2017 Legislative Session

Robust paraeducator bill heading to Senate floor

The Senate Ways and Means committee just approved SB 5070, PSE’s bill to implement statewide paraeducator standards, professional development and career ladder.  With their action, it looks like the House and Senate will be considering paraeducator bills next week; the House will be considering the weaker version, the Senate the robust version.

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Paraeducators part of school facilities shortage solution

In yesterday’s debate of House democrats McCleary solution bill, HB 1843, Republican Matt Mannweller proposed an amendment to address K 3 class size.  His amendment would allow school districts who receive funds to reduce K 3 class-size may use that funding to hire other “school-based personnel who provide direct services to students” if they don’t have classrooms for teachers.   I was surprised when a democratic speaker said they would support the amendment and one reason why is because it would allow hiring paraeducators when classrooms were not available.  The amendment passed unanimously.

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House republicans try to add classified employees to PEBB

Yesterday, House republicans attempted to amend HB 1843 by adding classified employees to PEBB.  1843 is the House democrat’s McCleary solution (check out previous entries).  There was an impassioned plea from Representatives Drew MacEwen, Dave Hayes, Dan Griffey, Ed Orcutt and Bob McCaslin to help out classified employees and PSE members.  Really nice to hear their support for us.

Though the amendment failed on a party line vote of 47 republicans voting yes and 50 democrats voting no, it was good to hear the two democratic opposition speakers say this is a problem that needs to be fixed this session.

Here is the debate on the amendment:

 

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PEBB bill ready for Senate vote

Less than 30 minutes ago, the Senate Ways and Means committee approved SB 5726, PSE’s bill, sponsored by Senator Hobbs, to put all K 12 employees into the PEBB health care system.  Senator Karen Keiser’s amendment to just put classified employees into PEBB failed when republicans united behind their leader, Senator John Braun, who said that it is time to reform K 12 health insurance for all employees, not just classified employees.

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Paraeducator board approved

Yesterday, the House Appropriations committee approved a watered down version of PSE’s paraeducator  bill, SHB 1115.  At least they kept the paraeducator board in place with responsibilities to among other things, develop “standards of practice”, specialty certificates, and awarding training grants.  The standards and specialty certificates are voluntary so it would be up to us to convince school districts to implement them.  There is a reference to 32 hours of state funded training to help paraeducators meet the “standards of practice” but that will depend upon the state budget. If the state doesn’t fund the training, it is unlikely school districts will provide the training.

1115 now heads for a vote on the House floor.  The companion bill, SB 5070, has yet to move out of the Senate Ways and Means committee.

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Hearings and votes punctuate end of my intern week

My intern activities today included visiting two of my own legislators and attending the Senate Education Committee meeting. I met with Tristan from Senator Becker’s office and had a great discussion on healthcare premiums (HB 2110, SB 5726 and SB 5727). I then caught Sharon from Representative Wilcox’s office in the hall. She invited me to Rep. Wilcox’s office and printed out the bill that house republican Michelle Caldier dropped yesterday (HB 2110). I was able to leave some great notes for Rep. Wilcox explaining my position. I’ll see him on Monday as many more leaders within PSE will again be up on the hill fighting for what we need.

Today I attended the Senate Education committee. There were only two bills for public hearing because tomorrow is the last day for a bill to make it out of committee. One of these bills has been on our radar for some time: SB 5696, Breakfast After the Bell. We all know students who have a good breakfast focus better, behave better, and have better outcomes in school. This bill lets schools with high poverty levels be much more creative in ways to get students eating breakfast. Grab n’ go, second chance breakfast, and breakfast in the classroom are all options under this program. After the hearing the committee supported the bill and moved the bill on to the Rules committee.

After the testimony part of the K-12 Education meeting they went into executive session and then voted on which bills to approve.  Like the Breakfast After the Bell bill mentioned above, they also approved a few more bills that are of interest to PSE members. SB 5367 was the transportation bill I wrote about earlier this week that would address funding increases for districts experiencing funding problems under the current formula.  This bill next goes to the Senate Ways & Means committee.

SB 5651 is another bill that was approved and sent to the Rules committee.  This bill would allow more flexibility so that a school district can build a new school outside an Urban Growth Area under certain circumstances. Bethel school district is the poster child for this bill.

I noticed in my notes that I had an asterisk next to SB 5238. This one is a personal one… It was also voted out of committee and moved onto Rules committee. For those working in elementary schools you might want to beef up your penmanship because this one is putting cursive writing back into 3rd grade!

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Paraeducator bills moving

Both House and Senate fiscal committees are hearing and scheduling the paraeducator bills in their respective committees.  Last Tuesday, the Senate Ways and Means committee heard SB 5070 with only two people testifying; one opposed, one supported.  I presented the pro position, WEA’s chief lobbyist, Lucinda Young provided the opposition testimony.  I was pleased with the continued support of the State PTA, the League of Education Voters, Stand for Children, and the ARC of King County.  Since this committee has already supported this bill the last two legislative sessions, I expect they will vote it out of committee next week.

Next week, the House Appropriations committee is hearing and voting on HB 1115.  However, they will be voting on the amended version that severely weakens the original bill.  Voluntary standards, voluntary training, and little state recognition for the critical instructional role paraeducators play, especially with students who need assistance to succeed in school, continues to be what our opposition prefer.

 

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Anti-union bills pass labor committee

In an almost cavalier meeting, the Senate Labor committee approved, on party line votes, five anti-union bills late last night.  Committee chair, Senator Mike Baumgartner, didn’t announce the bills in advance which didn’t improve democrats efforts to mount a vigorous defense.  The bills will not make it through the process since none of them are likely to get a hearing in the House.  Here they are for what it’s worth…

SB 5339 – granting religious objectors different charities to contribute to and allows increased ability to declare objection at any time.

SB 5371 – annual union financial reports sent to PERC (Public Employment Relations Commission) so they can be posted on PERC website.

SB 5550 – repeals current subcontracting law in order to make it easier to subcontract state and higher education employees jobs.

SB 5545 – making our collective bargaining negotiation sessions open to the public.

SB 5551 – certification elections every four years.

 

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Healthcare for families

Yesterday was an exciting day for two bills that are strongly supported by PSE. Bills 5726 and 5727 were simultaneously heard yesterday in the Ways and Means committee. PSE was pleased to see that there were professional support employees, teachers, and administrators all testifying in support of both of these bills.  Karen Carter, Mead para educator, explained that 30% of their family pay was going to monthly healthcare premiums for her family. Amy Lindsey, Pioneer school district teacher explained how she paid over $1200 a month in premiums to cover her family.  Mark Trobough testified how costs for family insurance was making the teacher shortage worse.  Kim Lackey, Puyallup school district office manager, explained how she used to provide insurance for her children but had to stop because of the high cost of monthly premiums.

I chose to testify on the other side of the insurance spectrum as someone who is fortunate enough to pay nothing for my medical insurance. I shared with the committee my experience working with other professional support employees who once upon a time had paychecks to take home because insurance was affordable but who now are taking home considerably less due to rising costs. I also shared my story about my daughter who is a teacher but has not married the father of her two children because it would cost them over $800 per month to add him to her insurance.

Testifying on the con side were WEA (the teacher’s union) and Premera Healthcare. Premera said they didn’t see a problem with the current system as they are able to deliver a cost effective product to school employees with only 4% in overhead costs. As many of us know…a 43% increase in premiums over the last 4 years does not seem cost effective? WEA testified that they don’t think the system is broken. They just want the allocation to be higher.

There was a great article in the Seattle Times on the 10th of February. They talked to both the bill sponsor, Senator Hobbs and our own Doug Nelson.  Senator Hobbs said it well, “Although many school districts offer affordable insurance plans to individuals, the family plans are out of reach for many school employees.”  It is a hot issue on the hill and there will be more to come.

Here’s the hearing…

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Transportation – Efficient but still underfunded?

As the first legislative intern of this session I was sent to sit in on hearings on Monday. One that really caught my attention was Senate Bill 5367. This bill was introduced by my own Senator, Randi Becker.  As a senator in legislative district two she has many schools from rural areas. Yelm, Eatonville and Bethel to just name a few. This bill is asking OSPI to establish a transportation allocation adjustment process to help fully fund student transportation in districts that are operating efficiently.

The districts that testified at this hearing were all either very rural in nature or had a large number of McKinney/Vento students (Federally mandated and totally unfunded). Transporting students to and from school is a part of basic education and is supposed to be fully funded by the state.  Some of the concerns they had with the current funding allocation was it didn’t recognize their efforts to limit how long a student sits on a bus, being efficient when rural roads don’t have cross streets, or that many streets often lead to dead ends and turn arounds. There was no opposition to this bill and if and when it gets voted out of committee it could head to Ways and Means where it’s $8 million per year cost will be considered.

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