After failing to pass a Capital Budget last year in the 2017 legislative session for the first time, last night the legislature stayed up late last night and finally passed the Budget. As a result, school and university building projects can restart again. That takes care of one of our Capital Budget issues. The next one, simple majority passage of bonds (bonds must pass in order for school districts to fund their share of construction costs), will be discussed next week when the Senate State Government committee considers Senator Mark Mullet’s bill to reduce the approval rate for bonds to 55% rather than 60%.
Both the House and Senate Education committees will be discussing their respective Paraeducator bills, 2698 in the House committee and 6388 in the Senate, next week. Unlike previous years, these bills have been jointly worked on by the PESB (Professional Educator Standards Board) and WEA (Washington Education Association). The most difficult part will be convincing the legislature to fund development of Special Education and TBIP (Transitional Bilingual Instruction) paraeducator training modules.
Both the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means committees will be hearing SEBB bills next week. All of the bills noted in earlier entries will be heard plus two additional bills recently introduced. The recent additions, 2755 & 6461, would allow school districts with more than 1,000 employees to be exempt from SEBB if they meet SEBB criteria.
PSE is working with the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) and the WEA (Washington Education Association) on a bill to make positive changes to the first in the nation Paraeducator bill passed in the 2017 legislative session. The bill, HB 2698, sponsored by Representative Steve Bergquist and Representative Dick Muri was just introduced and does the following:
…Gives paraeducators one additional year to meet the minimum employment standards (until September 1, 2019)
…Gives school districts an additional year to train paraeducators to meet the four day course (if the course is funded), and,
…Asks the state to provide $500,000 each year for 2018 and 2019 to develop special education and TBIP (transitional bilingual instruction program) training modules for paraeducators who work in those programs.
I expect to have a bill number for the Senate bill, sponsored by Senator Mark Mullet, in the next couple of days.
Besides the two “fix-it” bills described yesterday, four more bills were introduced today to change SEBB. Two bills were introduced to increase the SEBB membership by adding a school board member and a school administrator: 6286 & 2655. Two bills, 6288 & 2657, were introduced to:
—allow certain school districts to not be in SEBB;
—require funding parity with State employees;
—increase SEBB membership by adding another classified and certificated representative;
—allow school districts to pay for a lower eligibility criteria than 630 hours and,
—allow school districts to offer optional benefits not provided by SEBB.
Breakfast After the Bell (BAB) passed the House on the 4th day of the 2018 legislative session. This shows not only the level of support (83 votes of support with 15 opposed) but the recognition that this is an important issue. BAB simply allows schools to offer breakfast after the school bell rings (breakfast would be served in the classrooms not in the cafeteria). The focus is on schools with high free and reduced priced meals.
Next up for the bill is a hearing in the Senate Education committee.
SEBB (School Employee Benefit Board) insurance plans for all K 12, ESD (Educational School Districts), and charter school employees, was approved in the 2017 legislative session. This comprehensive change to K 12 insurance plans will take place on January 1, 2020. Not surprisingly, there is a great deal of preparation that has to be undertaken to make the change in 2020 as positive and effective as possible.
The Health Care Authority (HCA), the state agency responsible for implementing SEBB has recognized that the law implementing SEBB needs to be perfected. Senator Hobbs and Representative Cody are introducing “fix-it” bills developed by the HCA in the House and Senate. The Senate bill is 6241, the House bill is 2438.
The most significant changes in the bills are:
…move forward the date for data to be provided HCA 8 months to April 1, 2018.
…clarify that the employee payment for insurance premiums for family and single coverage be 3:1 (not 1:1). What that means is employee payment for family insurance premiums would be $3 for each $1 that employees who buy single coverage would pay not $1 for each $1 paid by singles. Without this change, it would be an unfair financial burden on employees who sign up for single coverage.
With the upcoming US Supreme Court ruling on Janus (oral arguments are scheduled for February 26), several pro union bills have been introduced in the last couple of days. Though it is early in the session, I expect at least one of these will make it to Governor Inslee’s desk:
…6079 (prohibits public sharing of public employee birthdates),
…6082 (ensuring employer neutrality when employees are exercising their collective bargaining rights – this is code for stopping employers from encouraging employees to drop the union),
…6229 (giving unions access to new employees at orientations and worksites to discuss union membership), and
…6231 (setting timeline for Unfair Labor Practices filed in Superior Court).
With democratic control of the House and Senate, leaders of both chambers are expressing hopes that they will not only finish on time (March 8) but will finish early. Since the last several years have seen one if not up to three extra special sessions, everyone hopes they are right.
Yesterday, I testified in support of Governor Inslee’s supplemental budget. I supported his effort to comply with the Washington Supreme Court’s demand that the State start funding their substantial increase to basic education salaries starting September 1, 2018, not September 1, 2019. Further, I highlighted his addition of $13 million to implement the new SEBB (School Employee Benefit Board) insurance plans for K 12.
Additionally, I highlighted two areas that PSE will be advocating for this legislative session:
—Add $500,000 each year of the two year budget to update general paraeducator training modules and develop special education and transitional bilingual paraeducator professional development training modules.
—Clarify what the legislature meant last year when they passed EHB 2242 with the direction that we can negotiate “district average salary for classified employees” up to the amount of the school district’s state allocation for those salaries. How this is calculated is critical to determining how much we have available to negotiate “market based wages”. For instance, will the average salary be calculated for all classified employees or just basic education employees? If its all classified employee, in most circumstances, we should be able to negotiate higher salary increases.
Governor Inslee just released his supplemental budget requests. Though there are a variety of K12 and higher education budget changes he recommends, the most significant was his proposal to move forward by one year the State’s funding for K 12 salaries; a direct response to the Washington State Supreme Court’s recent McCleary order. The cost of this change ($759 million dollars) will be paid for by reducing the $1 billion rainy day fund (and possibly a carbon tax). If the legislature goes along with Inslee’s proposal, the State will have completed all of the steps required by the Supreme Court to fully fund basic education.
Other significant changes he has proposed:
What is the likely effect if the legislature increases funding for classified employee salaries in the 2018-19 school year instead of the 2019-20 school year? The 36.5% increase (from $34,180 to $46,647) starting September 1, 2018, sounds great but remember this is an allocation increase that is limited by other laws (primarily EHB 2242 passed in the 2017 legislative session). That law limited our access to the increased funding for classified employee salary allocations over the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school year. If the legislature agrees to raise the allocation as proposed by Governor Inslee, this law will also have to be changed in the 2018 legislative session. PSE will be advocating to increase the allocation as proposed by the Governor and change the law to do no harm to classified employees ability to get reasonable cost of living adjustments and market based salaries.