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

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