Monday, March 6, 2017

Session Has Passed the Half-Way Point

With most of the action occurring on the House and Senate floors, lawmakers got down to business, passing bills this past week in anticipation of the March 8, deadline of 5 p.m. This is the next cutoff for bills that aren’t deemed “Necessary To Implement the Budget” (NTIB), and includes most policy bills with no fiscal impact. On March 9, policy and budget committees will once again start holding public hearings, but this time on the bills that have passed from one chamber to the other.

This week continued the political theater in the Senate, when the Majority Caucus pulled Governor Jay Inslee’s tax proposals to the floor. Republicans said it was to get a handle on which revenue proposals Senate Democrats would support to fund K-12 education. For their part, Senate Democrats dismissed the move as unproductive and countered with mentioning the upcoming levy cliff nearly every time they spoke.

Behind the scenes, key legislators from both parties and chambers began meeting to discuss how the state will go about reducing its reliance on local school levies to meet the state’s constitutional obligation for ample funding of public schools. A modified “6195 group” is meeting Mondays and Wednesdays for the next few weeks to find common ground and a path forward on K-12 funding. The Senate Republican plan is SB 5607; the House and Senate Democrat plan is ESHB1843.

As a possible bridge or alternative to the existing proposals, the Senate Ways & Means Committee heard testimony on PSSB5825, Sen. Mark Mullet’s, D-Issaquah, education funding proposal. Most people testifying thanked Senator Mullet for putting forward another idea, but none publicly endorsed it; most raised issues with the funding approach. The video clip is about 90 minutes long, but is worth listening to the explanation.

Here’s a quick reminder of a few of the key elements of each funding proposal - download. Read the updated bill tracker here.

Status of Top 5Legislative Priorities – Update & Focus for Members this Week
1. Social and Emotional Learning

Focus for members: Continue to support the staffing as described in HB 1377 and HB 1621; support inclusion of operating budget provisos for Summer ECEAP and continuation of the SEL Benchmarks Work Group. 

2. Amply Funding Basic Education

Focus for members: Review 2017 positions and share not just the ample funding but ALL of the positions. They provide a blueprint for many of the activities WSPTA hopes are in the final education funding plan. Talk with legislators about the need to add NEW money into the system and why just replacing local levies with state funding isn’t ample or comprehensive.  

3. Closing the Opportunity Gap
Focus for members: Additional funding for students who struggle, whether in a weighted per pupil model or categorical program, is needed if we expect different outcomes for our students who are challenged by an opportunity and achievement gap. To close this gap requires a more systematic approach to students’ academic and non-academic needs – the “whole child.”

4. Standards for Para-educators 
Focus for members: ESHB 1115 passed the House this week. The bill is disappointing, in that the bill no longer sets up minimum certification and specialty endorsements for para-educators working in ELL and Special Education. While the bill does include training, which we welcome, our aim is that the final, negotiated bill reflect our priority platform position as much as possible.

SB 5070, the Senate bill, is still waiting to be voted out of the Senate. The entire bill, however, was also inserted into the Senate Republican’s education funding bill – SB 5607. 

5. Breakfast after the Bell
Focus for members: By a bipartisan vote of 90-8, ESHB 1508 passed the House. Let your Senators know that WSPTA fully supports this legislation and wants it to pass this session. Also, look at the Housevote count, and send a note to House members who voted in favor of this legislation.  
2017 WSPTA Supported Issues:
Improving Educational Outcomes for Foster Children
SSB 5241 passed the Senate and in the House Education Committee.

Engaging Families in Student Success
Focus for members: SHB 1618 is the bill that would define Family & Community Engagement Coordinators, and ensure that funding allocated for them could only be used for this staffing. The bill is in House Rules, so please contact your House members and ask them to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.   

Post-Secondary/Higher Education Access and Affordability
Focus for members: Two bills are on the House floor calendar, which means they are ready for a vote. Please contact House members and ask them to vote on HB 1452 (expansion of the opportunity scholarship) and HB 1512 (expansion of College Bound Scholarship eligibility) before the March 8 cutoff.

Removing Barriers to Implementing ECEAP
Focus for members: Expansion of ECEAP, and the Summer ECEAP program will be handled in the operating budget. But it isn’t too early to let your House and Senate members know about the importance of early learning education and the need to increase slots to provide access to more preschoolers.

Restorative Justice and School Safety
It would appear that SSB 5155, which would limit the number of days students in grades K-2 could be suspended or expelled, may not move. OSPI is drafting rules to implement discipline policies adopted in the 2016 session under HB 1541 (see Closing the Opportunity Gap position), and concern has been raised about the impact new discipline laws would have on rule-making and implementation of discipline rules, and related model policies and procedures for school districts.  

Week in Review
Action this week was on the floor, so WSPTA advocated with legislators on the 2017 platform and priorities.

The Week Ahead
Action continues on the floor, but returns to committee work on March 9th. Next cutoff is March 29th

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