means Committee on Thursday, and off of the Senate floor Friday before 5 p.m. While SSB 6201, the capital budget, passed by a 39-10 margin, SSB 6246, the operating budget passed along majority/minority lines: 25-22 (with 2 excused). 

Friday also marked the last day for bills to be out of the opposite chamber’s policy committees. The list of bills still under consideration has narrowed, although a few bills are still in play even though they have failed to meet the agreed-upon cutoff dates. These include bills about school siting, charter schools, high school assessments, and K-3 classroom construction.

Moving the supplemental operating and capital budgets so quickly allows budget negotiators to start working on the differences between the budgets. Unfortunately, the budgets are philosophically and structurally different, which may spell a little overtime as lawmakers work to resolve spending plans.

Monday, February 29th provides the next hurdle in the legislative process. The 50th day of session is also the last day for most bills with a fiscal impact to be out of budget committees in the House and Senate. The House Appropriations Committee worked Saturday, while the Senate Ways & Means plans to meet Monday at 12:30p.m.  to consider bills such as Breakfast after the Bell and teacher shortage. Noticeably absent is HB 2698, a bill that would extend school district levy authority an additional year, from January 2018 to January 2019.

Here’s a quick look at bills WSPTA has been tracking that are still under consideration:

WSPTA Top Priorities
Fully Fund McCleary
E2SSB 6195 was delivered to the Governor on February 24th. The bill is expected to be signed by the 2nd.

HB 2698 is not scheduled for a public hearing before the Senate Ways & Means Committee. The bill was oft- mentioned by Senate Democrats as the largest single cut (about $450 million) to K-12 funding in recent sessions. Senate Democratic Deputy Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, cited the impact on schools districts in various legislative districts, and a motion to add the projected $90 million for local effort assistance (LEA) fell short of necessary votes during Friday’s operating budget deliberations.

The “levy cliff” bill may be part of the final negotiations, and is possibly a bargaining chip for the charter schools bill, which had a public hearing but was removed from executive action in the House Education committee. An attempt Thursday to procedurally put SSB 6194 on the bar for a committee vote was defeated 10-10.

Promoting Social and Emotional Learning
The House Appropriations Committee did not take public testimony on 2SSB 6243, a bill aimed at suicide prevention training, as well as boosting social and emotional training for educators, administrators and parents, and conducting an inventory of mental health services provided in schools. The bill was significantly modified in the House Education Committee, but was not funded in the Senate budget. The House fiscal committee can still take up the bill on Monday, but if it isn’t heard it likely will be dead for session.

Increasing Capital Funding
House Democrats and Republicans held a press conference last week to celebrate their bipartisan support for HB 2968. The bill would direct one-half of one percent that is sent to the budget stabilization account (Rainy Day Fund) to support construction of smaller K-3 class sizes and the expansion of all-day kindergarten from this July through 2025. The bill would add $187 million during this budget cycle, and would divert about $200 million a biennium from the Rainy Day Fund to the Education Construction Account. The bill is awaiting a House floor vote.

Another bill has surfaced that would help school districts such as Seattle and Spokane that have buildings that have been replaced by new construction because they cannot be remodeled or renovated. These buildings have been excluded from the state’s inventory of education space and can’t be used for district instructional purposes. SHB 2985 would allow these buildings that are being used to support all-day kindergarten and reduced K-3 class sizes to be excluded from the inventory when determining eligibility for state assistance for new construction. The exclusion would apply for state assistance for new construction awarded from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2021.

Increased Access to Higher Education
Three bills are still in play: 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. 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. E2SSB 6601 would create the Washington College Savings Program, which would establish another college savings program option in Washington state.

Breakfast after the Bell
After hearing from advocates and reading a list of those “signed in Pro, not wishing to testify” that took several minutes, the Senate education committee passed E3SHB 1295 onto Senate Ways & Means. The Breakfast after the Bell legislation will be heard Monday at the Senate budget meeting. Contact your senators who serve on Senate Ways & Means and encourage them to pass the bill out of committee and include the House operating budget investment of $2.7 million for implementation.

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 is in Senate Rules.
  • 2SHB 1408 would convene a work group to develop a consistent definition and framework of responsibilities for family engagement coordinators. The bill is in Senate Rules.
  • 4SHB 1541 would implement recommendations of the Education Opportunity Gap Oversight & Accountability Committee for closing the achievement and opportunity gaps. Elements include data disaggregation; school discipline; requiring ELL endorsements for teachers in the state-funded Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program; cultural competency; and more. The bill was modified in the policy committee and will be heard Monday in Senate Ways & Means.
  •  E3SHB 1682 would focus on improving educational and housing opportunities for homeless youth. The bill is scheduled for public hearing Monday in the Senate budget committee.
  •  4SHB 1999 would increase support for students in the foster youth system. The bill has been sent to Ways & Means. It has not been scheduled for public hearing yet.
  •  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. The bill is in Senate Rules.
  • 2SSB 6408 regarding paraeducator certification and endorsements. The bill was significantly modified in the House Education Committee, and had a public hearing in House Appropriations on Saturday. The bill is scheduled for executive action Monday.
Not on the platform, but worth a look:
  •  SB 6245 would require school districts to offer near and far vision screening. The bill passed the House Education Committee and was sent to House Appropriations. It has not been scheduled for further action.
  • SSB 6291 would create a work group to evaluate the implementation of using a weighted GPA in high school. WSPTA is seeking an amendment that would add a member of the association to the work group.
  • 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.
  • HB 2639 – would require OSPI to conduct a study to analyze the costs, benefits, detriments, feasibility, and funding options for requiring each school bus purchased after December 2017 to be equipped with seat belts, safety harnesses, or other approved restraint systems for all passengers. A report and recommendations is due by October 15, 2016.
  • SHB 2964 – would start a program to phase out lunch co-pays for students participating in reduced price meal programs in prekindergarten through 12th grade, beginning in the 2016-17 school year, using state money for the co-pay. The bill would eliminate co-pays by the 2020-21 school year.

Leaping Forward into March
Following Monday’s budget committee sessions, the action turns to the House and Senate floors, with Friday, March 4 the next deadline for bills from the opposite chamber to pass. Exceptions remain bills that are NTIB or “necessary to implement the budget.”

Marie Sullivan
Legislative Consultant
Washington State PTA

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