2018 Legislative Session

Protecting students from food stigmatization

When students get a negative balance on their lunch account, it puts the student (and the child nutrition employees) in an embarrassing position.  Child nutrition employees are in a difficult position as the middle person trying to help the student eat food and at the same time follow school district policy to collect the money.  Maybe this bill will help this tortuous situation.  The House approved what they call the hunger-free students’ bill of rights act, HB 2610, on a strong 59-39 bi-partisan vote.

Regardless of the circumstance for the non-payment, the bill:

….Prohibits schools and districts from taking action directed at a student to collect unpaid school meal fees or from publicly identifying or stigmatizing a student who cannot pay for a school meal;

….Prohibits the denial or delay of a nutritionally adequate meal because of disciplinary action taken against a student;

….Requires at least 10 days notification to parents that they have a negative balance;

…. Requires schools and districts to improve systems to identify homeless students, students in foster care, runaway students, and migrant students to ensure that each student has proper access to free school meals and that applicable accountability and reporting requirements are satisfied.

2610 now heads to the Senate for their consideration.

 

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Senate approves paraeducator fixes

Earlier today, in a nearly unanimous 46-1 vote the Senate sent to the House SB 6388Senator Mullet, bill sponsor and staunch PSE supporter, has been a strong advocate for paraeducators as we worked together to improve upon the paraeducator bill approved last year.  6388 gives paraeducators one additional year to meet minimum qualification standards, gives school districts an additional year to train paraeducators (if the 4 day course is funded next year), and refines the pathways to teacher certification if the paraeducator wants to become a teacher.

We continue to work with Senator Mullet and Senate Ways and Means Committee chair, Senator Rolfes, on a budget proviso to provide $500,000 for the development of special education and TBIP (Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program) training modules.  Here is the proviso we are working on:

The sum of five hundred thousand dollars, or as much thereof as may be necessary, is appropriated for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, from the general fund to the state of Washington professional educator standards board to provide overall oversight and procure or develop professional development for specialty certificates and align courses with general certificate professional development, including any necessary changes or edits to general certificate online modules.

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Lunch co-pays might go away

The House has approved a measure to eliminate the lunch co-pay for students, pre-kindergarten to third grades, who qualify for reduced price lunches.  HB 2712, if funded by the legislature, would eliminate the lunch co-pay.  That means if they don’t fund it, it won’t go away.  The bill passed on a bi-partisan 59-39 vote so it may have a good chance in the Senate.

An additional aspect of the bill is an encouragement for more schools and school districts to implement a provision in the HHFKA (Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act) federal law.  It’s known as the CEP (Community Eligibility Provision) which is another encouragement for schools to eliminate the lunch co-pays for all students, not just pre-k to third grade.   208 high poverty schools (more than 40% free and reduced) have implemented it already and this bill asks OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) to increase the participation in the program.

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Meeting new members might be a little easier

One of the pro-union bills that will help us meet new members passed the Senate last night on a largely partisan line.  Two republicans, Senators Fortunato and Miloscia, joined all democrats in giving unions increased access to new employees when they are hired.  Though it was somewhat watered down by two amendments, it is a step in the right direction.

SB 6229 requires employers to give unions an opportunity to meet with new employees within 90 days (the original bill was 30 days) of their hire to discuss union membership.  An amendment that employers must inform new employees that they are not required to attend the meeting with the union also passed.

The bill now heads to the House for its consideration.

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55% majority on bonds – does it have a chance?

Though it is making progress (it got out of two committees), it looks like SB 6246, sponsored by Senator Mark Mullet, may be a tough sell on the Senate floor.  6246 would lower the requirement for bond passage to 55% at general elections (note this lower threshold would only apply if the bond is run at the same time as the general election – the second Tuesday in November).

Since this bill also requires a constitutional amendment, a resolution, SJR 8213, must pass with a two-thirds majority vote of the Senate and House.  That requires 33 votes which means 8 republicans have to join with the 25 democrats to pass it out of the Senate.

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TBIP paraeducator study approved in House

The House strongly voted to support a study of the use of paraeducators in the TBIP (Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program).  HB 2590, sponsored by Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self, requires schools to report how many teacher vacancies there are, how many paraeducators are filling in for teachers, and the training of paraeducators by school districts.  Further, there is additional reporting from community and technical colleges what they are doing to train TBIP paraeducators.

PSE supports the legislation in the hopes it will shine a light on the need for the State and school districts to better support the instructional role paraeducators play with students who need additional help to succeed in school.

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SEBB threatened by another bill

We are keeping an eye on HB 2408 written by Representative and Chair of the House Health Care Committee, Eileen Cody. This bill has moved to the rules committee although has not been picked for a floor vote yet. This bill proposes to combine the uninsured market in Washington with our yet to be implemented SEBB system. Representative Cody believes that combining these markets will help satisfy requirements of the ACA (Affordable Care Acdt) and help insure all Washingtonians. However, PSE, WEA and WSSDA (Washington State School Directors Association) all oppose this bill because it will most likely complicate SEBB and drive up costs for school employees. Combining these markets also has the potential to scare away potential healthcare plan bidders. This week I had the opportunity to speak to my representatives, Sherry Appleton,  and Representative Drew Hansen’s legislative assistant about why we are opposed to this bill. It is interesting to me as a Democrat to lobby in opposition to this bill. This experience proved to me that being part of a union is not about labels…it’s about labor!

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Intern shares her experience in Olympia

This week has been a whirlwind of activity. I am Jennifer Chamberlin, a clerical assistant who has worked in the Bremerton school district for 8 years.  I am nearly at the end of my internship and have learned a lot. Sitting in on many types of hearings and meetings gave me a deeper level of understanding of the legislative process as well as insight into how bills move through congress. There were many interesting bills at play here including opioid medication administration in schools (HB2390), School employee benefits board (SB 6241) implementation, amending bond super majority (SB6246 and SB8213), and several controversial union related bills.

The Freedom Foundation is proving to be quite troublesome and sending a deluge of emails and correspondence to Washington legislature. There are efforts in the Senate and House to protect our personal information, specifically our birthdates from public access.  The Senate debated the union bills Wednesday night until almost 2AM!  SB6229 is waiting for a Senate vote and today I watched as the companion HB2624 moved to the floor from the House Rules Committee. These bills will guarantee the right of our union reps to give a presentation to new union members in the first 30 days of employment.

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Union bills making progress

As we prepare for the US Supreme Court Janus decision, it’s good to see pro-union bills making good progress in this session.  Four bills, SB 6079SB 6229, SB 6231, and SB 6296 are waiting for a vote of the Senate after passing in the Senate Labor committee.  The bill with the best impact is 6229 which requires employers to give us increased access to new employees when they are hired.

One bill is making headway in the House.  HB 2624, the access to new employee bill, is ready for a House vote.

 

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Half way through the session

Now that we have made it half way through (okay not quite but close enough) the 60 day legislative session, I am providing you a complete listing of K 12 and Higher Education bills that have either been introduced this year or are continuation bills from the 2017 session.  As you will see, several hundred bills have been introduced but only a fraction of those will make it through the process.

As you look at the bills, be aware that we may change our positions on bills based upon the changes made by legislators.

Enjoy (I realize this term only applies to political junkies).

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